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Esmay Wagemans | Sci-Fi Artist


Esmay by Michelle Helena Janssen

Dutch sci-fi artist Esmay Wagemans creates the unreal or perhaps "too real" in what she describes as her "human laboratory." Live casting, mold making and 3D printing techniques are at the forefront of her work, transforming unusual materials into wearable sculptures and accessories. We had a conversation with her about her work and production practice.


Who is Esmay Wagemans? Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?


I’m a sci-fi artist based in Amsterdam. Born in 1992 in the countryside as an introverted person, I have always been deeply fascinated by and interested in human science, chemistry, geology, and technology. In 2017 I graduated from Transformation Design with an autonomous minor in Hacking at Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam. During my studies I started experimenting with molding and casting techniques by using silicone and resin while researching cyborg bodies and humanoid robots, which I continued doing after graduating when I found my first studio in an old factory. Since then I have been using human molds as a medium to explore themes like the influence of technology and sociology on our bodies. Most works come in the form of a sculpture or a wearable, often an outcome of a new material or technique research, and are mainly displayed in futuristic scenes or are part of a collaboration project that can include music artists, designers, photographers or other artists who explore similar concepts. 


Together with your obsession with materiality and the human body, your work creates an aesthetic that hints at a sci-fi fantasy. How would you describe your art practice?


The sci-fi elements in my work finds it’s origin in my youth, where watching sci-fi films and fantasizing about futuristic inventions with my father and one of my brothers, took place regularly. As someone with an interest in technology, chemistry and human sciences, I obviously loved all these films and the conversations that came with it. The way of using fictional/alternative worlds to let an audience experience a different reality with new perspectives has always been inspiring to me and has influenced my approach in my practice in the same way. The human body serves as the subject, the materiality the medium and science-fiction the method. 


Esmay by Michelle Helena Janssen & Luna by Nkeiru Ofor

New Humanity - Breathing Robot


How do you combine your art with performance art? What kind of perspective does collaborating with performance artists give you?


I work often with music artists where the work is worn during a live performance or in a video. I also collaborate with theatre and dance companies. Performers extend the sociological part of my work. Most of my projects arise from a question, statement or research around the body in relation to nowadays society. One relevant part of researching these subjects is watching the real time feedback once the work gets interactive by implying it into society or culture itself. Another important element is how the work and its working gets perceived by the wearer. When my work is only framed in art surroundings, the subjects become a too closed story for me. They sometimes need to have a life first to make a chance of telling a relevant story about the current time.


 

"Working with performance, fashion, and music disciplines allows the work to be better adopted or absorbed by the public. It gives the work a more interesting social context and also expands its meaning because multiple artists' identities get fused."


 

Gentle Monster


We are curious about the steps in your creative process. How do you start a project, and what excites you the most?


All projects I have been working on so far have almost all originated from concepts and ideas that already had been around me before the project started. It rarely happens that I start with a completely empty canvas. I’m only able to do a few projects a year, as the medium and size I often work with, requires quite some time and sources. So when I get approached for a collaboration or an exhibition installation, I prefer working with a concept that already grew on me. A very typical way for me to create those first concepts, is to enter a more meditate state by doing simple repetitive tasks or walking circles in my workshop while having a couple of potential subjects fresh on my mind. At some point there always pops up a new connection between thoughts passing my mind.


The more you supplement your mind-library with experience, knowledge and inspiration over the years, the better it works of course. So previous steps I take to improve this process, are experimenting a lot with new techniques and materials and reading about the subjects I’m interested in when I have time left in between projects. The process is not very linear, but it seems to work very well for me. I think this process might be the part that excites me the most as well. Dreaming away while performing relaxing actions in a calm environment is really rewarding to me. 


Which of your works has excited you the most regarding the design process and the final product?


I think that must be one of my earlier projects I did with Sevdaliza, which consisted of a beautiful translucent suit where silicone casted body elements enlarged her muscles. The project was based on how she experienced her body in relation to her previous basketball career and was part of an exclusive performance we did combined with an editorial story. We were able to spend quite some time together for developing this project and also really took the time to execute it as the project was on our own initiative and didn’t had a deadline. We both always have been inspired by a lot of the same subjects and issues and also have an overlapping taste in esthetics. Those aspects in combination with both having the time, really gave us the space to test and experience different directions and take out the best of it. We talked a lot about personal experiences while brainstorming and making molds of her body which made the project very personal to us as well. A while after the project came online, the internet jumped on top of it and gave it its own story which added a new layer to the meaning of this project. 


Sevdaliza by Michelle Helena Janssen & Muscle Suit


What do you do for inspiration? Who are the names you follow with curiosity in this field or from different disciplines?


The things I draw inspiration from are always changing. I’m a very curious person that finds literally everything interesting so I try to keep my inspiration in movement as much as possible so I don’t get stuck in it and also to prevent me from being subconsciously influenced too much by things that are not necessarily relevant to my process. Getting inspired by something or someone can be really helpful but also can be very confusing and stand in the way of your path. I believe it’s important to be aware of inspiration that can blur your vision and to curate it from time to time. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of inspiration from natural processes like erosion. I also have been love watching the digital works from artists like Frederik Heyman and Harriet Davey who are amazing in creating futuristic stories and environments.  And finally, I also found the Air Swipe Bag from Coperni their Fall/Winter 24 show very inspiring— a design that consists of 99% air. 


Are you excited for the future, and what are your plans?


I would love to explore the possibilities of adding geological aspects to my work to look for other and deeper meanings in the materials and techniques I work with. I’m currently also writing out a concept about the early female hunters and the relation between their bodies and tools, that I’m really excited about and can hopefully start working on this year. 


Solange

Adidas

E.I. Sculpture 03

E.I. Sculpture 01


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