Atelier Van Lieshout – Cradle to Cradle Moskau


Exhibition Poster

Bildschirmfoto 2016-03-14 um 21.12.43

Book Cover

Atelier van Lieshout.
Slave City. Cradle to Cradle
22. September –  25. Oktober 2009
Winzavod, Centre for Contemporary Art, Moskau

Curators: Sabine Maria Schmidt (Museum Folkwang) und Anna Zaitseva (Winzavod, Moskau).

A show of the Museum Folkwang during the Moscow Biennial 2009.
The opening took place on Monday, 21. September 2009, 7 pm


Statement Atelier Van Lieshout
The SlaveCity project (White Hall), shown for the first time at Museum Folkwang in Essen 2008, presents a thoroughly planned modern city with extensive infrastructure, service buildings, universities, health and shopping centers, villages, brothels, and museums. It is self-efficient— it produces all the energy it consumes, relying on biogas, solar, and wind energy rather than on imported fuel and electricity. However, SlaveCity’s work force is comprised of slaves that are exploited to accomplish more or less sophisticated chores and whose very bodies are recycled after death.

Cradle to Cradle (Red Hall) is a new installation by Atelier Van Lieshout that gives an idea of the inner life of SlaveCity. Its title stems from the world of ecological design where it is used to designate totally waste-free production. Coined in the 1970s, it became topical once again in 2002 after the publication of the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by the German chemist Michael Braungart and the American architect William McDonough. In the „Cradle to Cradle“ model, all industrial waste is completely recycled and becomes a source of energy and food. Pushing this idea to its logical extreme, Atelier Van Lieshout makes this closed cycle include the human body, which becomes a raw material. Man ceases to be a “measure of all things” and the end-user and master of his environment, no matter whether natural or artificially created (architectural): small anonymous human figures become cogs in a macrosystem.

One may say that the central question posed by Atelier Van Lieshout is ethical. Global climatic change, the exhaustibility of natural resources, and other issues to which this project refers are less important in their own right than as an instrument for constructing space in which the ethical question about the human dimension of contemporary rational civilization can be posed in all its depth.

Museum Folkwang and WINZAVOD Centre for Contemporary Art are able to present the first exhibition of Atelier Van Lieshout in Russia thanks to the generous support of RWE AG (Essen, Germany), which has furthered the development of cultural dialogue between Western and Eastern Europe for many years.


Foreword of the catalogue
It is a pleasure for us to present the first large-scale exhibit of Atelier Van Lieshout in Russia at the Third Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. The atelier’s founder Joep van Lieshout himself insists on the holistic perception of his work as a single ongoing project. For this reason, we would like to make a small foreword with a brief description of his trajectory before the project presented at the Moscow Biennale –Slave City. Cradle to Cradle (2009).

Atelier Van Lieshout was founded at a time when the “relational aesthetics” was the predominant trend in art. From the nineties on, Van Lieshout – first by himself and then as the founder of his own atelier – engaged in the criticism of the modern nation-state and developed projects that pertain to design, architecture, and art and that model experimental situations of social interaction – situations from which the law in the precise legal sense of the word is removed and in which the monopoly of the state in the social, ethical, and even aesthetic domains is revealed and questioned and “bare life” is studied.

Going outside the boundaries of the institutionalized storehouses of art (museums, exhibition halls, and galleries), Van Lieshout searches for and masters “spaces of exception” in which the law can be weakened, bypassed or replaced by alternative legislation. The project A-Portable (2001) exported Western democracy in the literal sense of the word with a boat migrating in neutral waters and housing a medical station with qualified personnel and state-of-the-art equipment. Any woman in whose countries abortions were prohibited could make a mini-abortion there, as the boat was subject to Dutch law. In contrast, AVL-Ville (2001) was a free state that existed for a year on the territory of the Port of Rotterdam outside of the jurisdiction of Dutch law and subject exclusively to its own constitution.

Van Lieshout treats the space of artistic institutions in the same manner: as zones having the greatest freedom within the democratic states themselves. Thanks only to the immunity of the artwork, BarRectum – simultaneously an installation and a piece of architecture that serves as a bar – could be presented at Art-Basel and then in the courtyard of Museum Folkwang in Essen, circumventing the building code and state commercial licenses. “Unlike most architects, AVL reads the building code and every other code, not to learn the rules by heart, but rather to discover what is not covered by the rules and then to enjoy most freedom in design, production and use”, says Jennifer Allen. 1

SlaveCity brings us back to the space of art institutions yet continues AVL’s series of projects that construct different sorts of “exceptional” communes such as the aforementioned A-Portable and AVL-Ville.

