Activity number : 3 Homo Desperatus

  • Installation

Homo Nuclearis, Homo Emigratis, Homo Prostitutis, Homo Suicidalis, etc. a dozen works to showcase human suffering. Each area contains thousands of ants, released into human misery. In Homo Desperatus, the visitor is invited to observe the calamities of our time and the damage caused by man, all at a “safe” distance. This project has been developed by the controversial artist Dries Verhoeven.

Through the staging of human suffering in the twenty-first century, visitors pass 44 display cases containing models on the scale of human misery. The Fukushima nuclear reactor, the Kiev parliament building, a drug detoxification centre in Germany and a collapsed garment factory in Bangladesh are all examples of this suffering. A colony of ants inhabit each display case. Seventy-thousand ants try to construct a life in these replicas of human catastrophes. Each location is equipped with a nano-camera, filming it from a ‘CNN Perspective’ shooting position.

The visitor is invited to observe various calamities of our time and to ponder their own position, all from a “safe” distance.  The visitor zooms in and out, choosing between an analytical remoteness and emotional involvement with the suffering of the human species, represented in this case by the ants. The installation poses questions about how we view disasters – whether or not of man’s own making – and about the relationship between individual miseries and the well-being of the population.

The visual artist Dries Verhoeven (1976 Oosterhout, Netherlands) creates installations, performances and happenings in museums, on-site and public spaces. Walking the boundary between performance and installation art, he evaluates the relationships between spectators, performers, everyday reality and art with a critical eye.  The spectator is directly involved in the work or given the opportunity to steer his or her own experiences.

Verhoeven highlights aspects of the common social reality in which we live. He is not concerned with conveying a statement about reality, but mainly about taking the visitor outside his/her comfort zone in order to evoke a shared vulnerability between the viewer and the viewed work. Through gestures, which radically affect the public order of everyday life, he hopes to sow the seeds of doubt about the systems that inconspicuously influence our thoughts and actions. Over recent years, the current crisis-mindset and the influence of digital media on interpersonal relationships in particular have formed the basis for his projects.


‘With beautiful serenity, Verhoeven displays the ‘ugliest’ issues of the 21st century’ – (12-08-2014)

read the review (in Dutch)

‘With major dramatic events, the media always zooms in on the personal suffering, but what if you omit that?’ – De Volkskrant (25-07-2014)

read the article (in Dutch)

‘It is a meta-exhibition with a wry nod: (…) we are the aliens’ Trouw (03-07-2014)

read the article (in Dutch)

‘Verhoeven’s staging is one of an opera. The plaster models are beautiful’ – NRC Handelsblad / NRC Next (29-07-2014)

read the review (in Dutch)

‘Accompanied by Dries Verhoeven, I walked through this apocalyptic Madurodam in which irony, hope and beauty are given a place’ – De Correspondent (05-07-2014)

listen to the podcast (in Dutch)