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.

Making Things More Better

The Forage, Berlin, 2020
digital prints on paper

In collaboration with Maurits Koster

“Making Things More Better“ is a series of posters that speculates on the future of technology, finance and global politics. Each poster functions as a proposal for a hypothetical ad campaign made in the near future. As part of a sculpture exhibition in public space, the posters were temporarily taking over all the advertisement spaces of one street in Berlin.

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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, Salome’s incarnations appear as phantoms; at certain points moving apart, at other times merging together to form a new body.

“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

The exhibition “Rebis” (Stadtmuseum Lindau, 2018) is a reflection on the ephemeral and ambivalent sexuality of biblical figures in art focusing on the Medieval period. Its central element – a painting of St. Wilgefortis from ca. 1500 – features a princess with a beard. This unlikely historical representation results from a Medieval legend about a “courageous virgin” (Latin: “virgo fortis”) forced to marry against her own will. Longing to devote her life to Christ instead, she prays to be made repulsive, which God answers by growing her a beard. The image of the crucified St. Wilgefortis merges with representations of Christ; thus intensifying the shape of androgynous icon.

Unfolding the observed polarities in Christian iconography, Postma’s work “New Clothes” translates the temporality inscribed in images of Christ and their hidden sexuality into a sequence of purple window curtains. The curtain’s fabric is sequentially thinner as one moves through the exhibition space. The ‘thinning out’ sensuously alludes to the way that the image of the infant Christ was gradually but radically refashioned in the late Middle Ages.

The sculpture “Rise of the Nuns” attests to the way that sexuality has been latent in utilities since centuries. The sculpture is made of antique roof tiles historically referred to as Nun and Monk, which pertained their form from being moulded on a human thigh. In roofings, the bottom tiles were called Nuns and the tiles covering them were called Monks. Postma’s sculpture places the tiles in the same pattern, but with the axes turned, thereby placing the Nuns on equal footing with the Monks.

Dissecting, isolating and revealing identities in Christian visual culture, “Rebis” (from Latin “res bina”, meaning dual or double matter) simultaneously emphasises the role of emotions as transmitters of visceral memory. In the exhibition’s last room stands an isolated statue of Virgin Mary from the 15th century in a lamenting pose. She covers her mouth with a veil, crying. Postma confronts her expression of grief turning her face to the light which comes through the last window, left uncovered.

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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