Female Slave University, 2006, ©Atelier Van Lieshout (AVL)

Bernd Upmeyer spoke on behalf of MONU with the Rotterdam-based artist Joep van Lieshout. Van Lieshout is the founder of Atelier Van Lieshout (AVL), a multidisciplinary art practice encompassing installation, design, furniture and architecture. Recurring themes in the work of AVL are autarky, power, politics and sex.

Bernd Upmeyer: Does SlaveCity have borders?
Joep van Lieshout: It absolutely has borders. Otherwise the slaves would walk away or people would get in. These don’t have to be physical borders, but at least it should be a border to prevent people from walking out.

BU: Does the city have an own constitution?
JvL: No, it is not a free state or a democratic state or anything like that. So it doesn’t need to have its own constitution. There are rules of course – many, very simple rules, but no constitution.

BU: Slave City has a very special building at its borders: the “WelcomingCenter”. What is happening there?
JvL: It is an area for selection and for job interviews. Personal belongings will be collected here as well. The slaves are selected in the WelcomingCenter. Slaves who aren’t clever and healthy enough to work in SlaveCity, are being used for other purposes. There is a large department for organ transplantations, a butcher and a slaughterhouse. You can also find a collection of silos, where all the agricultural products are made, where they are mixed, cooked and distributed. So basically it provides space for functions like selection, medication and cooking, all in one building. Like a giant man-eating-machine, you could say – very cannibalistic.

BU: Where are the slaves coming from? How do people become slaves?
JvL: I haven’t thought about that yet. They probably appear rather randomly, but I don’t expect the slaves to come all by themselves. I should imagine that you take a plane and fake to go to Venice and just land somewhere else. Of course, you should not tell people that they are going to become slaves. It was actually never really important for me to think about who is going to be a slave or not. I never gave a shit about where the slaves are coming from…

…the complete interview was published in MONU #8 on the topic of Border Urbanism on March 14, 2008.

Title: Slave City
Project: Interview with Joep van Lieshout
Date: February 2008
Type: Commissioned interview
Topic: Border Urbanism
Organizer: MONU
Status: Published
Publications: MONU #8, P.6-12
Interviewer: Bernd Upmeyer