Homo Desperatus

In the staging of scenes of human suffering of the 21st century, visitors walk past 44 display cases containing life-like scale models of human misery. We see for example the nuclear reactor in Fukushima, the parliament building in Kiev, a drug clinic in Germany, and a collapsed clothing factory in Bangladesh. An ant colony inhabits each display case. Seventy-thousand ants try to construct a life in contained replicas of human catastrophes. Each location is equipped with a nano-camera, filming it from a ‘CNN Perspective’ shooting position.

read more

The visitor is challenged to observe various calamities of our time, and to ponder their own position, all from a ‘safe’ distance. The visitor zooms in and out, between analytical distance and emotional involvement with the suffering of the human species, represented here 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 versus the well-being of the population.


Homo Desperatus (2014) | video: Thorsten Alofs


"With beautiful serenity, Verhoeven displays the ‘ugliest’ issues of the 21st century."

‘Wonderschone verbeelding van dramatische gebeurtenissen’ ('Beautiful portrayal of dramtic events'), Moos van den Broek on (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?"

‘Hoop op mieren’ ('Hope for ants'), Nel Westerlaken for De Volkskrant (25-07-2014)read the article (in Dutch)

"It is a meta-exhibition with a wry nod: (...) we are the aliens."

‘Mier, mens en media’ ('Ants, Man and Media'), Joke de Wolf in Trouw (03-07-2014)read the article (in Dutch)

"Verhoeven’s staging is one of an opera. The plaster models are beautiful."

‘Mieren die schuifelen in ramp-maquettes’ ('Ants shuffling in models of disasters'), Lucette ter Borg in 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."

‘Mieren gaan beter om met catastrofes dan mensen’, ('Ants deal with catastrophes better than humans do'), Lex Bohlmeijer in discussion with Dries Verhoeven for De Correspondent (05-07-2014)listen to the podcast (in Dutch)


Verhoeven about Homo Desperatus, theatre and the museum

At the time of the exhibition in ’s-Hertogenbosch, a number of videos were shown in the auditorium in which Verhoeven spoke about the creation of Homo Desperatus and his interest to show work in a museum setting.

verhoeven about the creation of Homo Desperatus (in Dutch)
verhoeven about the museum and theater (in Dutch)
verhoeven about earlier work (in Dutch)


On the VPRO radio programme Nooit meer slapen, Verhoeven spoke with Pieter van der Wielen about Homo Desperatus.

listen to the programme (in Dutch)

video version

In 2015, Verhoeven made a video version of Homo Desperatus, which premiered at the Homo Novus festival in Riga, Latvia.

watch the whole video (public screening only permitted with permission from the artist)

Now Babylon / video display

The video of Homo Desperatus was part of the exhibition ‘Now Babylon’ in gallery W139. For Cleeft Susanne de Heer wrote the article‘Now Babylon laat de unheimliche status quo zien in W139’ (‘Now Babylon’ shows the uncanny status quo in W139).

read the article (in Dutch)


concept Dries Verhoeven

artistic assistent Cindy Moorman

production Saskia Schoenmaker

technicians Roel Evenhuis and Sylvain Vriens

soundtrack Wouter Messchendorp

photography Willem Popelier

video Thorsten Alofs

model makers Arthur van der Laaken, Carl Wesselius, Edwin de Koning, Erik van de Wijdeven, Ernesto Yelamos, Felipe Gonzalez Cabezas, Felix Dorst, Fleur Verhoeff, Kiki van der Hart, Leon Steuernthal, Lidia Vadja, Lynn Ewalts, Nadja Turlings, Persi Ioannidou, Roel Huisman (leiding) Stefanie Bonte, Theodora Chatzi Rodopoulou, Yukina Uitenboogaart and Wendy Wassink

Co-commissioned by Stedelijk Museum ’s-Hertogenbosch and Theaterfestival Boulevard ’s-Hertogenbosch