ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
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Galerie Ron Mandos proudly presents EHBO (“First Aid”), a new solo exhibition by Atelier van Lieshout. Atelier Van Lieshout has transformed Galerie Ron Mandos into a surrealist parallel universe. Makeability – as an ideal – reaches its apex here, overachievement resulting in perverse hyperbole. It’s a confrontation with life itself: the failure, the triumph and the inevitable collateral damage.
EHBO feels like a cross between a field hospital, labyrinth and sculpture garden in which religious iconography gets mixed up with all too human and post-human images. This installation is not for the impassive viewer, here the audience must wander amongst every level of human experience.
EHBO shows mankind in its most naked form; brutally hurled into this world. This is when mankind’s true nature reveals itself: both its best and worst. Unimaginable cruelty and betrayal are given free reign, yet so are compassion, friendship and self-sacrifice. Existential crises lead to societal evolution as well as technological innovation, but can also reduce individuals to guinea pigs and their bodies to organic waste.
Throughout his entire working life, Joep van Lieshout has been interested in the human body; its shape, how it works. Medical science is a recurring theme in his oeuvre: how it views the body as an object for improvement and repair, but also as the raw material for experimentation, where the drive for innovation overshoots its objective. One of his first works was an operating table come chopping block featuring hidden stilettos to sever the patient’s vertebrae or stab their heart. With his enlarged anatomical models and installations for recycling human waste, Van Lieshout questions what mankind is, besides a body and pure physicality as well as what that might be worth.
The EHBO installation displays the gamut of medical science: all the skill and knowledge it encompasses. For the time being, this provides no unequivocal impression. The same political and economic system that spawned progress in medical science is responsible for the diseases of affluence causing a healthcare emergency. Improvised DIY assemblies prove as effective as sound high-tech equipment. However, what is valued can be perverted. Surgical interventions can lead to healing and a better life, but also to retaining functionality until the body gives up. Belief in the human body’s makeability engenders progress, but also represents downfall.
EHBO is medical science with the Hippocratic oath on hold. There is no right or wrong here, merely the confrontation with your own physicality and mortality. The terror and joy of the transience of human existence.
EHBO is unmistakeably Joep Van Lieshout’s. For over 35 years, he and his studio have produced sculptures, installations, machines, furniture and buildings. Creating feverishly, at high speed, their output enormous. This results in worlds parallel to and partially overlapping with our own reality, often mirroring it and not infrequently clashing with it.