Past Exhibitions

Marjetica Potrc: Extreme Conditions And Noble Designs

Exhibition Through March 2, 2003

Slovenian artist Marjetica Potrc is sometimes described as an "urban anthropologist." She creates works that introduce sobering observations about the unsettling dichotomies of contemporary urban life through forms inspired by shantytowns, favelas, and other improvised cities and ad hoc dwellings around the world. Using inexpensive or salvaged building materials, Potrc's central works take the form of structures based upon buildings created by isenfranchised people living in the most impoverished and undeveloped parts of the world's growing cities. These works celebrate the resourcefulness and creativity of initiatives that challenge ownership of land or the official organization of a city, articulating Potrc's belief in the aesthetic and political power that the most marginalized people of a society can create through individual initiative. 

While the sources of most of Potrc's structures are anonymous dwellings built by untrained architects and individuals around the world, the inspiration for her new installation for the Orange County Museum of Art's exhibition is the work of celebrated American architect Samuel Mockbee (1944-2001), who, along with his architecture students at Auburn University's Rural Studio, designed and built homes and community buildings for impoverished residents of Alabama's Hale County. Resulting from an improvisatory spirit and collaborative and cooperative process, Mockbee's low-cost and often self-sustainable buildings are models of social and civic engagement. In Mockbee and the Rural Studio, Potrc has found a shared affinity for creating small but meaningful gestures that encourage individual empowerment and self-reliance. Potrc's new structure is named after Mason's Bend Community Center, a remarkable Rural Studio building in a remote, undeveloped area along Alabama's Black Warrior River. Potrc's structure inspired by this building quotes its striking form, its use of salvaged materials such as car windows, and its proposed future addition of solar power, celebrating the building's character of inventiveness and self-sufficiency. 

In addition to a recent series of prints exploring housing strategies around the world, Extreme Conditions and Noble Designs includes a few objects from the world of industrial design as further examples of human initiative, creativity, and self-reliance. "Inventions that I find most inspiring are about urgent needs," Potrc has written of the objects that she often exhibits with her prints and structures. The Hippo Water Roller, which was developed in South Africa to aid remote African villages in the collection and transportation of drinking water, is such an invention. This simple object-which might be described as a cross between a shopping cart and a plastic barrel-has dramatically increased the amount of water an individual can transport from a water source while decreasing the time and physical strength needed. In addition to allowing more time in a day for such critical activities as farming, the Hippo Water Roller has the added benefit of offering its user protection from land mines. Filled with up to 90 liters of water, the roller can actually absorb much of a land mine's blast as its owner pushes it along the landscape. Characteristic of the objects Potrc includes in her exhibitions, the Hippo Water Roller represents a noble design that can bring one of life's basic needs to people in the most remote parts of the world. 


Hippo Water Rollers. Photo courtesy of Grant Gibbs and the Hippo Water Roller Project.

Marjetica Potrc: Extreme Conditions and Noble Designs installation view Orange County Museum of Art.

Exhibition Credits

Marjetica Potrc: Extreme Conditions and Noble Designs is part of Orange County Museum of Art's Installation Series, an exhibition series specifically devoted to the presentation of installation-based work. The Installation Series reflects both the local and the global, engaging some of the most vital and promising artists working locally, nationally, and internationally.


Marjetica Potrc: Extreme Conditions and Noble Designs was made possible by the generous support of Bauer and Wiley Architects, Newport Beach, and Barbara and Victor Klein, with additional support by an anonymous donor.