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Atelier van Lieshout, SlaveCity


Tanya Bonakdar
521 West 21st Street, 212-414-4144
November 30, 2006 - January 6, 2007
Reception: Thursday, November 30, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

Atelier van Lieshout, located in Rotterdam and led by artist Joep van Lieshout, operates internationally in the fields of contemporary art, design and architecture, producing work that examines and critiques the commercial nature of contemporary society.

Gallery one presents models, sculptures and drawings that represent life in the fictional SlaveCity, a futuristic distopian metropolis, created by AVL in 2005 that continues to grow and evolve. In SlaveCity, residents work within a highly organized and structured set of guidelines, creating a society that is extremely efficient but without freedoms; traditional values are shifted and inverted, challenging conventional notions of community.

The 200,000 slaves of SlaveCity, depicted in the works in the exhibition, are called “participants”, and work 7 hours each day at “office jobs”, which focus on the profitable field of technology, employing the slaves in telemarketing, and computer programming. Following their office work, they labor another 7 hours as farmers or in the city’s workshops, in order to ensure the subsistence of the community, and are later allowed 3 hours of relaxation and 7 hours of rest. All this is done in gender specific facilities, the women separated from the men. While SlaveCity offers its inhabitants no independence, the city itself is completely self-sufficient. It produces its own food, and recycles its own waste and is the first “zero energy” town of its size in the world; it functions without imported fossil fuels or electricty, using entirely natural fuel products such as solar and wind energy and bio-diesel. Through the highly structured, super-efficient labor of the “participants”, SlaveCity nets 8 billion dollars profit each year, elaborating on the existing capitalist culture and taking the notion of productivity and profit to a terrifying extreme.

An aerial view map of SlaveCity, installed on the wall of the gallery’s entryway, represents the 50 square kilometers of land on which the city is situated, and shows the layout of the growing and evolving metropolis, serving as a kind of two dimensional synopsis of the of the community. The three dimensional realizations of the institutions on the map are installed in the main gallery. The female SlaveUniversity slopes over the center of the space, revealing glimpses of the interior facilities: lecture halls, dormitories and a teacher’s lounge, all of which are used to train future “participants”. Models of other essential elements of the infrastructure of the community: the water tower, the hospital, and the male and female brothels, as well as figurative ink on canvas drawings of scenes from SlaveCity, surround the SlaveUniversity in a network of structures and images.

The Midi-Disciplinator, installed in the rear gallery, addresses similar issues of efficiency and organization, but with an emphasis on discipline. Using a one-to-one human scale, the Midi-Disciplinator has space for 18 inhabitants, and rotates crews of six people through different stations, the work area, where the residents toil at the useless job of producing sawdust by filing logs, the sleeping area, where six people at a time pile into bunk beds, and the simple table for eating. The Midi- Disciplinator differs from SlaveCity with regards to productivity; the sawdust that the residents produce is useless, it is the discipline required to do the work that is important.
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