THIS IS THOMAS

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This is an Attempt to Make an Equalized Registration of a Protest on a Sunny Stockholm Afternoon, 2018
color photo print (photo rag) with custom passe-partout, framed -  105 cm x 145 cm


European Border in 2018 (Documentation), 2018



Desti-, 2018
Video, 4K, 16 min 
In Search of Something Better, 2018
Multimedia Installation

During a two month residency in Stockholm initiated by Grolsch and Unseen, visual artist Thomas Kuijpers set out to investigate the progressive social policies for which Sweden is globally renowned. In his attempts to understand utopian ideas of equality and freedom in a local context, Kuijpers began interviewing the city’s inhabitants, collating their insights all the while. As the artist discovered the friction that exists between reality and the well-intentioned ideals of governmental policy, the scope of his research changed. 

Contemplations while driving

As I start my journey in Belgium, I fill up the car just before the border, since I know the gas prices here are the cheapest I will find for the next 1700 kilometres. I drive through the Netherlands into Germany, as if it’s one country. Of course, you notice some architectural changes, and the road signs slightly differ, but going from one country to another goes flawless. As it is meant to be, we’re a union with free borders, right?

In Germany I stop again for gas, a different price same currency. It starts to rain, while the sun is shining super bright. As I continue driving, I look around me, but no rainbow. That’s strange.

Let me go back to how I ended up here, in this car, driving through Germany. After almost two months of being a resident in Stockholm, I decided to make a film in which you see a vehicle moving through the dark nothingness towards an unclear destination, the film you can see of which you can see stills in front of you right now if all went well. The film is based on all the answers given to me by the local residents on the question ‘if we look beyond all problems we face now as a society, what would the ideal society look like? - and how do we get there?’ - Since all these answers came from Sweden I thought the vehicle starring my film should be as well, so I set out to buy a second hand Volvo for this purpose. I found many options, and many people willing to sell, but the regulations were so complicated as a non-Swedish citizen, that in the end it was easier to fly to Amsterdam, buy a similar car here, and drive it all the way back to Stockholm to shoot the film. A union, right?

So here I am, on this road trip, crossing five countries with a car that is made at it’s destination in 1985 - the year I was born, and the year the Schengen agreement was signed. Night falls, and as I approach the Danish border cars start to slow down. I’ve been here before, during daylight, a couple of years ago - right after the attacks in Paris. They had already announced increased border controls for this reason back then, so we were prepared. There was a lot of criticism on this reinstatement of the border, but okay, with this terror threat it was mostly condoned. The more shocking it was to see that now, two and a half years later, this border got even worse. I tried to film it, it’s quite terrifying. Other than last time, I now didn’t have to park and had my car searched, but as I drove on it really left me with a undefined feeling about the European situation.

The project in general has made me think a lot about unity and co-operation, because in the end I saw in all answers I got from the locals, no matter the political opinion, these are things that matters to all of them. The discussion about what this unity encompasses tough, paradoxically drives us further and further away from what we all want in the first place. These dense thoughts and the dark road ahead of me tell me it’s time for a few hours of sleep.

As the sun is rising, I reach the bridge that stretches from Denmark to Sweden. It’s amazing to drive this floathing piece of concrete above the sea. I’m happy you are here, reading this, because what is an adventure worth if you can’t share it with others? I currently really long for a direct connection though, to share last nights thoughts that where still there when I woke up. At the end of the bridge the radio plays Guns ’n Roses with Shadow of your love, and I’m again asked to show my passport.

Again this feeling comes up, the feeling that things won’t be as nice as they were in the places we reside. We’re breaking down what once was a privilege, and somewhat it feels a bit scary. I wouldn’t say we should take an example to the USA but there’s at least one currency, one main language, one president, one economy uniting the people in these divided states. A backbone like that was probably the initial vision for the Europe we now live in, but we’re already back to breaking it down before we have even figured it out completely. I don’t know what’s the thing to do here either. I do long for unity, and I like the freedom this united system brings. It never felt to me it takes away parts of my freedom. Even the eurosceptic parties are organising on European level. They long for a form of unity as well. 

I enter one beautiful scenery after another when I cross Sweden from one side to the other. After leaving Malmö in the rearview mirror I barely encounter other travellers as the landscape gets more rough and overwhelming. I decide to do a little detour about two hours from Stockholm, and as I park the car near a lake I immediately get into a conversation with a bus driver who also parked there. This is the first time in two months I’m not the one starting up a conversation. He gave me some advice on how to adjust the brake on the car, very practical but friendly, and then we parted ways again.

The politeness, quietness and tranquility I experienced in the past few weeks living in Stockholm, disappeared immediately when entering Stockholm by a car. For the first time I saw people losing their nerves - without honking though- but I saw them yelling in their cars, making large arm gestures and being somewhat aggressive on the road at some points. This behaviour is unthinkable outside of the car, on the Stockholm streets. I have a theory about this. On the street, there’s direct contact, people sometimes ‘correct’ each other with just one look, and a smile in the form of an apology usually follows. But in the car you have a screen in front of you. You are anonymous. There’s a barrier between you and your ‘opponent’, and it’s hard to make direct contact. I think this immediately changes the factor of politeness. This is how brexit’s happen, hiding behind a screen, wether it’s a window screen, a telephone screen or a computer screen — and it scares the shit out of me.

The resulting work, In Search of Something Better, was unveiled at Unseen Amsterdam 2018.

Melting Words (Graffiti), 2018 
b/w photo print (photo rag) on dibond, hand painted, framed w/o glass 
145 cm x 215 cm

Exhibitions:

Unseen (Amsterdam, NL)
LhGWR (The Hague, NL)
The Salamander Devours its Tail Twice (London, UK)

Reviews:
Parool (NL)

Publications:
Unseen Magazine (ENG)
Der Greif (ENG)

Videos:
Promo Video by CZAR (NL w/ ENG subs)