The artist Esper Postma (Amsterdam, 1988) explores the tension between collective identity and personal experience. He addresses the ways that history and collective consciousness are produced, and the ways that these shared definitions are subverted through marginal histories and intimate personal accounts. Postma’s films, objects and installations thus revolve around a central paradox: that every system of representation is simultaneously a system of exclusion.


Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster, 2019

The exhibition 'Salome' reflects on figurations of John the Baptist’s death and the way they have evolved over centuries. From medieval painting and sculpture to recent theatre and cinema, the story has served as a matrix for the negotiation of contemporary ideas about religion, gender and sexual morality.

The video installation 'Dance of the Seven Veils' is a montage of seven different movies from the 20th century that feature Salome’s dance in front of King Herod. By superimposing images from the seven films, Postma’s video echoes the different ways that the dance and its protagonists have been interpreted throughout the history of cinema. Some of the films rely on the original biblical narrative, while others are based on Oscar Wilde’s controversial play from 1891.

'Glossolalia' is a porcelain sculpture based on casts of Postma’s own neck. Glossolalia, or speaking in tongues, is the act of speaking a language that one has not previously learned, which in biblical stories was a sign of a divine gift. The visceral structure appears to move through the gallery, splitting and joining, constituting a body that morphs, repeats and regenerates itself. 

The medieval wooden sculpture on display, part of the collection of the Westfälischer Kunstverein, is an example of a rich tradition figuring the prophet’s head isolated on a platter. Many of these representations seem to suggest that the brutal incision is followed by a state of blissful peace.

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Raising Stars

PS120, Berlin, 2019
screen prints on paper (67 x 120 cm each)

In collaboration with Maurits Koster

Raising Stars is a series of fictional EU propaganda posters. The screen prints show workers in the process of renovating the emblematic Euro-monument in Frankfurt am Main. Framing the workers in their interaction with the sculpture’s iconic shapes, the prints are curiously reminiscent of historical propaganda posters of past totalitarian regimes.

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Stadtmuseum Lindau, 2018

Esper Postma’s exhibition Rebis, in Stadtmuseum Lindau, is a reflection on the ephemeral sexuality of biblical figures in art from the Medieval period.

The windows in the exhibition are covered by a series of purple curtains, the fabric of which is sequentially thinner as one moves through the exhibition. The fabric ‘thinning out’ is an abstraction of the way that the image of the infant Christ was gradually but radically refashioned in the late Middle Ages. Depicting the infant Christ in the long purple robes of nobility was a way of emphasising Christ’s divine nature. From the 13th century onwards, the purple robes vanished in favour of the fully naked infant Jesus of the Renaissance.

The image of St. Wilgefortis, depicted in the painting on display, is a result of an even more radical transformation of the image of Christ in the late Renaissance. Wilgefortis was a princess whose father demanded her to marry. Longing to devote her life to Christ instead, she prayed to be made repulsive; a prayer which God answered by growing her a beard. The image of St. Wilgefortis in her androgynous state, bares resemblance to a wooden crucifix called The Holy Face, located in Lucca, Italy. In this statue, Jesus is wearing a long purple robe from which slightly accentuated breasts protrude. When pilgrims brought copies of the statue to Central and Western Europe, the figure of St. Wilgefortis was projected onto the feminine Jesus resulting in their representations intertwining as one form.

A non-normative way of imaging gender roles in Medieval Europe (and still today) can be seen through a roof tile called Nun and Monk. These tiles pertained their form from being moulded on a human thigh. They were arranged in a pattern in which the bottom layer are called Nuns and the tiles covering them are called Monks. This type of roofing originates from ancient societies, but after the fall of the Roman Empire the knowledge of this building material was only preserved by some monasteries, which is likely from where its name is derived. The use of the tiles on a wide scale only reappeared in the 13th century. Postma’s sculpture in the middle room places the tiles in their conventional pattern, but with the axis turned. Positioned upright, the Nuns are placed on an equal footing with the Monks.

As icons often enact shifting contemporary ideas on gender, the Virgin Mary stands as the most potent yet convoluted example. The 15th century statue seen here was originally part of a crucifixion scene and depicting Mary in a lamenting pose. As she was modelled after the subdued manners of a noblewoman however, she seems to suppress her sensation of grief, appearing reserved rather than sad. Positioned facing the last window, which is left uncovered, it seems as if she is hiding from the light flooding in.

European Bodies

Kunsthalle am Hamburgerplatz, Berlin, 2016
publication (80 pages)

The publication “European Bodies“ was made in collaboration with Maurits Koster. It is based on a long-standing research into questions around European identity, as well as the identity politics of the European Union. The publication bundles a series of ideas, proposals and essays revolving around these themes.

