Artists at the Netherlands Pavilion|

Joep van Lieshout

Atelier van Lieshout


“Like death, time is one of life’s certainties. It will always move on.”

About the artist

Atelier Van Lieshout presents a contemporary memento mori, which doubles as humanity’s alarm clock. The crushing wheels of time either count down to destruction or welcome a new dawn.

There is only one certainty in life: the passage of time and the inevitability of death. The series of clocks by Atelier Van Lieshout (AVL) reminds us of that. In the face of this sobering truism, they imply the end of time itself or at least the conclusion of our current era and its destructive dynamics.

On a personal level, time can feel highly variable. Hours can feel like weeks or months, while some days seem to fly by in a matter of minutes. The digitisation of our world has greatly increased the perceived elasticity of time. Our computers transport us from the here and now to other locations and time zones. AVL’s Seven Digit Clock aptly illustrates this brand of virtual time travel by randomly displaying past and future dates and times. The Back to the Future Clock is a more traditional, analog timepiece, but its arms frequently slow down, speed up or change direction in a bewildering choreography of non-linear time. The Down the Drain Clock appears even more archaic. The massive hourglass looks like it will take hours to run out, but it expends itself in a few seconds after it has been upended.

Time, history and the future are a common thread in AVL’s body of work. The series of sculptures and installations were inspired by past civilisations and ideologies, from prehistoric cavemen and the first sedentary communities to the technology-worshipping Futurists of the early 20th century. They present alternative ways of working, producing and living, but never in an unambiguously utopian manner; there is always an underlying dark side. This also holds true for the clocks. They might release us from the tyranny of time, but they also signal our possible extinction. Then again, they could also be perceived as a call to action.

Photo credits: Atelier van Lieshout

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