Marco van Duyvendijk: Valetudo
ArtistMarco van Duyvendijk
Hard cover, 210 x 260 mm , 80 pages
Some years ago, Marco van Duyvendijk (b. 1974) went through a dark and intense period of life. He had the feeling of falling apart, over and over again. With ‘Valetudo’, he took the loneliness and isolation that came with this existential episode as a starting point for a creative collaboration with one of his muses, Sin Ying Chung.
The title of the book refers to one of the seventy-nine moons of Jupiter. Valetudo – one of the small moons, discovered only in 2017 – carries a rather strange set of characteristics. According to the astrological observations, the inner ring of Jupiter’s moons moves in the same direction as the planet, however the outer ring of moons revolves in the opposite direction.
It turns out that, despite being located at the outer ring of moons, Valetudo moves in the same direction as Jupiter. Hence, it will at some point collide with one of the other moons. When reading about Valetudo in a local newspaper, Van Duyvendijk immediately knew that this is the title for the book.
The image of a little ‘lost’ entity, going the wrong way, resonated with his state of mind at that time. What’s more, it also reminded him of a popular Radiohead song, where Thom Yorke sang about the ‘accidents waiting to happen’. However, as eventually stated by Van Duyvendijk: “I thought my project was about darkness, about how everything can turn negative and incomprehensible, but I don’t think the book turned out like that. There is negative, but also positive.”
The minimalistic cover of the book – a black rectangle, sprinkled with silver dots and the title ‘Valetudo’ embroidered in the right bottom corner using the Morse code – invites into a secretive world away from that what is familiar. Apart from a few lines written in Morse code at the end of the book – which, once decoded, appears to arrive from ‘Wave’, a song text by the American singer Beck – the publication consists exclusively of photographs.
The images express a gentle juxtaposition between abstractions and nude portraits that Van Duyvendijk made of his muse.
The calm photographs of the moon suspended in the darkness of the cosmos combined with more tactile solarised photographs of what appears to be the surface of some celestial body, are mixed with the nudes. This altogether ignites the existential position that Van Duyvendijk must have felt to be absorbed by when producing this work. By way of collaborating with the model – who is also a good friend of the artist – the very personal and individual biography gets transformed in a more universal, epic, and mythical narration.
One moment can never be repeated. Each personal encounter, each situation changes us irreversibly. Being aware of this inevitable human faith expresses the complexity, sensitivity, and vulnerability of our being in the world. Of ourselves being part of a bigger story. The awareness of such can be depressing and trigger feelings of loneliness but it could also emanate a sense of freedom and peace of mind. This, in essence, is the paradox which vibrates from the pages of ‘Valetudo’.