Do you ever ride the streets and pretend you’re in a movie? It’s not unfamiliar to Amsterdam based artist Jochem Esser. He cycles through the city’s little streets and makes crazy things up to make the trip more interesting. Add some good music blasting through his headphones and this guy is totally happy. And the best of it is that Jochem isn’t ashamed of it, because he’s a romanticist and a big dreamer from head to toe.
We climb upstairs to his studio. One table is full of old sound systems, all connected with wires. In the boxes are plants planted in earth. It’s not about money though, but about the idea that a lot of products can be used for a second time. It’s a waste if you won’t. Jochem got his speaker from the streets or thrift shops near Waterloosquare. “Speakers are endless fascinating things if you ask me. They’re just magnets with a piece of paper. You can make any sound you want with the air pump. There’s no sound in this project. I use the vibration the speakers generate.”
Jochem was studying at art academy Artez (Arnhem) when he borrowed a book about plant perception from a friend. He was sold. “Scientists around 1900 assumed that plants could feel things. Though they don’t have brains or a nervous system, professors tried to proof the contrary. It was a pseudoscience, in which most people didn’t believe. Now the creed is back, and I’m one of the believers.”
The project he’s currently working on is a mixture of the elemental nature and the fast Internet society of our generation. “It’s romantic science. The project is an accumulative process of everything I’ve experienced in my life. The idea that emerged is a natural outcome of what I’ve done and learned so far.”
Jochem’s thesis was made from a huge organ. It had to do with music too. The viewers had their own thoughts about it. An old man called him a few days later to tell him about his experiences with organs. “It’s wonderful to see that what I create calls up emotions in people. It would be awful if people wouldn’t remember anything of my work when they pass through it.” His projects are never finished, or only when a new exposition starts.
His plant project is delicate; in contrast to the bombastic work he started out with at Artez. It was muscle art: the bigger, the better. Now he knows both big and small art can be captivating. “I grew up in a small town with a big forest to play in. I was a boyish, rebellious and brave kid; how boys are expected to be. To open your heart for your art and others is really difficult. Artez taught me to be vulnerable, something I’ll never forget. At first my work was everything but poetic. I learned something very fundamental about creating things: fragile art can be way more powerful than something bombastic.”
Jochem writes down all his thoughts about his work in a book. It creates some structure in his process. The book is full of little notes, pictures, drawings and what else. “Making art is a process with many influencing elements. It can be something I hear in a conversation between two people, a picture from a billboard, a line in a song, and many other things that can totally change my point of view on my work. It’s addictive too. It gives me some peace and a good grip on where I am with my work. It’s nice to look back and recall the vibe I felt at a certain moment.”
Before Jochem decided to move here, he used to skate a lot on Amsterdam’s streets. “Inline skating is something I can romanticize endlessly. A group of people connected by a passion for inline skating; like we were on a mission. We went to different cities every week and explored new half pipes, good streets and, of course, watched the city. But Amsterdam is the city where everything happens. I can’t imagine living somewhere else at this moment, but maybe someday I’ll have a wooden hostel somewhere near the sea. A small glass house next to the hostel, which will be my studio. And travelers passing by, telling great stories. I love to dream about these things.”
Photo’s: Lisa Helder.