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Atelier van Lieshout: GIO MARCONI.

"New Tribal Labyrinth" was the latest chapter in Atelier Van Fieshoufs ongoing saga about a world destined to regress to small social groups dominated by a primordial struggle for survival. And yet at first glance, the sixteen new works shown in Milan--both large and small sculptures--didn't convey this theme; one might have thought this was simply an exhibition of biomorphic abstract sculpture. In The Farm [all works 201 I), vaguely organic forms made from foam, rice paper, and fiberglass seem to issue directly from the spatial play between solid and void a la Henry Moore or Isamu Koguchi. These shaped are like blown-up details of unidentifiable body parts from which some known and more defined forms suddenly emerge--a dissected cow, a horse's head traversed by underlying tunnels, a flayed body spread out on a table. Sinuous concave-convex forms reveal the stylized presence of human figures forced into strange positions, caged, imprisoned, or defecating in a group, their excrement becoming the structure within which they are enclosed [Pcintha Rat); or they are positioned like the figures of married couples on certain Etruscan sarcophagi, but covered by a sort of lumpy, repellent guano (The Couple). Perception is reversed and, as in a dream that turns into a nightmare, meanings completely change: Forms that arc fundamentally seductive as long as they remain abstract become totems that describe a terrifying human condition, a system of relationships in which prevarication and fear are the rule, and cannibalism--real and symbolic--a principal practice of survival. Thus the smaller pieces describe little scenes of daily life with disturbing details, such as the calm preparation of a meal for which the food consists of a human being, hung head down.

For years Joep van Lieshout, the man behind AVI., has prophesied the advent of an autarkic society that would obtain its energy almost solely from the life force of its own members: They could be sacrificed in a ritual or a more simply practical manner for the survival of the group, which in any case is limited in numbers and always at the edge of subsistence, like those tribes reduced to a few nasty, dirty, unpleasant individuals described by Claude Levi-Strauss in Tristes Tropiques. This is not the work of an anthropologist, however, but an artist's conviction, expressed so strongly that it ends up being emotionally compelling. Such is van Lieshours art, and it is no accident that it has borrowed from many of the narrative and visual nightmares that have populated the human and artistic imagination throughout the centuries: Hieronymus Bosch's monsters peep through many of these totems (one is even titled Hieronymus), as do Goyaesquc "disasters of wan" Other contemporary Dutch and Flemish artists might also come to mind, leading one to wonder what it is in the local soil that's led to the flourishing of this sadomasochistic and scatological imagination, in any case, the regression to a merely instinctual level that would push humans to organize Themselves into minuscule communities, bypassing more rational social relationships, is what fascinates van Lieshout. Since founding AVL in 1995, he has been utterly successful in his goal of constructing a symbolic-visual system suitable to the expression of this instinct--in which stylization and metaphor go hand in hand with literalism of meaning and narration.


--Marco Meneguzzo

Translated from luiium by Miirgueriie Show.
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Title Annotation:art exhibition entitled 'New Tribal Labyrinth'
Author:Meneguzzo, Marco
Publication:Artforum International
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Mar 1, 2012
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