25th January, 2017 at 6:00pm
Reading List: Erik Kessels
| YCN Library — Free to Company Members of YCN

Erik Kessels, Creative Director of Member Agency KesselsKramer, joined us at the YCN Library to talk us through six of his favourite books.

Kicking off our Reading List series for 2017, KesselsKramer Co-founder Erik Kessels shared six titles that have helped shape his life and career.

Together with Johan Kramer, Erik founded the agency that bears their name back in 1996. Since then, KesselsKramer has built a reputation for its often eccentric and highly original approach to communications, and now has outposts in both London and LA.

Erik started out by telling the audience that he hates traditional advertising. “I hate it every day,” he said. However, this is actually a good thing because it pushes him to find different ways to be meaningful. He believes the best creative inspiration comes from outside of the industry, which the following books demonstrate.


Important Artefacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan an Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewellery, Leanne Shapton 

Erik’s first title has been designed to look just like an auction catalogue, filled with images of objects and their descriptions as if for sale. However, reading the text reveals that it’s actually a love story about a broken relationship. Harold Morris and Lenore Doolan have split up and the images show their divided possessions, while telling a deeper story about their failed romance. 

Hans Eijkelboom, Photo Concepts 1970 

Erik has followed dutch photographer Hans Eijkelboom for years and struck up a friendship with the artist after helping him exhibit his work. Photo Concepts 1970 is the first book containing a collection of his projects, released to coincide with a retrospective exhibition taking place in Germany. Usually themed around the subject of identity, Hans’ work is very idea-driven and often exudes his dry sense of humour. For example, one photo series shows the artist being (accidentally) photographed in his local paper every day for two weeks. The project saw him posing as a bystander next to a car accident and standing subtly in-shot next to protestors, for example. Another project is a series of street photography showing collections of strangers with something in common, for example they are all wearing yellow jackets or spotted tops. 

Malicious Damage, Elsa Colsell 

Malicious Damage tells the story of how a couple living in Islington borrowed and defaced books from their local library. Over a number of years, they gradually wallpapered their entire flat with pages that they had torn out of the borrowed books. They also added new features to the books before they returned them to the library. For example, a cut out of a monkey was superimposed over the head of a book’s original cover star. 

Erik explained that he loves the stories that lie behind images. We consume so much visual media today that we are almost immune to imagery. However, while we may have seen almost every image conceivable, we have not heard every story. 

Abstracte Kunst, Harmen de Hoop 

Erik also shared a book celebrating the work of Dutch artist Harmen de Hoop, who interferes with everyday surroundings to make them strange or incorrect in some way. For example, one photograph shows how he draw a basketball court on an ill-fitting triangular public space. Another shows a young boy stuffing a dustbin with Mickey Mouse toys. Erik admires how the artist challenges what we think we can do with public space and how his strange interventions are so subtle some do not even notice them. 

272 Pages, Hans-Peter Feldmann 

272 Pages shows a collection of the work of Dutch artist Hans-Peter Feldmann, who takes existing images and reappropriates them in interesting ways. For example, he re-made one pocket book called “Voyeur” several times using exactly the same 100 images. The only difference was the order in which the pictures were rearranged, showing how the same material can be recycled to create a completely different story. Another project Erik admires is the artist’s Gugenheim exhibition, where he took the $100,000 prize money and exchanged it for $1 bills, which were plastered over the walls of the exhibition space.

Failed It!, Erik Kessels 

Finally, Erik spoke about his own book, Failed It, which he claimed is about his fight against perfection in creativity. He believes that mistakes can be beautiful and lead you to new and exciting work, claiming “If it’s perfect, there is no opportunity for a new idea”. He urged the audience to spend more time in their “back garden”, experimenting creatively and messing things up. We should only take work into our public-facing “front garden” once we are truly finished with it. The back garden, where we are free to fail, is where creative magic can happen.

Photo credit: Rob Parfitt

Event Details
  • Location:
    72 Rivington St,
    London, EC2A 3AY,
    United Kingdom
  • Start:
    25th January, 2017 at 6:00pm
  • End:
    25th January, 2017 at 8:00pm

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