“Throne, watchtower, pulpit, pot, cocoon, module, spaceship, mutating virus, living organism, arthropod, liberté, égalité, fraternité, peace, pis, everything your heart desires, urinal, vomatorium, ejaculatorium, excrementorium, king of toilets, compost to the people.”
When one visits AVL’s Excrementus Megalomanus, one leaves behind the turbulence of daily life by towering above it. Becoming part of the recycling process, while exhibiting yourself.
Human waste systems and toilets have always been part of Atelier Van Lieshout’s work. They are functional sculptures on the border between art, design and architecture, one of the boundaries that AVL often plays with and rebels against. A compost toilet is a very simple way to efficiently recycle every human excretion imaginable.
Voluminous and yet respectful, this distinctive artwork revives the idea of Drei Grazien (Three Graces) to whom we attribute incomparable gracefulness. Appearing both figurative and abstract, the megalithic sculptures—influenced by light and shadow—offer a constantly changing presence. Based upon the ideal number 3 and set at the meeting point of three roads, the sculptures have the appearance of mythical figures ascending from the depths. Primal conceptions of coming to be and passing away come alive along with the reference to the eclogite occurrence in the nearby Hohlfelsen rock. “You might think that these three voluptuous female figures—once hidden below the Austrian soil—have finally found their way to the surface”, says Joep van Lieshout. This also puts time into perspective, interweaving the past, the present and the future world of imagination and visualizing constant change.
Location: Wies, Austria
at Station Kampen, The Netherlands
The Humanoids in the Collins Canal Park are a classic representation of the work of Joep van Lieshout. Van Lieshout is a Dutch artist who is internationally recognized for his sculptures, large-scale installations and public artworks. These works, which reflect society, usually become destinations and serve as place makers in their environment.
The Humanoids created for the park in Miami Beach, are part of his ongoing fascination with man, machine and humanity. They appear as abstract figures, which use the park and the natural environment as their habitat, formulating a subtle statement about our relationship to nature and our origins. The sculptures will be placed throughout the park, along the canal and amidst the trees. The Humanoids invite visitors to engage, stimulate social interaction and contemplation, whether it be to use them as rendezvous spots, places to remember, sketch, write, think or talk.
Drop Hammer House
The purpose-built Drop Hammer House was created specifically for the NDSM to represent destruction, recycling and production in a circular economy. “A circular economy could be very positive: no waste, reuse of products, smart recycling, no exhaustion of energy and materials. It relates back to the concept in my work Cradle to cradle in the SlaveCity Project, where even the recycling of humans was a rational thing: humans to be used and reused without ethical concern. We celebrate destruction without a clear goal, melting objects and using wreckage to make sculpture. In doing so, we lure the dark side towards an optimistic, circular economy.”
This totem forms the centrepiece of the large-scale project The End of Everything; it is the ultimate destructor, whilst at the same time the creator of new work. The work is a machine of destruction as well as a home, providing room for the Venus/destructor to become one with the process of destruction.
The work resembles a group of rocks scattered around the landscape by nature, forming a pathway for water and man. Troglodyte serves as a home for de Neerpeltse Watersportclub in Belgium.
Cage consists out of three steel cages, which have been pressed together and pulled apart. This process has transformed the rational and strict geometry of the original cages to become an organic and fictile-looking sculpture that immediately questions the notion of freedom.
Atelier Van Lieshout’s work often refers to systems in which mankind functions today. This work too considers those systems and encourages the viewer to reflect on the role of mankind within the societal, political and economic systems. Humans now wish to free themselves from the exact same systems, hoping to break free from what they have brought upon themselves.
The starting point for Les Acrobates is the notion of collaboration, science and creativity, which is central to its location, next to the research centre Inria in Saclay, Île-de-France. The work is made from galvanised steel, after which it was deformed by hydraulic presses in a controlled, uncontrolled manner, and welded. The result is a playful, happy double human form built on top of one another. Just like in science and research, this work of art was created by a process of trial and error.
Les Acrobates symbolises collaboration and solidarity. With a mirrored double human figure, the work refers to an equilibrium, a constant and familiar structure. But also, it shows a moment of successful completion, a breakthrough – the irrational process that follows scientific research. The sculpture is an homage to the intangible which forms the basis of everything, but especially of science: creativity, imagination and dreams.
Pulse is an interactive installation which aims to engage the inhabitants of Graz and to be at the heart of the community, expressing the pulse, the life of the city. The artwork is as a beacon, sending out lightsignals. These lightsignals will ‘beat’ to the same ‘rhytym’ as the pulse of a human heart. Every time a child is born in the Graz – which is approximately 11 times a day – the pulse and the intensity of the light will become stronger.