One of the main themes of Atelier Van Lieshout’s work is the dangerous dependence of ethical and social values (including the values of Western democracy) on economic priorities. SlaveCity is a commune whose life is subordinated to the economic dictate of “maximizing profits” and, at the same time, the fetishization of “environmental correctness” that becomes more important than people themselves. One may say that Slave City is a manifesto of the end of anthropocentrism and that its central issue is ethical. Global climatic change, the exhaustibility of natural resources, and other issues to which SlaveCity refers are important not in themselves but as a milieu and an instrument for constructing the “space of exception” in which the ethical question about the human dimension of contemporary rational civilization can be posed in all its depth.

It is important to note that AVL’s work on designing or, more precisely, modeling the future is based on a potential that already exists in the present. It is no coincidence that Joep Van Lieshout himself avoids using the word “utopia” when speaking about the utopian AVL-Ville (which is often seen as a counterpart to the anti-utopian SlaveCity), because a utopia cannot be realized and is always localized in the idyllic future. SlaveCity is marked by the clear striving to make a logical and rational development of trends that are already visible in the present and to make the viewer see his present-day fears that are fueled by present-day newspapers. The principal logic of this project is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, even though it is brought to an extreme. The artists themselves insist that no social or natural disasters are necessary for the emergence of such a “slave city” that may already appear in a dozen years: its implementation is “technically achievable by extending an investment-ready hand.” 2

It was important for us that this catalog includes texts showing the variety of interpretations that are suggested by the Atelier Van Lieshout’s works themselves. Sabine Maria Schmidt treats Slave City from the standpoint of the literary and cinematographic anti-utopian tradition. Nikita Kharlamov analyzes it in the context of the project of Western technical rationality that marks urban theory and practice. Helen Petrovsky studies the structure of SlaveCity’s inner space with the help of Michel Foucault’s conceptual toolkit. Making use of extensive historical material, Herfried Münkler develops the thesis of the voluntary nature of slavery and (self‑)restraint  as an essential precondition of freedom. Harald Welzer’s text studies behavioral models and the problem of freedom and its limitation in “total groups.”3

The range of problems touched upon the authors of this catalogue will be further developed in a symposium organized at WINZAVOD Centre for Contemporary Art.

WINZAVOD Centre for Contemporary Art presents the exhibition Slave City. Cradle to Cradle thanks to its cooperation with Museum Folkwang (Essen), and we would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Hartwig Fischer and Sabine Maria Schmidt for suggesting this project and collaboration with full commitment. This project was also made possible by the generous support of its general sponsor RWE AG (Essen, Germany).We greatly value our partnership on the project Slave City. Cradle to Cradle and RWE AG’s continuous contribution to the development of cultural dialogue between Western and Eastern Europe. Our special thanks also go to the Mondriaan Foundation (Netherlands) and the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Moscow, which have given unstinting support to the Atelier Van Lieshout exhibition at WINZAVOD.

Sofya Trotsenko

Head of  WINZAVOD Centre for Contemporary Art

Anna Zaitseva


1 Jennifer Allen, AVL for Dummies: Ten Simple Steps, in: Atelier Van Lieshout, with texts by Jennifer Allen, Aaron Betsky, Rudi Laermans, Wouter Vanstiphout, Rotterdam: NAI Publishers, 2007, p.19.
2 Nikita Kharlamov. A sustainable development machine: rationality and environment in Slave City, p.
3 Herfried Münkler’s and Harald Welzer’s texts are based on talks given at the symposium Bondage of the Future held in 2008 on the occasion of Atelier Van Lieshout’s exhibition at Museum Folkwang (Essen).


Working on the show:

Aufbauteam Moskau mit AVLIMG_1973Working at Winzavod IMG_1971Poster of showIMG_1978IMG_1970IMG_1856 Operation Desk IMG_1918  IMG_1859 IMG_1852 IMG_1848IMG_1851 IMG_1845



_MG_1183 _MG_1195 _MG_1286 _MG_1464 _MG_1581 _MG_1609 _MG_1755_MG_1635_MG_1156_MG_1717


Die Ausstellung des niederländischen Küntlerkollektivs Atelier van Lieshout Slave City.Cradle to Cradle fand vom 22. September bis 25. Oktober 2009 im Kunstzentrum Winzavod  Moskau statt und  war eine Weiterentwicklung der ersten Station unter dem Titel Stadt der Sklaven, die 2008 im Museum Folkwang produziert und gezeigt wurde.

Der internationale Kooperationspartner des Museum Folkwang, das Kunstzentrum Winzavod ( in Moskau, galt zu diesem Zeitpunkt als einer der aktivsten Orte für zeitgenössische Kunst in Russland. Es wurde 2007 auf dem Gelände eines ehemaligen Weinkombinats eröffnet. Atelier van Lieshout konzipierte eine umfangreiche Ausstellung für  ingesamt zwei Etagen des alten Hauptgebäudes. Die White Hall zeigt vor allem eine Auswahl architektonischer Modelle der Sklavenstadt. Für die darunterliegende Red Hall entwickelte er neue Installationen wie „Foodmaster“ und „Cradle to Cradle“: ein apokalyptisches Szenario des Selektionsraumes in der Stadt der Sklaven.

