Magazine article Artforum International

Erik Van Lieshout

Magazine article Artforum International

Erik Van Lieshout

Article excerpt

MAUREEN PALEY

Downstairs was a dense, labyrinthine sculptural installation: a crowded maze of plywood structures, photographs, collages, sketches, wooden cutouts, and photocopies. This "Private View," as Erik van Lieshout's show as a whole was called, was seething with anger (i HATE MY FATHER stenciled on a white ground) and Oedipal details (a cutout face of the artist's mother roughly glued atop the body of a model from a girlie magazine). Recurring throughout was the haunted image of a young man, flashing a peace sign and bearing an air of distant melancholy.

None of this quite prepared us for what was upstairs: The Workers, a staggering fifty-two-minute film (shot on HD video), the latest installment in Van Lieshout's magnum opus, the forthcoming feature-length Ego. It opens with triumphant news: Van Lieshout has been selected for the 2013 edition of the Venice Biennale! The artist is flattered, nervous, eager to succeed. Deliberating with his collaborators and family, Van Lieshout quickly chances upon the ideal subject: He will draw parallels between the Italian canals and his local Rotterdam port. Aerial images of the two watery sites confirm a striking similarity.

But the neat solution instantly vanishes, as certainty is replaced with chaos, and doubt overwhelms everyone. Should the hand-drawn charcoal drawing that Van Lieshout produced--one like it was on display here near the film, and in the accomplished, expressionistic style for which the artist was first noticed--act as the literal backdrop in a few shots? Wouldn't it be a good idea to have a script? Is the artist only in it for the money--and will that extra grant cash ever come through? The scriptwriter ponders whether this film is really about workers, as the artist nobly claims, revisiting the oppressive integrity of his father--a social worker who'd once trained to be a priest and is, by all accounts, a committed lefty and do-gooder? …

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