The Whale, 2022

Artist: Atelier Van Lieshout

The Whale rests on the shore, not unlike the catch brought in by the whalers of centuries past. The majestic animal will not be dissected for blubber to fuel lamps or grease machinery, however, as it’s made of steel. It appears more similar to a barge, than a marine mammal.

The Whale is AVL’s salute to nature’s power, human technological ingenuity, and the ways these often clash. Moreover, it’s a life-size reference to Moby Dick, the world’s most famous whale. In Herman Melville’s 1851 novel, this giant, white sperm whale is chased across the globe by Captain Ahab, who lost his leg to the maritime predator during a previous voyage. In the end, the animal destroys the whaler’s ship, and the entire crew perishes at sea, except for one.

In Joep van Lieshout’s view, Moby Dick is a tale of revenge and the struggle of man vs. nature. It’s rather telling that in the end, man - who considers himself above nature -is defeated by the forces he tries to control and master.

Old Testament Jonah was also overpowered by nature. After fleeing the city he was supposed to rescue from sin, God’s wrath caught up with him when the ship he boarded got caught up in a terrible storm. Having identified Jonah as the cause of their misfortune, the crew threw him overboard and he was swallowed whole by a whale. Jonah spent three days and nights praying in the belly of the beast before being regurgitated and returning to his hometown to do God’s bidding.

The Whale, 2022 
Musée Dräi Eechelen
5 Park Dräi Eechelen L-1499 Luxembourg

© Mike Zenari