When You Text this Giant Head, It Mimics Both Man and Machine

Atelier Van Lieshout contemplates the role of machines in 'The Good The Bad and the Ugly' at Ruhrtriennale 2016.

by Francesca Capossela
Aug 19 2016, 7:30am

The Oracle, photo by Patrick Skrypczak. I

mages courtesy the artist.

Texting a huge wire-steel head causes The Oracle to spin around, goggle its eyes, and speak with its jaw actually moving to shape words. The multimedia piece emphasizes technology’s intimate connection with humanity. At Ruhrtriennale 2016, Atelier Van Lieshout contemplates man and machine with a series of thought-provoking and humorous mixed media pieces, called The Good The Bad and The Ugly. The Oracle is not the only talking head at the show; a installation house in a room called House of the Talking Heads consists of two large automatons carrying on a philosophical conversation about mankind, but noticeably failing to listen to the others’ words. Mocking both human behavior and highlighting the shortcomings of machines which imitate it, House of the Talking Heads is made to counter The Oracle.


Playing homage to the kinetic art movement Maniac, is Joep van Lieshout’s installation as contemplation of a future where robots have a more active role in society. The piece offers no verdict about what this will mean for humans, but the repetitive nature of Maniac picks up on the themes throughout The Good the Bad and The Ugly. Maniac looks almost like a walking person but the piece is clearly lacking what might be its other leg and arm.

Van Lieshout returns to his earlier queries about humanity in Domestikator, a large scale artwork in the shape of a home which has been repurposed from last year’s show. The piece pays homage to humans’ organizational skills, natural dominance, and ingenuity, but also warns against complete domination, and explores cultural taboos.

In other pieces in The Good the Bad and The Ugly, van Lieshout explores tools and factory objects, further investigating human history through the eyes of technology. In colorful recreations of tools, he expresses both a nostalgia and a cynical take on human dependency on technology. Asking if we can “still separate man and machine,” according to the show, Van Lieshout’s work complicates techonology’s place in the present moment by reflecting upon the past and longing for a simpler time.

The Oracle. 
Photo by Patrick Skrypczak

Photo by Patrick Skrypczak


Photo by Patrick Skrypczak

Power Hammer

The Good The Bad and The Ugly opens Friday August 12th. For more info, click here.


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Joep van Lieshout
Atelier Van Lieshout
Ruhrtriennale 2016
the good the bad and the ugly