Die Stadt der Sklaven (Slave City) ist eine radikal durchdachte Dystopie; ein Stadtprojekt von Atelier van Lieshout, das in konsequentester Form auf Rationalität, Effizienz und Profit ausgerichtet ist. Als Ausgangspunkt des 2005 ins Leben gerufenen Projektes operiert eJoep van Lieshout – der Kopf des Ateliers – mit gegenwärtigen ethischen und ästhetischen Werten, Vorstellungen über Ernährung, Klimaschutz, Organisation, Management und Markt, die neu kombiniert und interpretiert werden.

„Cradle to Cradle“ ist ein Begriff aus der Welt des ökologischen Designs: Wenn alle Materialien in geschlossenen Stoffkreisläufen zirkulieren, gibt es keinen Abfall mehr; denn im Sinne der Wiederverwertbarkeit ist Abfall dann gleichbedeutend mit Nahrung. Atelier van Lieshout entwickelte diesen Ansatz jenseits von „Gut und Böse“ weiter – und thematisierte damit die Überschreitung geltender humaner und ethischer Grenzen.

Die Modelle der „Stadt der Sklaven“ zeigen eine perfekt durchgestaltete und kreative Stadt, mit umfassender Infrastruktur, Dienstleistungsgebäuden, Universitäten, Gesundheits- und Einkaufszentren, Dörfern, Bordellen und Museen. Die Stadt nutzt nur die Energie, , die sie selbst produziert. Sie kommt ohne importierte Kraftstoffe und Elektrizität aus. Der Energiebedarf der Stadt wird dabei weitgehend mit der Nutzung von Biogas-, Solar – und Windenergie gedeckt.

Die Stadt der Sklaven ist gewissermassen eine „grüne Stadt“, in der keine Ressourcen verbraucht werden. Alles wird mit modernsten Technologien wiederverwertet, auch die Einwohner. Die „Teilnehmer“ des Projektes – wie die Einwohner genannt werden – arbeiten täglich unter Bedingungen moderner Sklaverei: sieben Stunden im Dienstleistungsbereich (Fernkommunikation, Call-Shops, Programmierung, etc.), sieben Stunden auf den Feldern, Werkstätten oder in der Überwachung. Neben sieben Stunden Schlaf stehen drei Stunden Freizeit zur Verfügung. Ein strenges Überwachungssystem sorgt dafür, dass jede Regelverletzung drakonisch bestraft wird.

Joep van Lieshout (1963) gründete 1995 eine Werkstatt, in der im Laufe der Jahre zahlreiche Künstler, Architekten, Handwerker und Techniker beschäftigt waren. Im Jahr 2001 rief er AVL-Ville ins Leben, einen unabhängigen Stadtstaat im Hafen von Rotterdam. AVL-Ville verstand sich auch „als provokativer Gegenentwurf zu staatlicher Herrschaft und Monopol“. Mit der Zeit duldeten weder Behörden, noch Politiker den kreativen Stadtstaat mit eigener Verfassung, Währung und Flagge.

International bekannt wurde Joep van Lieshout in den 1990er Jahren mit der Herstellung mobiler Häuser und „Hüllen“, deren Konzeption die Freiheit der Bewegung, die Flexibilität in der Gestaltung und die Unterwanderung behördlicher Genehmigungen zugrunde lagen. Zudem entwickelte AVL gebrauchsfertige Möbel, funktionstüchtige Toilettenanlagen, Schlafkojen, Wohnkapseln und Büroeinheiten. Seine Rectum-Bar in Form eines großen Verdauungsorgans war während der Ausstellung in Essen vor dem Museum Folkwang in Betrieb.

Zu der Ausstellung in Moskau erschien ein begleitender Katalog mit Beiträgen namhafter russischer und deutscher Autoren, 144 Seiten, in engl. und russischer Sprache, Verlag: Artchronika, Moskau.

Das ausführliche Buch Atelier van Lieshout. Stadt der Sklaven (300 S. mit zahlreichen Abbildungen, dt./engl., 2008, 32 Euro) zur Ausstellung in Essen kann weiterhin im Museum Folkwang bestellt werden. Ein Teil der Beiträge für diese Publikation entstanden im Rahmen des Symposiums Die Unfreiheit der Zukunft, die das Museum Folkwang in Kooperation mit dem Kulturwissenschaftlichen Institut (KWI) Essen 2008 veranstaltete.

Projektpartner der Ausstellung:
RWE AG, Essen und der Mondriaan Stichting, Niederlande.

Die Ausstellung war Teil des Special Guest Programm der zeitgleichen Moskau Biennale 2009 (24.9.- 25.10.2009)

Moskau Biennale 2009, http://3rd