Atelier van Lieshout, A Manual

Kolnischer Kunstverein, Cologne and Museum Boijmans van Beuninger, Rotterdam, 1998, pgs. 272.

Cool things:

  1. Mobile Homes
  2. Fiberglass
  3. Rem Koolhaas
  4. People who consider sausage making an art form.

"Sausages?" Yes, sausages. Pork links are featured along with an entire butchering operation as the latest work of Dutch artist/architect/sculptor Joep van Lieshout and his studio, Atelier van Lieshout, in the book Atelier van Lieshout, a Manual.

Butchering and curing meats is just the most recent of Lieshout’s pieces. The penultimate work of the Atelier, a series of installations and furniture, proveto be, architecturally, the most interesting. Lieshout’s spaces and objects are three-dimensional versions of Hanna Barbara cartoons. They are constructed out of the same material as the lowly Port-o-let, and have as much function, but are as equally at home in an art gallery as in a trailer park.

In 1994 Rem Koolhaas commissioned Lieshout to design toilets, curvy fiberglass style, for the Grand Palais at Lille. The atelier has also produced info desks for museums, designs for the Alliance FranƒÑaise, Rotterdam, as well as many other experimental trailers, pods, and furniture. The EZ clean designs made of curved polyurethane sandwich construction and decorator drains would make any housewife smile, if it weren’t for the astringent sexual overtones. The colors of the constructions range from light green to swimming pool blue and cabana orange and would suit any Euro-chic household. Deep shag carpet and bloody red loungers adorn the custom campers and challenge the Kitchen-Aid palette.

The atelier’s campers and other mobile architecture take inspiration from streamlined trailers and traveling carnival rides in jelly bean hues. They offer a perspective for a modern future laden with nostalgia for the past. It is a future based on form, quirky technology and a good deal of sensuality. Lieshout’s lines are seedily suggestive. One pod, the unfortunately titled Bachelor Machine Trailer, is comprised of two semi-square pods that fit telescopically into one another. The smaller pod pulls out, enlarging the trailer and creating the camper’s cushy sleeping loft. The upholstery has the look of rock star pants - gleaming vinyl pulled tight, reflecting the lights.

The book is decidedly masculine. It is filled with quotes from the Marquis de Sade, references to Batallie, and dry Brabaut sausages. Not to be forgotten is the giant, glass-fiber reinforced polyester sculptural penis, the Pitiful One, 1997, that is fifteen times life size. Despite the enormous prick, the manliest part of the manual is the Manual. The last third of the book is a how-to guide to the atelier. It is also the best attempt by Lieshout to demonstrate his tongue-in-cheek ideology and his spirit for collaboration. With step-by-step instructions, accompanied by illustrations worthy of Time-Life Home Improvement, the manual offers a D.I.Y. guide for creating your very own camper and the pork sausage to go with it. It is perfect for any budding handyman. The manual is as well suited for coffee tables as for workbenches. Lieshout’s work tests the boundaries that shape modern living.

more from this issue