Hors les murs 25 June 2022 - 11 September 2022

Address : Le Portique centre régional d’art contemporain du Havre 30 rue Gabriel Péri, 76600 Le Havre, France

Atelier Van Lieshout (AVL) is a Dutch collective founded by Joep Van Lieshout, who creates works halfway between architecture, design, sculpture and installation. His signature: a raw aesthetic, sometimes “trashy”, and always offbeat. Having fun renewing our daily life, our relationship to domestic and functional objects, AVL invents its own language, proposing to visitors to experiment with new forms and spaces. Thus, on the beach of the Cité océane, within the framework of the summer event Un Été au Havre, it is a whale (The Whale), which waits to leave towards new horizons. A cetacean-vessel (a mannequin, visible from a porthole, lives in the belly of the animal), this piece evokes mythical stories such as the biblical episode of Jonah, swallowed by a huge fish, or Moby Dick, the work of Herman Melville. Joep Van Lieshout likes to tell stories, to propose immobile journeys to his visitors who, penetrating in the spaces invested by the artist, lose their marks to plunge in a parallel universe where the daily environment is reinterpreted. An invitation to travel, in a way…

The Journey is the title chosen by AVL for the exhibition presented at the Portico. Reflection on nomadism, movement and different mobilities, the work of the Dutch artist proposes new modes of displacement, imagining improbable machines, systems and incongruous devices that aim to facilitate mobility. In the enclosure of the Portico, transformed into a place of transition, a kind of parenthesis, a temporal gap, are deployed machines, cobbled together and summary, mixing all types of materials and tools. One also meets mannequins equipped with prostheses, a cosmonaut’s suit… all the equipment needed to prepare for the journey. The Journey speaks of a conquest, of a collective desire to create a new world. This experimental device insists on movement, nomadism… moving, moving. No matter the destination, what counts for Van Lieshout is the potential that feeds the journey, the possible. Hoping for a better world, the artist insists: “This exhibition presents travel as something joyful, which aims to create a better world. I explore the different possibilities that exist to create that world, but it’s complicated to organize.”

Oscillating between hope and pessimism, the exhibition summons different aesthetics, transforming the exhibition space into a large laboratory, where forms and materials mix, mingle, and tangle. Dystopia* or utopia**? What is the register to which the story that AVL delivers to us can be linked? If the mannequins and prostheses evoke amputated bodies, the collective sees, in these mutant carcasses, the future, the possible… Renouncing to deliver a pessimistic reading of the future, the collective invites to lean on the means and not on the end, on the stages which constitute the big journey and not on the destination… that we ignore. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is, only the path taken counts. The meaning of this great initiatory journey is in the movements it encourages, the explorations it allows. The visitors are invited to take place in this time capsule and artistic created by the collective to experiment, to test the world and its possibilities… an invitation to the journey which does not refuse… No one will leave unscathed.

*An imaginary society governed by a totalitarian power or a harmful ideology, as conceived by a given author.
**Imaginary and rigorous construction of a society, which constitutes, with regard to the one who realizes it, an ideal or a counter-ideal.

Photo Rebecca Fanuele 

Press release (PDF) Exhibition's artists >