Tuesday, 6 July 2010


11 July – 27 August 2007

Welcome to the Board Room, corporate and executive hub of SlaveCity, an important (but yet to be realised) experiment in social and environmental self-sufficiency. As you can see, the table is set for the entertainment of absent members, but the business of the Board is evident everywhere around you.

The dinner service is beautifully illustrated with the activities of SlaveCity’s various sections and amenities, with individual place settings for each of the twenty directors, including the Selection Department, the Safety Department, the Organ Transplant Department, the Slaughterhouse Department, the Recycling Department, the two Inspiration Departments (one for women and one for men), the Art and Culture Department, and so on.

As a prospective ‘participant’ (as the 200,000 residents of SlaveCity are known), you may deduce which of the departments you yourself are destined for by watching the messages on the television screen. A large plan of SlaveCity, with models of its Welcoming Centre, Generator, Gas Circuit and Female Brothel, and descriptions of its CallCentre and Business Plan, should dispel any lingering doubts about the nature of this city of the future.

An up-to-date concentration camp, SlaveCity benefits from the latest technology. Its ‘participants’ are divided by gender and operate within a strict set of guidelines. They work for 7 hours a day in office jobs, followed by 7 hours in workshops or on the land, enjoying 3 hours of relaxation before 7 hours of sleep. Whilst the regime offers its inhabitants no independence and severely restricts their freedoms, the city is entirely self-sufficient and is ‘zero energy’, producing its own food, recycling its waste and using only natural fuels.

The imaginary SlaveCity is the creation of the Dutch artists’ collective Atelier van Lieshout (AVL) and is an ongoing project. Founded in 1995 and based in Rotterdam, AVL is a multidisciplinary company producing complex installations involving design, furniture, architecture and urban planning. Its work examines and critiques the commercial nature of contemporary Western society. AVL currently comprises a team of about twenty artists.

Asked to describe his style, AVL’s founder, Joep van Lieshout, replies: ‘there is always a juxtaposition of rational and irrational, good and bad, beautiful and ugly. Contradiction is always present in my work.’ He goes on to say, ‘I think that ecology is very important and we should be aware of this, but whilst people are thinking about climate change, there are other people in the background changing the world for their [own] cause. We should also think about what is happening to the other areas of life, our freedom and expression, because of globalization and capitalism. It’s good to care about the environment ... but you know... watch your back.’

Board Room is the first installation to be shown in the Hayward Project Space, a new area which is free to visit, and which aims to provide a showcase for work by both established and up-and-coming artists.

This exhibition has been generously supported by the Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam and Albion Gallery, London.


Hayward Gallery / Southbank Centre Website

AVL site

Feature on wallpaper.com