An enormous, alternative version of life at the dawn of industrial revolution was unveiled in Red Hook over the weekend, a world that includes a human settlement within a blast furnace, massive, machinelike human sperms and eggs (that double as furniture), and a gigantic, weirdly playful pendulum clock ticking and tolling all of our lives away. It’s almost as grim as it sounds, but there’s enough sly humor in the renderings to make your visit a not-so-depressing one.
It’s called “The CryptoFuturist and The New Tribal Labyrinth,” and it can be viewed at the gorgeous main exhibition hall at Pioneer Works. The artist is Atelier Van Lieshout, and no matter how many times the Pioneer Works staffers tell you that it’s a “solo show,” AVL is really a collective, named after the studio founded in Rotterdam some three decades ago by Joep van Lieshout. There were at least three contributing artists touring their friends around at last Friday’s opening party, though it’s unclear how many people worked on the exhibition.
The show’s centerpiece is “Blast Furnace,” which looks exactly as you expect, except for its domestic accommodations, like a bathroom, kitchen, and living area. According to AVL’s vision, the space is inhabited by a new tribe of metalworkers, who “feed off the heat, waste, and noise of their industrial utopia, setting the stage for the synthesis of human and machine.” There are also several, much more portable habitats on display, including the “Economy Helmet” which provides the absolute least amount of personal space required to shut out the world.
There are dozens of individual pieces in all, dating from as early as 1983 (“Blacksmith Fire,” which forges swords) to the bright-yellow clock “Pendulum,” which was built especially for the exhibition. But the whole thing also works remarkably well as a single installation, each element playing off the others. And if you’ve never been out here to Pioneer Works, it’s worth a trip just to check out the magnificent, soaring space. Don’t miss the unrelated but very cool virtual reality piece on the second floor as well.
Pioneer Works is located at 159 Pioneer Street in Red Hook, between Van Brunt and Browne, and is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. Admission is free.