Joep van Lieshout created the Shaker Chair whilst working on a commission for the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 1999. They wanted a mobile arts lab to bring art and culture to schools and deprived neighbourhoods. Van Lieshout agreed, on the condition that he could contrast this workshop dedicated to ‘the good’ to a stationary element with an entirely different outlook. This started the series The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. And the phrase has kept popping up in AVL’s work ever since, stressing a fundamental moral ambiguity.
Shaker in setting
At first sight, the cabin resembles a romantic fisherman’s cottage with a low carbon footprint to boot. But it turns out to be the UNA bomber’s hiding place, including a bomb-making shed and a molester’s attic to fit the needs of (at the time) the world’s most wanted terrorist. The day before the opening, Van Lieshout discovered there was no furniture in the cabin and within hours he constructed the Shaker Chair, using leftovers from a construction site. For inspiration, he looked to the Shaker community, a utopian community with an almost socialist outlook on life. Their ideology included radical gender equality, job rotation and redistribution of wealth. Shakers were also known for their many inventions and minimalist furniture design.
Hans Lensvelt visited Minneapolis and recognized the chair’s potential for industrial production and mass marketing. The rest is history.