In her sixth solo exhibition at Galerie Nordenhake the artist and architect Marjetica Potrč shows two architectural case studies and a selection of related drawings. The title of the exhibition serves as a proposition pointing to Potrč's concept of collaborative social architecture. The dome–the epitome of architectural achievement and powerful architectural symbol–is placed on the same level as the toilet, which is a form hardly recognised in architectural history, but culturally and infrastructurally of no less importance, and one which will certainly confront us with extremely pressing challenges in the future.
Potrč is internationally renowned for her architectural case studies and collaborative site-specific projects, rooted in a multidisciplinary practice that merges art, architecture, ecology, and social sciences. At the core of her artistic practice lie questions of our current living conditions and the failures of modernist architecture. Potrč's work points to alternative building strategies and resources, taking into account both advanced technology and traditional approaches. Thereby she places emphasis on individual empowerment as well as sustainable and democratic strategies for the future.
The sculpture "Drop City Giant" (2012-2019) is based on Potrč's research on the legendary Drop City community in Colorado, a commune founded in the mid-1960s by art students. Inspired by Buckminster Fuller's concept of the Geodesic Dome, the community built structures using affordable components like recycled industrial materials, and developed passive solar devices. Considered a utopian counterculture at the time, Drop City is–even after its gradual dissolution in the early 1970s–an important example for alternative architectural concepts and an intentional community with different social structures. Potrč conceives this work as a contemporary version of an archaic sculpture, the Kouros, to symbolise the commons. Constructed from recycled street signs and basic building materials like wood and aluminium bars the dome–due to its ingenious construction principle–is extremely strong despite its light weight. The accompanying eight-part drawing series presents a contemporary example of a community-focused project, pointing out that the ideas from 1968 are reemerging today as small-scale local strategies.
"Caracas: Dry Toilet" (2003-2019) was created in collaboration with the residents of the La Vega barrio and architect Liyat Esakov. Together they constructed an ecologically safe waterless toilet that collects waste and turns it into fertilizer, in an informal settlement of Caracas that had no access to the municipal water grid. Although the water toilet is still considered the desired standard, one can argue that it was a major maldevelopment of civilisation, given its negative ecological and sanitary effects. The installation on view is the ninth elaboration of the original architecture: a hybrid structure, built from simple and locally sourced materials, and realised in collaborative exchange with the gallery team. The transfer into the gallery space translates the architectural structure from a context of literal use to a context of theoretical reflection. In a global context of deregulation and ecological crisis it becomes a relational object, a potential tool of cultural change rethinking our social contract from the bottom up. As Potrč puts it, “I’m not interested in architectural constructions. I’m interested in social architecture […, structures formed by society]. People don't want to just inhabit the city they live in; they want to produce it. We have to change our way of living, which is more difficult than building a house."
Marjetica Potrč is an artist and architect based in Ljubljana, Slowenia, where she was born 1953. Her work has been featured in exhibitions worldwide, including Yinchuan Biennial (2018), Venice Biennial (2009, 2006 and 2003), São Paulo Biennial (2006, 1996), Gwangju Biennale (2004) and Skulptur Projekte Münster (1997). She has had solo shows at Kunsthall Trontheim (2017), Flora ars+natura, Bogota (2017), PAMM Pérez Art Museum, Miami (2015), Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, East Lansing, MI (2012), Barbican Art Gallery, London (2007), PBICA, Lake Worth, FL (2003), MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA (2004), Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel (2004) and Guggenheim Museum New York (2001), among others. Her many on-site installations include: "Of Soil and Water: King's Cross Pond Club", London (2015), "The Commons Project", Gemeentemuseum Den Haag (2013), "Théàtre Évolutif", Bordeaux (2011), "Between the Waters: The Emscher Community Garden", Emscherkunst, Oberhausen (2010), "The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbour", Stedelijk Goes West, Amsterdam (2009) and "Dry Toilet", Caracas (2003). From 2011 to 2018 she was a professor at the University of Fine Arts (HFBK) in Hamburg, where she taught "Design for the Living World", a class on participatory practices. Furthermore she has taught at MIT, Cambridge, MA (2005) and IUAV University in Venice (2010, 2008). Potrč is recipient of numerous grants and awards, including the Vera List Center for Arts and Politics Fellowship at The New School in New York (2007), Caracas Case Project Fellowship from the Federal Cultural Foundation, Germany and the Caracas Urban Think Tank, Venezuela (2002) and the Hugo Boss Prize, administered by the Guggenheim Museum (2000).