Europe Archive 

by Erik Kessels / Thomas Mailaender

As we move our ‘stuff’ moves with us, and even after we’re gone it keeps moving. This is the great migration of things as they shift from room to room, house to house, from one family member to another, to a storage box, a second-hand shop and finally an auction house or a flea market. ‘Things’ used to migrate locally, but globalization, consumerism and the internet have greatly extended their migratory patterns. And along with the decline of the flea market, chance encounters with objects and their memories are disappearing. 

In this collaboration between Erik Kessels and Thomas Mailaender, the two are on a mission to recreate a collective memory of Europe by assembling images and objects collected at flea markets across the continent. 

A unique portrait of European countries by the contemporary objects they live with.

Erik Kessels (NL/1966) and Thomas Mailaender (FR/1979) are both avid collectors of all kinds of photographic material and unusual artefacts. The like-minded artists have already collaborated before. With a great fondness for unique objects that stem from enthusiastic amateurism and domestic craftsmanship, the artists recognize and value their fragile imperfections, individuality, and the sociological patterns in which they exist. However, the objects are certainly not only for amusement; they can also be abrasive and expose painful moments of history. 

With these relics, the artists aim to create an archive that appeals to a collective memory of Europe. At a time when the notion of Europe is under growing scrutiny, the project celebrates the European legacy, demonstrating its complex cultural diversity and common values. Through sharing alternative histories, the project transcends clichéd approaches to local features, prompting reflection on what unites us and who we are as Europeans. 

Moreover, the archive can be viewed as a commentary on our current times. Dominated by digitization and artificial intelligence, flattening perceptions of reality and false expectations are emerging, driving an ever-widening wedge between the virtual and the real world. Europe Archive is. a celebration of the imagination, human creativity, and ingenuity, where alternative beauty and failure have valuable meaning. 

Europe Archive is a long-term and expanding initiative that will develop over time into a massive collection of objects from all the countries of Europe.