Marcel Kampman – Meaningful coincidences and moustaches: Happyplaces Stories

Earlier this year, in April, I interviewed Johan Kramer ( and experienced a clear example of serendipity and synchronicity as taught to me by Erik de Jong, better known as singer songwriter Spinvis (

After several years of virtually working together on several projects, Erik and I finally got to meet each other in real life as I interviewed him for Happyplaces. Spinvis explained this was nothing funny or coincidental: it had to be like that:

Experiences are shaped by the path you follow and how external factors influence it — from the music you listen to, the place where you grow up, to the choices your parents made when you were little. This live encounter, now was inevitable, it had to be like that. All meaningful coincidences led to this moment.

Listening to his arguments, I could not disagree. That we finally met each other in Meppel was meant to be.

Johan is an independent film director, and half of the name Kesselskramer (, the renown agency he left ten years ago to pursue his passion for filmmaking ( We agreed to meet in Bergen, a small seaside village where he lives. He proposed that we would meet in Galerie Modernes. I’m a big fan of Johan’s work for more than one reason. Yes, I really like what he makes, but also how he does things.

Everything he does, he turns into a project. Every little thing he does becomes something bigger, because it is simply impossible to keep it small, and he does all that with an incredible eye for detail. A mix of good ideas, contagious energy, working hard and being nice to people.

For example, having a coffee with someone turns into a project about drinking a first coffee, and tatatada: a project is born.

Mr Coffee, – Bergen from Johan Kramer on Vimeo.

Project video of by Mr. Coffee

By asking questions like ‘When did you drink your first cup of coffee? Why is the first coffee of the day always the best? How do you make it? How do you drink it?’ he is discovering more about the rituals of coffee lovers all over the globe. As Mr. Coffee (, he brings his film camera along, drinks a hot black cup of joe and makes new friends during short coffee conversations that last as long as it takes to enjoy the first coffee of the day.

‘Let’s meet in Galerie Modernes in Bergen.’
‘Why there?’
‘Because of a small exhibition on football players with moustaches I have there.’

Voetbalsnorren bij Galeries Modernes, een mini-expositie van Norbert van Leyen en Johan Kramer

Of course. Makes all the sense in the world. I wouldn’t have expected anything else: of course, a project. Galerie Modernes turned out to be a temporary art-retail-exhibition space with second hand goods, unique items, books, magazines and art. But not only was I stunned by all the stuff that had a strange familiarity to me, it turned out serendipity was staring me in the face.

A year ago, we rented a house in Bergen. A really great place with the best possible vibe. It turned out to be from a creative guy who, as I learned by end of the week: Norbert. Already when we entered the house, I knew the owner had to be a ‘creative’. Because of the Apple wireless network, the collection of books and magazines, the really well-done styling and build of house. When I looked him up, which was not so easy, I learned he was working as a photographer (amongst other things), and that we was also frequently working with Johan.

And there he was: the guy I met a year ago, because we rented his house, sitting next to Johan, calmly sipping his afternoon tea. Galerie Modernes was his project, and this football-player-with-moustaches-project turned out to be a collaboration between the two. Here I thought about the conversation I had with Erik. His words were echoing in my head: ‘No coincidence, it just had to be this way.’ Whoaa! Serendipity at work.

I really enjoyed learning more from Johan, who is a really humble and authentic person, who has a good understanding how special it is to be in the position where he is now. Making things he wants to make, causing him to meet nice people, travel great places and have frequent walks in the forrest. I remember a poster by Anthony Burrill ( hanging in the wooden fortress in the Kesselskramer church, saying Work hard & be nice to people. Johan is the embodiment of that.

When we were done recording, and Johan had to leave, I stayed. Too much to discover at Galerie Modernes, including Norbert and some items that felt familiar to me. The déjà vu kind of familiar. Turned out that Norbert and Johan found each other in Bergen and found each other in projects and interests and started working together. Norbert took a lot of pictures for projects of Johan, that then turned up in publications and Norbert came to be a photographer, meanwhile doing all kinds of different things as well. Fascinating.

Regarding the art; on the wall was a work that was lingering in the back of my memory but could not place it. And then I remembered. It was hanging in the house we rented, and then I already had a connection with it. A collage on a red background, a cut out brown pool of mud, a cut out piece of a picture of a blue sky with a bird through tree tops and on top of that a bunch of palm trees. Turned out to be a work by the Dutch artist Rob Scholte, and that Norbert traveled with him, taking pictures. And that he got it from Rob.

Rob Scholte - Waarover zal ik zingen?

‘Waarover zal ik zingen’, silkscreen, 70,5×50,5 cm., signed ‘Rob Scholte’, ‘2006′ and ‘e.a.’ in pencil.

I asked Norbert if he was attached to the work. If it was for sale or what he wanted to have for it. Then he told me the entire story of the work. A great and fascinating story followed. And as it turned out, the theme of the work is directly related to Happyplaces.

Norbert thought for a while and then said: ‘Since I got it as a gift and did not pay, I can’t ask money for it. You can have it.’


Happy. Amazing. Nice. Generous. One of those days where you leave somewhere which such great energy that made me glow in the dark for a couple of months after.

Thanks guys.

Happyplaces, Nov 29, 2014