Cave man: inspecting Atelier Van Lieshout’s transcendental work

Cave man: inspecting Atelier Van Lieshout’s transcendental work

For the last twenty years Atelier Van Lieshout has been producing otherworldly design, sculpture and architecture. These other worlds might not work any better than our world, but the edges are generally smoother and it often looks like a lot of fun. Though sometimes not much fun at all.

The studio was founded in Rotterdam by Joep van Lieshout, the classic enfant terrible, accepted into the Rotterdam Academy of Arts at 16 to study sculpture.

Lieshout’s favourite materials are polystyrene and fiberglass; bulging, spreading, brightly coloured and perhaps slightest toxic. But the man and his studio are really engineers of big ideas: sex, death, politics, the utopian urge, the dystopian pull.

The atelier made its name with a series of conceptual mobile homes, including the modular ’Mobile Home’ for Kröller-Müller (or ’Master & Slave Unit’) of 1995, ’Autocraat’ of 1997 and 1998’s ’The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Workshop’ for Weapons & Bombs. It has also created a bar in an oversized model of the human digestion system (BarRectum), and in a similar vein, the hotel capsule CasAnus (Occasionally it also designs tables, chairs, lambs and other things that work.)

Increasingly Lieshout has been designing entire systems for imagined worlds. And has even attempted to create his own alternate realities. He declared his studio a free state, AVL-Ville, for an entire year and then master planned SlaveCity, a sinister vision of a rational, self-sufficient municipality of 200,000, addressing all human needs and functions with a brutal simplicity.

At the moment the studio is immersed in the New Tribal Labyrinth, creating the elements of a future society returned to the meat-and-potato business of agriculture and factories and ritual, rather than the quinoa salad of the creative industries.

At this year’s Design Miami/Basel, Atelier Van Lieshout is presenting ’The Original Dwelling’ (previewed in W*196) - a luxurious fibreglass pool house, a model home for the New Tribal Labyrinth’s future clans. But while you wait, here’s our exhaustive exhibition of the artist’s artefacts and infrastructure of other worlds...

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