With this artwork, Atelier Van Lieshout wants to create a poetic collective moment for the citizens of Graz. Every time Pulse’s light intensifies, the artwork will celebrate the beginning of a human life, a new member of the community added. The artwork will enhance the existing sense of community, both by creating a collective experience and by serving as a physical landmark.
Location: the city of Bagor Wales.
The Essential Dwelling
The Essential Dwelling is an imaginary tribal dwelling which takes humankind back to its origins, recalling a primitive state of being. Its appearance was dictated from the inside out, its interior spaces look like they were hewn out of stone, sculpted around the basic amenities needed for living – an ultimate example of “Form follows Function”.
Like the tribal objects, the Essential Dwelling makes a link with the modernist movement. Its organic shapes and primitive production methods, however, make it the complete opposite of Modernism. The sculpture is at the same time contemporary and idealistic, as well as primeval and archaic.
Rising from the rubble of the apocalypse, The Leader is a takedown of colonial monuments. The sculpture of a rider and donkey draped in folds of thick bronze conceals a structurally hollow interior, a metaphor for our times. We ask ourselves: “is this leader present, absent, democratic, good, bad, or ugly?”.
Domestikator is a large scale artwork that serves as a totem, a temple and a beacon. It symbolizes the power of humanity over the world and pays tribute to the ingenuity, the sophistication and the capacities of humanity, to the power of organisation, and to the use of this power to dominate the natural environment. In order to support 7 billion people, agriculture has become an industry, with factory farming and genetic manipulation a necessity. This provides us with an ethical dilemma, as this kind of farming seems to border on abuse. At the same time, the literal abuse of animals, bestiality, is one of the last remaining taboos. Why is it that treating an animal like a fellow human is an unspeakable act, whilst treating an animal like a resource for industrial production is the norm?
Domestikator is part of the larger installation The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The Good the Bad and the Ugly is a temporary settlement in Bochum, Germany that was designed for the Ruhrtriennale, a festival for theatre, music, dance and arts.
The Monument references classical rider monuments and the political, military, and representative function of such statues: celebrating heroes of the past and current forces of power. However, in this monument the standard allegorical nature is replaced by stylised forms and fragmented bodies. The figurative and visual language of this work should be read as a warning signal, directed towards the present and future.
Since ancient times oracles have been both loved and feared messengers of advice. Atelier Van Lieshout made its own oracle in a style that reminds of primitive African art and resembles a totem or idol. The Oracle is made of steel and equipped with a mechanism that enables the giant head to talk and move its mouth, neck, ears and eyes.The Oracle reflects on power relations between and within society.
The work asks how people are mentally fed, what type of information we consume and how we reproduce this information, and how we reproduce this information. Do we formulate our own thoughts or mindlessly copy those of others? The Oracle touches on themes as freedom of speech, political correctness and incorrectness, and the (im)possibility of privacy and anonymity.
On May 5th, Liberation Day, (on which the German Army’s surrender in the Netherlands in 1945 is commemorated and the liberation of the country is celebrated), The Oracle was presented on Dam Square in Amsterdam. All day long The Oracle orated text messages from the public and reflected the views of the community. The Oracle received widespread attention from both national and international press.
Equilibrist, which is placed in front of a shopping mall in Malmo, Sweden, represents a mass of human shapes clinging on to boxes, packages, consumer goods, holding on for dear live, and struggling to keep their balance in the process. It symbolises humanities urge to consume, as well as the limitations it meets whilst striving to achieve this goal. The design predates the current economic crisis, and reflects on the struggle, the precarious balance between ambitions and prosperity on the one hand and the fall which this can bring about on the other hand. This applies both to the microlevel of the individual, the macrolevel of our economic system and the metalevel of society as a whole.
Powerhammer shows sculptures of machines and tools with which AVL wants to start a Neo-Industrial Revolution. It wants to reinterpret and revalue the factories, manual labour and installations of the Industrial Revolution, by creating sculptures, made in an improvised style with contemporary materials. In our society, nowadays it seems that physical labour is reserved for others, whereas we are solely occupied with form. As a society we cannot just consume and use, real products should be made and grown.
AVL wants to see a return to the idealism of production, where the shape and character of the material determine the design. Sculptures of machines and tools are an ode to vanished industry. These machines not only refer to the romantic longing to industry but further to this they will be honored to emphasize the fact that they brought the Western society freedom, wealth and prosperity.
