Joep van Lieshout's CasAnus, a hotel shaped like a bunghole in the middle of a field in Belgium
Everyone loves hotels. There’s more to it than fresh towels, complimentary mints, and that preview screen for the porn channel. When we enter a hotel room and close the door, there’s a sense of calm that can’t be recreated anywhere else, the understanding that we’re finally out of the filth of our everyday existence. We are living, at least for the night, in a clean, well-lighted place.
This brings us to the anus hotel. More specifically, the Atelier Van Lieshout, CasAnus, 2007, a conceptual one-room hotel made by Dutch artist Joep van Lieshout. The hotel lets its visitors fulfill their lifelong dreams of curling up to sleep in a giant butthole.
Located on a small Belgian island halfway between Antwerp and Ghent, the anus hotel sits alone in the middle of a field, originally commissioned as part of the 30-acre Verbeke Foundation Sculpture Park, the private collection of Geert and Carla Verbeke-Lens. While visiting the park, guests often shack up in the anus, which only sets you back a paltry $165 a night, a small price to pay to hit the hay in a huge ham flower.
Anus Hotel guests will enjoy a double bed, shower, and central heating. The CasAnus series also includes a bar called the BarRectum, which is shaped like a giant intestine. I wanted to know what the hell was going on with this guy, so I recently spoke to Joep to hear more about why he decided to make a giant anus hotel in the middle of a field.
VICE: Hi, Joep. First off, what inspired you to build an anus-shaped hotel in the middle of a field in Belgium?
Joep van Lieshout: Well, one of the recurring themes in my work is a strong interest in systems—economical systems and political systems, but also the human body, which I believe is a perfect system. From 2005 to 2008, I made a series of works which represented the human body, but also a complete series of human internal organs, ranging from heart and brain to liver, rectum, and male and female sex organs. The CasAnus is part of that series, and takes its shape from the human digestive system. Starting with the tongue, continuing to the stomach, moving through the small and the large intestine, and exiting through the anus.
Is the anus anatomically accurate?
While CasAnus is anatomically correct, the last part of the large intestine has been inflated to a humongous size to hold a hotel room.
Wow. How did you build it? What materials is it made out of?
We built it in our workshop, Atelier Van Lieshout, and then had it installed on site. It’s made of wood, PU foam, and covered with a naturalistic colored layer of fiberglass-reinforced polyester. This material is our studio’s trademark.
How long did it take to build the anus?
Only a few months. The studio is quite used to working on large-scale projects and commissions. This summer, we built a 40-foot-high steel structure that combined an artwork, a blast furnace, and a dwelling. We’ve also made a human-powered sawmill/milking machine and cheese factory, and many other artworks.
How has the critical and public reaction to the CasAnus been?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Guests love to stay inside a piece of art, especially one in such an isolated, quiet location. It’s still a darling of the press even eight years after the project was completed.
How many people stay inside the hotel every year?
Anywhere between 200 and 250 people.
And what about the BarRectum, which is part of the same series?
The BarRectum is quite similar in idea to the CasAnus, except that it contains a bar instead of a hotel room and has a number of hatches which can be opened to serve drinks. It still belongs to Atelier Van Lieshout and has been exhibited worldwide, always serving as a bar at the same time.
Do you have any regrets about building a giant anus in the middle of a field?
Yes—not keeping it for ourselves!
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