Erik Kessels

Artist Meets Archive #1: Archive Land

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.Artist ProgrammeArtist Meets Archive
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Erik Kessels was invited artist at the MAKK - Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln as part of the first edition of the Artist Meets Archive programme.

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The previously unpublished collection of templates at the MAKK is part of the museum’s comprehensive Graphics Collection.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 information about Erik Kessels

More about Erik Kessels:

All artists who participated in the program
 From Vies possibles et imaginaires © Yasmine Eid-Sabbagh and Rozenn Quéré, 2012

Yasmine Eid-Sabbagh

Artist Meets Archive #2: Rautenstrauch-Joest cat Scratching the Black Box of Colonial Photographs

 Joan Fontcuberta © Damian Zimmermann

Joan Fontcuberta

Artist Meets Archive #2: Gossan: Mars Mission

 Naoya Hatakeyama © Marion Mennicken

Naoya Hatakeyama

Artist Meets Archive #3: Yokohama Souvenirs

 Lebohang Kganye © Lerato Ntombela

Lebohang Kganye

Artist Meets Archive #3: Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum

 Ola Kolehmainen © Maija Toivane

Ola Kolehmainen

Artist Meets Archive #1: COELN. Cathedral of Light

 Pablo Lerma © T. Ripa

Pablo Lerma

Artist Meets Archive #3: NS-Documentation Center

 Lilly Lulay © Enrique Ramirez

Lilly Lulay

Artist Meets Archive #3: Rhenish Image Archive

 Anna Orłowksa © Chrobot&Filak

Anna Orłowksa

Artist Meets Archive #2: A Part of the Part

 Ronit Porat © Yair Barak

Ronit Porat

Artist Meets Archive #1: Paradiesvogel

 Rosângela Rennó © Julia Rennó

Rosângela Rennó

Artist Meets Archive #2: Eaux des Colonies

 Fiona Tan © A van Leeuwarden

Fiona Tan

Artist Meets Archive #1: GAAF

 Roselyne Titaud © Yves Bresson

Roselyne Titaud

Artist Meets Archive #1: Die Hummer-Quadrille

 Antje van Wichelen © Antje van Wichelen

Antje van Wichelen

Artist Meets Archive #1: NOISY IMAGES


The Artist Meets Archive programme invites international artists to collaborate with the Cologne Archives & Collections. Within the framework of a residency, they can immerse themselves in the city's photographic holdings and develop an exhibition project for the Photoszene Festival. In the first two editions of Artist Meets Archive, eleven artists were able to participate and present their projects in Cologne.