Marjetica Potrc
Hugo Boss PrizeThe ArtistExhibition
Described as an urban anthropologist, Marjetica Potrc, an artist and trained architect, investigates the shifting terrain of the contemporary city and its continual reinvention. Potrc finds that the delight gleaned from a visit to the ancient ruins of Pompeii can be experienced in the contemplation of the empty lots and abandoned buildings of today. For the artist, these urban voids identify the city as a living organism that expands and contracts in opposition or relation to the regulated grid of the city. Preoccupied with the dialogue between planned and unplanned sections of the urban layout, Potrc recognizes the growing number of disenfranchised communities that have developed on the edges of cities worldwide. The residents of these shantytowns, favelas, or borgate, as they are variously called, are among the world's fastest-growing populations. Governmental efforts to control these makeshift villages and absorb them into organized social structures are often met with resistance: The option of moving into anonymous government housing projects is unappealing to many individuals who regard their private dwellings as more home than simply homemade. Potrc champions a growing trend of what she terms "individual initiatives"—ranging from squatter cooperatives to private gated communities—which have begun to threaten the authority of corporate and government-managed public space.

For this exhibition, Potrc has installed Kagiso: Skeleton House, two architectural structures that illustrate the intersection between the regulated and unregulated city. The larger of the two constructions is based on a progressive, South African model of subsidized housing in which a floor, roof, and rudimentary plumbing system are supplied. Individual owners are left with the fiscal and physical responsibility of creating walls, doors, and interior spaces and thus given the freedom to express their own unique preferences and personalities. Next to this skeleton house is a smaller shack cobbled together from a mix of cast-off or easily acquired building materials—a breed of "temporary" shelter seen internationally. The skeleton house is meant to replace the more humble dwelling, yet clearly relies on it for inspiration. Kagiso: Skeleton House, celebrates the nascent recognition of the universal building style of the shanty by regulatory bodies as a positive paradigm for viable and affordable housing. With both of these structures, the artist acknowledges a certain beauty as well as an indomitable resourcefulness.

Kagiso: Skeleton House, was inspired by the story of a family who moved their existing shack, piece by piece, to the site of their unfinished skeleton house so that they could be nearby to guard its toilet, a proven target of theft. The unexpected value placed on this fixture—for most a commonplace necessity—is all the more pronounced when it is seen beside the satellite dish attached to the smaller structure. Potrc contends that the urge to communicate and exchange information is as basic an instinct as securing shelter and physical comfort. It is the attempt to satisfy such simple human needs that provokes the creativity that the artist recognizes in these alternative housing situations and equates with state-of-the-art inventions. The proliferation of container buildings, mobile homes, and recycled materials in Potrc's work is as much a part of her vision of contemporary society as is the wearable computer on view in this gallery. The electronic garment is exhibited among a series of poetic texts combined with appropriated images and objects that comment on a range of contemporary realities from the economic to the social. Together these disparate snapshots and cultural artifacts reflect responses to a global community made smaller by technological advances and interdependent economies. Mobility and transformation characterize this world in which the power of the nation-state has been relinquished to the megacity, and public space has been abandoned for the private realm of the individual.