© Courtesy of the artist
© Erik Kessels “24 hrs in photos” 2012 Installation view Foam Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam 2011 Foto: Gijs van den Berg
© Erik Kessels “Album Beauty”, 2012 Installation view Foam Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam 2012 © Christian van der Kooy
© Erik Kessels, “In almost every picture”, 2014 Installation view Festival Images de Vevey 2016 Foto: Christina de Middel
Erik Kessels (*1966 in Roermond, Netherlands) lives and works in Amsterdam. As Creative Director he is head of the KesselsKramer advertising agency in Amsterdam, which he founded along with Johan Kramer in 1995 as a “legendary and unorthodox” communications agency. Since 2000 he has also been the publisher of the photography magazine “Useful Photography” and has brought out more than 60 books, such as, for example, “Missing Links” (1999), “The Instant Men” (2000), “In almost every picture” (2001-2013) and “Wonder” (2006).
Kessels does not take photographs himself but deals humorously, cleverly and pithily with existing photographs and found footage. Along the way, his artistic interest is focused, in particular, on the imperfection and mishaps of found amateur photographs from family albums, archives and the Internet. He unearths invisible and undiscovered patterns in countless, mainly privately-owned photographic portfolios, and uses them to pursue a kind of visual archaeology. As a result of his selection and processing the photographs are detached from their contexts and put together in new associations. Kessels’s interest lies more in the search for the story behind the photographs than in occupation with the actual image.
Working with archives gives me the freedom to look at imagery in an objective
and fresh way. I try to discover unseen patterns and hunt for the unexpected. It’s like visual archaeology.
- Erik Kessels
The pattern collection of the Museum of Applied Art Cologne is a component of the museum’s comprehensive Graphics Collection. It was built up with the founding of the Cologne Arts and Crafts Museum, the MAKK’s predecessor institution, in 1888. This collection comprises approx. 25,000 illustrations from the Middle Ages into the 19th century: photographs, prints or excerpts from publications of primarily handcrafted objects of all genres, but also of historical buildings, city views, landscapes, interiors, expeditions, botanical motifs or depictions of animals. Likewise represented are the fields of painting, sculpture and graphic design. The objects are kept in chronological order in archive boxes. The pattern collection of the MAKK is akin to an all-art-genres-encompassing illustrated art history encyclopaedia. In conjunction with the ornamental engravings collection and the museum’s exhibits, the pattern collection was used as illustrative and study material for architects, artists, artisans and craftsmen and for the cultivation of taste among the general public.
The previously unpublished collection of templates at the MAKK is part of the museum’s comprehensive Graphics Collection. This collection comprises approximately 25,000 illustrations from the Middle Ages into the 19th century and resembles a pictorial encyclopaedia that embraces all art genres. We are intrigued to find out how the artist Erik Kessels is going to apply his curatorial principle of ‘visual archaeology’ to the MAKK template collection and, as a result, enable the creation of new associations and new views of archive material that has never been on show before.
- Internationale Photoszene Köln
More about the museum: Museum of Applied Arts Cologne