About 'Ball Pool'. Written by Liesbeth Bik - Esmé Valk

About 'Ball Pool'

Written by Liesbeth Bik

During the past years, Esmé has been researching 'social choreography’ as a medium to question and observe movement through what she calls the aesthetic space. This movement does not only concern the movement of bodies through space, but much more. Her research is driven by a profound fascination of how subjects — be it bodies, tumbling and rolling objects, flavours, fragments of knowledge, collected experiences, quotes from Wikipedia and other sources — move, gather, make connections and bump and bounce into each other, in short: how they group, re-group and 'de-group’. And in doing so, they potentially create multiple combinations and perspectives, and a ground for observation and exploration.

When does something become an artwork? What makes a work a work? she asks. In her view, the world is one big endless archive, there to be continuously arranged, in order to time and again explore and re-view its networks of associations, and to test and try potential meaning of these different associations. It is somewhere there, in this productive dynamics of movement that continuously generates new visions and new connections, thus enabling re-visions and re-connections, where the artwork can be located and become manifest.

How to push this collection and truly research-based practice into becoming equally visually dynamic? This has been one of the biggest challenges Esmé has set herself doing, and she convincingly managed to do it, by the simple but daring decision to treat visual subjects in exactly the same way as she treats subjects made of text. There is no hierarchy between these different expressions, she claims, and this claim has become very productive.

Another equally challenging step she took was formed by taking a different position to how she, as an artist, makes work. Previously she started a work from the premises that an artist needs to say something with his or her art works, but she was unsatisfied with this approach because this did not allow for an open structure or an open outcome. Now questions rather than answers are the basis of her work, and this allows her to observe and explore the world as a laboratory.

The next big challenge is, of course, to entice the viewer in this process, to engage him or her in such a way that the viewer is voluntarily deciding to engage and becoming part of the work, part of the laboratory, and by doing so, to become part of Esmé's 'grand collection’.

With her ability to recognize, value and understand that the aesthetic space is right there, right here, and that this actual space can function as a stage for choreography, as a platform for temporary and time-based constructions of movement of objects, subjects or viewers alike, Esmé has embarked on an extremely precise and open adventure that in my view, simply produces good art.

Finally I would like to put attention on her project report entitled Bees, Notes and Dancing. For this project Esmé adapted the format of the commonplace-book, a method used by John Locke and Erasmus, and later, with a similar approach, by Walter Benjamin. She created a good company for herself. Introduced by Erasmus six centuries ago as 'a new way of learning’ this strategy also today still proves to be the perfect tool for creating an open structure of gathering and collecting knowledge while producing it, when done with verve. Which is exactly what she did!

10 July 2008