Joep van Lieshout explains: “Industry used to play a vital role, as it enabled societies based on farming to reach a higher level of development and prosperity. Nowadays, however, everything that reminds us of physical production has been banned from our society, and has subsequently been removed from our sight. Our role is only to design, no longer to produce. In fact, all the things which we find undesirable seems to have been banished. Farm animals disappear into anonymous mega-stables, prisons and mental institutions get moved out to remote business parks. The only thing left in our sanitized world is consumption: retail, recreation, restaurants. This reinvention of the industrial revolution wants to make a link with, but at the same time transcend, the utopian socialist “Arts and Crafts” movement that tried to close the gap between designer, producer and user. Just like the “Arts and Crafts” movement wanted to protect craftsmanship against the effects of industrialization, AvL wants to protect Industry. Industry and production should be a part of our society, as should be manual labour, pollution and hardship. As a society we cannot just consume and use, real products should be made and grown.”
With New Tribal Labyrinth, Atelier Van Lieshout wants to reinterpret and revalue the factories and installations of the Industrial Revolution. The Atelier has created a series of large scale sculptural/technical installations, made in an improvised style with contemporary materials: blast furnaces and foundries, refineries and chemical installations textile mills and ceramics workshops. At first sight, it is not directly clear whether or not these installations are part of a post-apocalyptic survival strategy, or instead a representation of a new utopian way of honest, durable production. Naphta Cracker (2012) and Blast Furnace (2013) are highlights of these series.
Additionally, the Atelier has created a series of Monuments to Machines, large scale artworks in brightly colored composite that pay homage to production, like totems, objects of worship even. These include Power Hammer, Steam Hammer, and Vice (all 2014), as well as a number of smaller sculptural pieces.
With New Tribal Labyrinth, Atelier Van Lieshout wants to reinterpret and revalue the factories and installations of the Industrial Revolution. The atelier has created a series of large scale sculptural/technical installations, made in an improvised style with contemporary materials: blast furnaces and foundries, refineries and chemical installations, textile mills and ceramics workshops. At first sight, it is not directly clear whether or not these installations are part of a post-apocalyptic survival strategy, or instead a representation of a new utopian way of honest, durable production. Naphta Cracker (2012) and Blast Furnace (2013) are highlights of these series.
Additionally, the atelier has created a series of Monuments to Machines, large scale artworks in brightly colored composite that pay homage to production, like totems, objects of worship even. These include Power Hammer, Steam Hammer, and Vice (all 2014), as well as a number of smaller sculptural pieces.
Caen has been subject to a very tumultuous twentieth century: a city on the frontline, its citizens being faced with difficult choices, either to stay but possibly lose their lives or leave all they know and care for and head out into an unknown future. For the Place Saint-Saveur, Atelier Van Lieshouthas created a sculpture that symbolizes this ever-present human dilemma: the choice between the known and the unknown, between security and insecurity, between tradition and progress.
For Place Saint-Saveur, we proposed a sculptural group consisting of human-like shapes, symbolizing the ‘Bourgeois de Caen’. The group appears to be huddled together, like a line of figures that flow over in each other like a Laocoon, sometimes realistic, sometimes abstract. The figures are not heavy, however, but light, airy; people will be able to see trough them and walk between them.
The figures symbolize the different emotions that people go through in a time of conflict: heroism, fear, rebellion, survival, flight, compassion, cowardice, joy, loneliness – a mass of humans, insecure, doubtful and chaotic. Opposed to this, the statue of Louis XVI seems to symbolize security, power and order. At the same time, however, his image is a leftover from the Ancient-Regime.
The Burghers symbolizes the ever-present human dilemma: the choice between the known and the unknown, between security and insecurity, between tradition and progress. The monumental sculpture draws from a universal and timeless theme: what does one do in an emergency situation? The figures, huddled together like a Laocoon, represent the different emotions that people go through in a time of conflict: heroism, fear, rebellion, survival, escape, compassion, cowardice, joy, loneliness – a mass of humans, insecure, doubtful and chaotic.
Steel, produced in blast furnaces, was the most important product of the Industrial Revolution, and has laid the foundation of our current wealth. Therefore, Atelier Van Lieshout realized the artwork Blast Furnace. Blast Furnace, a majestic machinery measuring 12 by 24 by 11 meters, seems to grow like an organic organism. The steel monster evokes an image of the archetypical industrial relicts of the early 20th century, which is given a new, utopian meaning by Atelier Van Lieshout. Blast Furnace will be driven by manpower and simple mechanics. Floors and alcoves will be installed in the innards of the machine: a living room, a kitchen, a bedroom. Human activity takes place throughout the entire installation. It is as if the Tribe of the Metalworkers consciously choose to become one with the furnace, and to live amidst the noise, dirt and dust. Instead of wanting to return to Nature, this tribe wants to return to Industry, to raw materials, to simple products, to social cohesion.
