The Grotto


What better place to contemplate ourselves and our contemporary world than the cave, that most matrix-like of spaces? The grotto made for the exhibition at "Vous avez dit Bizarre ?" at the design Biennale in Saint Ettienne is the starting point for a voyage of introspection.


The act of entering into a cavity takes on a symbolic and mythical character.  Those who pass the threshold of the cave embark in search of the unknown; set off to face the forces of mystery and confront what is hidden. The grotto, like everything grotesque, carries within it the idea of surprise. Like the grottoes in Renaissance Italy, the stage-set makes use of theatrical tricks, the re-nascence of play. Each column has its own personality and changes form under lights that create a heightened dramatic effect. By exploring the crevices of the cave, the curious will discover its intimate treasures: their path is studded with objects, a myriad little surprises.

The meeting of stalactite and stalagmite makes up the Pillar of the World, a ladder to be climbed, linking Heaven and Earth; the material world and the spiritual.



The cave is the universal analog between macrocosm and microcosm: it is the expression of the force of creation, transformation, and perpetual evolution. Whoever enters into the bowels of the earth emerges changed by gestation, reflection and maturation.  The visitor’s imagination is enflamed by their emotions: pillars that dissolve, the fusion of masculine strength and feminine cavities, a life-giving liquid that ebbs and flows; a hybrid of the organic and the mineral. The form of these columns draped in their latex skins are like the grotesque itself: they have a thousand different lives.



text : Alexandra Jaffré

13:32 21 JAN 2015


The vein-like latex skins were created by stretching sheets of pink latex onto 6 meter long wooden frames to double its size. After a thick layer of liquid latex was applied on top, Hess shaped a line pattern by simply using his fingers to leave gaps in the mass of material.


Once the lines of liquid latex had fully dried the latex sheet was released of the tension, causing the sheet to rapidly shift back to its original dimensions whilst the lines remained their size. The tension that this process creates results in a distorted surface, reminiscent of a mass of liquid veins.

The cartilaginous effect of these textiles evoke the grotesque style of the Dutch and German Mannerists of the 17th century, like Johann Heinrich Keller, Adam van Vianen or Friedrich Unteusch. In their time, they pushed the possibilities of this style right to the very frontiers of abstraction. Four centuries later, Bart Hess explores this strange world in all its contemporary relevance.


text : Alexandra Jaffré

21:32 11 MAR 2015

Saint Etienne - Design Biennial


latex on metal structure - 6m - ø 1,5 m






Bart Hess



Studio Address :

Gasfabriek 18

5613 CP Eindhoven

the Netherlands