Atelier Van Lieshout: GIO MARCONI

Article excerpt

"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. …