Erik Kessels/Thomas Mailaender
Erik Kessels/Thomas Mailaender, EUROPE ARCHIVE House of Arts Veszprém/ Dubniczay Palace 2023.06.22. – 2023.08.27.
One of the highlights of this Summer’s Balaton Eye exhibition program will be undoubtedly Europe Archive by Erik Kessels (NL/1966) and Thomas Mailaender (FR/1979), a long-term project that will have its inaugural presentation at the House of Arts, Dubniczay Palace in Veszprém in the framework of Veszprém-Balaton 2023, European Capital of Culture. With this project, the artists who are both avid collectors, aim to reconstruct a collective memory of Europe by presenting their collection of unique artefacts which they have gathered at European flea markets, second-hand and antique shops and the internet. In preparation of the exhibition, they have especially focused on fleamarkets in the Veszprém region, including Lenygel Market, Devecser Second-Hand Market, as well as Ecseri Flea Market, Budaörs Flower Market and Bakancsos Flea Market in Budapest.
The like-minded artists have already collaborated several times. Based on their experience as collectors, they are increasingly noticing how globalisation and the internet are affecting the flea market phenomenon, as well as “the migration of things” as they call it. Where things mainly used to change hands within a local context, while retaining their original meaning and functions, the digital age, globalisation, and consumerism have changed that a lot. Stuff is losing its original context, with associated stories and memories often lost as well. Kessels and Mailaender are important references in the field of “reappropriation”, the recontextualisation of existing material, drawing from all kinds of expressions of visual culture and the man-made. Their work celebrates this abundance by elevating objects from a multitude of social perspectives, setting the stage for new stories, and thus a new relevance
With their special sensitivity, Kessels and Mailaender reveal a great fondness for unique objects that stem from enthusiastic amateurism and domestic craftsmanship. Their alternative aesthetic is often moving, relativising and at times absurdist and hilarious. The artists recognise and appreciate their fragile imperfection, their uniqueness and the sociological patterns they are part of. However, the objects are certainly not only humorous as they can also be abrasive and expose painful moments of history.
By collecting such relics, the artists aim to create an archive that appeals to a collective memory of Europe. At a time when the definition of Europe is increasingly under pressure, the project celebrates the European legacy, shows its complex cultural diversity, and common values. Transcending clichéd approaches to local features through sharing alternative histories, the project raises questions that prompt reflection on what unites us, and who we are as Europeans. Moreover, the archive can be seen as a commentary on our current times. Dominated by digitisation and artificial intelligence, flattening perceptions of reality and false expectations are emerging, driving an ever-increasing wedge between the virtual and the real world. Most of all the project is a celebration of the imagination, of human creativity and ingenuity, where alternative beauty and failure have valuable meaning.
Europe Archive is a long-term and growing project that will develop over years into a monumental collection of objects from all the countries of Europe. For this exhibition, the artists have prepared a special catalogue that can be acquired at the museum shop of the Dubniczay Palace.
The exhibition is curated by Claudia Küssel