For the near future, Atelier Van Lieshout foresees the emergence of a new tribal world, a primitive society where production takes centre stage. This world will see a return to farming and industry – which currently both have been banished from our society – and a re-establishment of our relationship with materials – which now has been lost. In this new world, ethics will be of little importance. Instead, rituals will be re-valued, and will offer the tribes of the future guidance.
Atelier Van Lieshout is taking an advance on this future, and is creating all necessary equipment for the imaginary tribes, ranging from items of worship and sacrifice to objects for daily use, dwellings and machines. All these artworks together make the huge Gesamtkunstwerk that is New Tribal Labyrinth.
Farming is one of a pillars of the New Tribal Labyrinth. Atelier van Lieshout will create farms for the future, but also from the pre-history, the year zero, the Middle Ages, the Golden Age, and post-war modernist utopia. The final goal is to create a larger than life farm which consist of all the individual farms, connected by tunnels, corridors, doors and hatches. By entering this farm, visitors will engage in labyrinth-like time-travel through the ages, past history, hope, family, utopia, self sufficiency, design and deviancy.
Hagioscoop is the first of this series, a large cross-shaped diorama set in the imaginary date of “year zero”. It consists of four parts: an large Adobe style kitchen, cave-like sleeping quarters, a deconstructivist carpenters workshop and a rough stable. The farm can be entered on the inside, but also viewed from the outside through small openings – comparable to the small windows which can be found in some churches, which enabled outcasts to witness the celebration of mass from outside – the so-called Hagioscoop.
Temple serves as a retreat for the farmer, for contemplation and worship. It is a sheltered space, half underground and covered with grass and sand. Inside is a statue of a Funnelhead, a frequently recurring theme in the works of AVL. Funnelhead is a symbol for the human state, being force-fed physically as well as mentally.
Temple, 2012 Funnelhead, 2012 Barbaar, 2012
This series of three monumental canons shows different techniques developed throughout the past century. Ranging from the artisanal look of the WWI canon to the stylized WWIII canon. these monumental heroic works indirectly refer to Joep’s depiction of a terryfying vision of the future with food scarcity, war and epidemics.
The Invisible Hand
The title refers to Adam Smith’s contested theory that the pursuit of individual interest results in social and economic benefit for all. This sculpture is about systems and offers a comment about how the economy controls society and how, according to Van Lieshout, “money rules the world”.
This smaller black canon is the second one made in a series of tree, a more stylized canon as a production of the post industrial era.
Designed for the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Funky Bones is a group of 20 benches with drawings of large bones that will together form the shape of an enormous, stylized human skeleton.The work grows out of ideas about native heritage and cultural development, with bones iconically referring to artifacts and remains from previous occupants. Joep encountered visitors sitting on rocks and other natural perches on his visit to Indianapolis and therefore wanted to create benches as sites for resting in 100 Acres Art and Nature Park at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
This sculpture commissioned by Sculpture International Rotterdam depicts eighteen stacked oil drums, which appear to descend from the sky like a waterfall. Combined with a syrupy mass, shapes of a score of human figures. Anonymous beings in dramatic poses climb up the robust contours of oil drums with their limp and formless figures. Melted together as a single whole to form a monumental column. The sculpture evokes associations with the current economic crisis, the exhaustion of raw materials and the bankruptcy of the consumer society.
For the new School of Architecture in Nantes Atelier Van Lieshout has made l’Absence. As a sculpture, l’Absence fits into the architectural constraints of the site. The result is a moving and living mass, with multiple protuberances, incarnation of an instinctive gesture, without any delimitation or any function. A living space where we wish discussions will happen. L’Absence is in turn a bar, a sculpture, a comment on today’s architecture that will, without a doubt, fuel students’ imagination.
Alfa & Omega
The two bus stops Alfa & Omega in the shape of an egg and a skull are commissioned by Gemeente Dordrecht and placed at the beginning and end of the scholars bus route if not only symbolizing the beginning and end of life but also the process of learning and the scholars’ career.
For the Zuiderzeemuseum in Enkhuizen Atelier Van Lieshout made Huize Organus. This multi-functional unit is placed on a small dyke in the museumpark. The unit consists of several elements of which the large part houses the complete digestive system from tongue to rectum. The largest part of this ‘microworld’ is blown up to massive proportion so that people can enter. Grown out of this sculpture is the clip-on compost toilet. On the other side the female reproductive organs are attached. In this Wombhouse you will find a small bedroom, where one can sleep in the most save place one can imagine on earth, the womb.
This large purple sperm is blown up to extreme proportion. The head of the sperm can be entered, inside a bed and a small desk are placed. Darwin implies power, status, expansion and reproduction. It reflects social Darwinism ideas and the need for survival in all aspects of our lives, whether biological or corporate. The work was first installed at Scape Biennal, the biennal in public space, Christchurch, New Zealand autumn 2008.