The book is subdivided in five sections, each of which is elaborating on a different subject. By example, one section is based on Koster’s experience of a colonial museum in Sudan. The text is juxtaposed with stills from the film 'Statues Also Die', by Chris Marker and Alain Resnais. The section 'Retaking Europe' is presumably written by a consulting firm. It proposes to turn the whole Greek territory into an international music festival in order for the country to reciprocate on its financial debt. The essay 'European Bodies' proposes to repurpose institutional critique in visual art to a critique of European political institutions.

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Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, 2015
video-installation (Duration: 21:30)
4K to HD video projection, ergonomic chairs

The installation “Wertfreiheit” gives insight to the often-concealed world of management consulting. The film documents a workshop that Postma initiated. A team of professional consultants was set the task to come up with new initiatives for preventative care in the corporate office environment. A core investigation of this work is into the neo-liberal motives behind the promotion of efficiency in the workplace.

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Blue coloured easter egg topped with 12 golden stars, enclosing a miniature mechanical song bird

Städelschule Rundgang, Frankfurt, 2015
sculpture (25 x 25 x 140 cm)
egg timer, plinth

"Blue coloured easter egg topped with 12 golden stars, enclosing a miniature mechanical song bird" consists of an egg-timer with the logo of the European Union, adjusted to continue revolving and ticking, without ever ringing. ‘Easter egg’ refers to the Imperial Fabergé eggs that the Russian Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II had made each year as Easter gifts for their wives and mothers.

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Untitled (1964 to 2001)

McKinsey&Company, Frankfurt, 2014
sculpture (450 x 450 x 85 cm)

In collaboration with Maurits Koster

“Untitled (1964 to 2001)” arose from the invitation to an exhibition in the office spaces of the consulting firm McKinsey&Company in Frankfurt am Main. The project consists of a custom made, oversized circular conference table. While the table can be used by the employees for their meetings, its great size and peculiar height unsettle the distinction between form and function.

The table references the “War Room” in the film “Dr. Strangelove” (released in 1964) by Stanley Kubrick, in which American officers and politicians gather to avert the destruction of the planet. The work thus approaches the practice of consulting as a political affair, as opposed to the claim of many consulting firms that their practice is neutral.

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Betere Betrekkingen (repetitie III)

Moira, Utrecht, 2013
video installation (Duration: 40 min)
four displays, travelogue, HD video projection

“Betere Betrekkingen (repetitie III)” looks into three different generations of Postma's family history and their relationship to the Dutch East Indies. Postma's grandfather, Ab Willem Ruys, grew up on Java, where his childhood was abruptly interrupted by the invasion of the Japanese in 1942. After spending three years in prison camps, he returned to the Netherlands in 1946.

The installation displays a travel journal that Ruys wrote during a trip back to Java in 1987. He made this journey with his family, to show them the places of his childhood. Combining memories of his youth with learned historical facts, the journal attests to Ruys’ efforts to reconcile his personal memories with the official historical narrative that slowly took shape after the war.

A second component of the installation consists of a 40 minute film whereby Postma and his father reenacted Ruys’ travels through Java. This sequence is juxtaposed with images of a sculptural reconstruction Postma made of his grandfathers library, which was filled with historical books about the Dutch East Indies. The film explores the consistencies and gaps of intergenerational memory by interweaving contemporary images with stories from Postma's father and the text from his grandfather’s journal.

Por Algo Será

P/////AKT, Amsterdam, 2012
two-channel video installation (Duration: 13:28 min)
HD video projection

“Por Algo Será” is a two channel video installation that studies the process of mediating personal trauma. The actress Paula Lima grew up in an upper class family in Buenos Aires during the dictatorship of Jorge Ravel Videla. Shortly after the regime took power, her mother disappeared for 24 hours. She had been detained and questioned regarding her relationship to the left intellectual elite.

Postma invited Lima to write a script based on her memory of this event and to take the role of the director in the reenactment. The resulting installation shows Lima being confronted by the inexpressibility of her trauma. The right screen shows the actors trying to act out the script according to Lima’s directions. The left screen depicts Lima in a fraught attempt to reconstruct the events in accordance to the truth of her own experience and memory.

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Expressions of Guilt in Animal Behaviour

Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam, 2011
sculpture (260 x 245 x 246 cm)
wood, bricks, metal, glass, street tiles, plants, taxidermic animals, i.a.

The installation “Expressions of Guilt in Animal Behaviour” is an ambiguous reframing of institutional display and knowledge production. It depicts a cross-section removed from a fictional museum of natural history and the flora surrounding the building. Original materials and building techniques were employed to resemble the 17th-century architecture that is typical of Dutch museums. The cross-section itself is a life size construction that positions the viewer in between the exhibition on the ground floor and the storage in the basement.

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