Critics’ Picks

Mini Alcohol Installation, 2004.

Mini Alcohol Installation, 2004.

New York

Atelier van Lieshout

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
521 West 21st Street
April 29–June 5, 2004

In Atelier van Lieshout’s thoroughly dystopian “Humans, Machines and Body Parts,” people—or “burghers,” as AVL would call them—relinquish notions of physical autonomy to support a state system. The Dutch collective has transformed Tanya Bonadkar’s gallery into a body- and mind-control experiment explicated by The Technocrat, 2004, a large drawing diagramming the workings of a self-sufficient town whose machines are powered by human waste. Sculptural arrangements like Fermenting Vessels with Man, 2004, and Mini Alcohol Installation, 2004, pair flaccid-looking fiberglass figures with distillers and alcohol-storage containers, clarifying AVL’s vision of this fictitious society: force-feed the burghers fibrous gruel to keep them excreting and beer to keep them happy. Half-absurd, half-scary, and 100 percent gross, yes—but consider that in 2001 AVL established a “free state” in Rotterdam to serve as an enclosed community for its members. In light of the fact that global oil reserves are rapidly diminishing, “Humans, Machines and Body Parts” comes across less as a Truly Tasteless Joke than as a sobering commentary on the unsustainability of First World energy use.