Dutch artist Joep Van Lieshout, founder of Atelier Van Lieshout (AVL), and curator Natalie Kovacs, spoke to Whitewaller about the inspiration and context of “The Original Dwelling,” a sculptural installation on view as part of Design At Large at Design Miami/ Basel.
WHITEWALLER: What is the inspiration for this project?
JOEP VAN LIESHOUT: I am always very interested in housing and how people live and how they work, and I was very interested in the most ancient way of living, which is cave dwelling. This is why I made this original dwelling, which appears like it came out of a mountain and I combined that with very Modernist and Brutalist furniture actually, and with this you have the juxtaposition of the Primitivism the longing for the past and the origin, and the longing for organization and for the future and Modernism.
WW: How does this work speak to your practice generally?
JVL: The original dwelling is part of an ongoing series, which is called “The New Tribal Labyrinth” in which I explore the origins of the Industrial Revolution, agriculture and rituals. I’m creating a kind of new Utopian/ Dystopian society in which all of these elements are being explored.
WW: This Art Basel there are a few project dealing with ideas of a Utopian society, for example, this is the main theme of Rirkrit Tiravanija’s project for Art Basel. Is this particular topical this year?
NK: He [Joep Van Lieshout] has always explored urban plans, alternative worlds and new societies. His last body of work was called “Slave City” where he created an urban plan to illuminate the footprint and change the way that we live. He has also been working with ecology and society making everything from favelas to mini- capsule hotels to Luxus capsule lounges to architectural clip-on units to floating abortion clinics. His whole practice has been about “just add water” or “Just add wheels,” meaning if you don’t get a permit to build it juts make it float.
Joep has been making these alternative dwellings throughout his practice, and he is focused on this idea of autarchy, which is about independence and being off the grid as to not need any legal or governmental approval. He has even declared a free state at the Port of Rotterdam called the AVL-Ville, which was his own city where he made his own money and made his own food, and even weapons and bombs, currency and a canteen. For example, for five AVL dollars you could buy a beer. He made his own alcohol and his own energy from the excrement from his assistant’s shit. So this is not a trend for him, this is his life.
WW: What do you think of the possibility that 3-d printing to produce ones own products?
JVL: It depends what you do with it. In a way, I think it’s another barrier between the creator and the producer and the client, because the contact with the materials becomes very very distant. I think if you make things by hand, if you work in the studio and get dirty and sweaty you develop more of a contact with what you are doing. Although you can do many things with it, and of course it will be a way to produce things in future. On an artistic level the products of 3-d printing are still very much what you see on the computer screen and that is not interesting to me.