Marjetica Potrč “Caracas: Dry Toilet” at Die Ecke Arte Contemporáneo, Santiago de Chile

Marjetica Potrč "Caracas: Dry Toilet". Photo by Alvaro Mardones

Marjetica Potrč "Caracas: Dry Toilet". Photo by Alvaro Mardones

 

 

curated by Stefanie Hessler

Press preview: Friday, 31 August 2012, 11.00 am

Opening: Friday, 31 August 2012, 7.30 pm
Exhibition period: 31 August – 6 October 2012

Die Ecke Arte Contemporáneo, José Manuel Infante 1208, Providencia, Santiago, Chile

Tuesday-Friday 3.00 pm – 7.00 pm, Saturdays 11.00 am – 2.00 pm

 

Marjetica Potrc "Caracas: Dry Toilet". Photo by Alvaro Mardones

Marjetica Potrc "Caracas: Dry Toilet". Photo by Alvaro Mardones

 

Marjetica Potrč is a Slowenian artist and architect, best know for her architectural case studies and socially influenced sculptural structures. Her projects combine a utopian vision of bottom-up initiatives conducted by citizens of favelas and slums, and a certain utilitarian approach by which she attempts to find ways of dealing with problems concerning infrastructure and ecological sustainability. In her drawings and sculptural installations, Potrč points to how customised inventions by individuals and communities can work better than the master visions of urban planners. Her works are a response to the present living conditions in urban conglomerations, but also in peripheral areas, which through their inhabitants’ inventiveness and self-organisation can become centres themselves. Potrč often spends several months in an area of her interest. She does research by talking with local people, learning from initiators and participants of projects and thereby discovers surprising and innovative ways of dealing with problems arising from the immediate environment of the community. However, Potrč is not aiming at proposing final solutions, but rather stimulating a discussion. Strongly believing in the power of collaboration and the participation of individuals, she shows that answers to problems of globalisation and consumerism can be found in creativity, being crucial to social change.

 

Potrč celebrates self-organised initiatives, coexistence, and collective ownership. Transition as a state holds potential for change and innovations that hierarchical and super-imposed structures are less open to. Mobility and fragile geographic and social borders are seen positive by her, as they require constant negotiation and communication between citizens.

 

Marjetica Potrč "The Dry Toilet: Learning From La Vega" (2012). Photo by Alvaro Mardones

Marjetica Potrč "The Dry Toilet: Learning From La Vega" (2012). Photo by Alvaro Mardones

Marjetica Potrč "Pattern Protects" (2007). Photo by Alvaro Mardones

Marjetica Potrč "Pattern Protects" (2007). Photo by Alvaro Mardones

 

 

Potrč’s description of her visit to Acre in Brazil’s Amazonian Forest in 2006, which can be read in “New Territories in Acre and Why They Matter” 1), is one example of her utilitarian utopian approaches. She describes the local self-organised communities as an example of bottom-up organisation and how isolation can be a means of situating oneself towards the world community. By building a school system based on local experience and transferring specific knowledge needed in the area, education is customised and adapted to local needs. The community of Acre has created a sustainable economy, and is supplied with access to a satellite dish and solar energy, allowing inhabitants to communicate and participate with the rest of the world. The decision not to implement known structures in the course of globalisation has led to deregulation and the possibility to invent a system that best fits the community’s needs. It allows the people from Acre to reaffirm their own identity and culture while by using high-tech knowledge connecting to the rest of the world. It is these initiatives based on unusual experimental approaches by individuals rather than coming from institutions that Potrč is interested in, and which she bases her work on.

 

Marjetica Potrč "Caracas: Dry Toilet". Photo by Alvaro Mardones

Marjetica Potrč "Caracas: Dry Toilet". Photo by Alvaro Mardones

 

Caracas: Dry Toilet
In 2003, Marjetica Potrč spent six months in the “barrio” La Vega, a slum similar to Brazilian favelas outside the city of Caracas. With 200.000 inhabitants, this informal and illegally city is built without permits and obtains of no infrastructure whatsoever. The precarious housings constructed by their inhabitants from scratch material such as metal, old doors and cardboards rarely withstand strong rains. There are no fixed roads, and neither sewage systems, nor regular water supplies. Together with Israeli architect Liyat Esakov, Potrč conducted a case study and built a prototype of a Dry Toilet. It is a low-cost sustainable solution that can be built step by step by the residents themselves. Using readymade plastic seats from Mexico and building an elevated structure to contain the improvised bathroom, Potrč and Esakov developed an environmentally friendly system that functions without any water supplies. The toilet collects waste, which is turned into fertilizer. Dry Toilet, as an ecologically friendly infrastructural solution in an area without running water, is a typical example for Potrč’s way of working with improvised and innovative ideas as ways of tackling a problem. Potrč describes Dry Toilet as an attempt “to rethink the relationship between infrastructure and architecture in real-life urban practice in a city where about half the population receives water from municipal authorities no more than two days a week.” 2) The prototype has since been adopted by the inhabitants of La Vega, who acknowledge and celebrate it by painting and decorating the buildings housing the Dry Toilet.

 

Marjetica Potrc "Caracas: Dry Toilet". Photo by Alvaro Mardones

Marjetica Potrč "Caracas: Dry Toilet". Photo by Alvaro Mardones

Marjetica Potrc "Caracas: Dry Toilet". Photo by Alvaro Mardones

Marjetica Potrč "Caracas: Dry Toilet". Photo by Alvaro Mardones

 

The case studies change depending on the location they are presented in, leaving it to collaborators to propose materials available in the place, based on a rough sketch made by the artist. Potrč does not understand her works as replica of the original structures, but as independent and flexible entities. As in her original interest in self-organised initiatives by communities, which are not imposed by any government or institution, whenever Potrč realises a work in a gallery space it depends on the space’s participation. Local materials are used and the improvised character of the structures maintained. By bringing it to the gallery space, Potrč aims at creating awareness.

 

Marjetica Potrc "Caracas: Dry Toilet". Photo by Alvaro Mardones

Marjetica Potrč "Caracas: Dry Toilet". Photo by Alvaro Mardones

 

Dry Toilet has been presented on six occasions, always in varied forms and colours. For the presentation at Die Ecke Arte Contemporáneo, Potrč will make a new series of drawings connecting to Dry Toilet. The presentation of the sculpture will change from prior exhibits and is developed specifically for the context of Santiago de Chile and the gallery space. Although the place of exhibition does not necessarily have to deal with problems Dry Toilet approaches, the work is a metaphor and example for self-organised initiatives and creativity. Potrč asks how the relation between individuals and their surroundings can be improved by finding new ways of engaged citizenship and envisioning alternatives to institutionalised structures.

 

1) http://www.e-flux.com/journal/new-territories-in-acre-and-why-they-matter/
2) http://www.potrc.org/project2.htm

 

Marjetica Potrc "Caracas: Dry Toilet". Photo by Alvaro Mardones

Marjetica Potrč "Caracas: Dry Toilet". Photo by Alvaro Mardones

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