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European artists round out List season

The List Visual Arts Center will screen "God's Children" by director Hiroshi Shinomiya tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. in Bartos Theater.
The List Visual Arts Center will screen "God's Children" by director Hiroshi Shinomiya tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. in Bartos Theater.
Image / Hiroshi Shinomiya

The List Visual Arts Center is now presenting the works of two European artists: Slovenian-born artist, architect and sculptor Marjetica Potrc and video artist Artur Zmijewski, who is based in Warsaw, Poland.

"Marjetica Potrc: Urgent Architecture" is the first U.S. museum survey of Potrc's work since she won the Guggenheim Museum's 2000 Hugo Boss Prize. Her installations are recreations of her "anthropological urbanism," in which she explores and critiques government public housing versus the more personal housing solutions that the poor devise for themselves.

Potrc has particular interest in informal or unplanned cities, such as those in S���o Paolo, Brazil; Caracas, Venezuela; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Given the often desperate lack of resources in these communities, Potrc has designed "self-sustaining" housing units that can provide water, sewer and electrical service to the occupants. Rather than designing purely practical residences, she injects her designs with glowing colors as a way of celebrating life and the beauty she sees in shared needs. "We all seek the same things--shelter, food, water and beauty," she said.

Potrc has constructed a massive installation of housing units based on what she had seen of gated communities and temporary shelters that have become permanent in Caracas, the West Bank and West Palm Beach. Using available materials such as concrete blocks, barbed wire, wood and aluminum, Potrc's installation is a monolithic testimony to the power of art and architecture in shaping and reimagining the human environment.

"Such (designs) bring about a long-needed dialogue between the formal and informal city, which obviously benefits everyone," Potrc said. "The timing is good, too. Every three days, more than a million people move to urban areas, and many of them live in shantytowns."

The exhibition also includes the premiere of a series of drawings of Boston's Big Dig Project as well as Potrc's "Power Tools Series 2001-3." The latter features "Hippo Water Roller," a rolling container for water that substitutes for the heavy and clumsy vessels women place on their heads in many developing parts of the world. Also included are a selection from "Animal Sightings Series" (2001)--digital prints of coyotes, bears and raccoons caught roaming cities and visiting houses.

Organized by List Visual Arts Center Director Jane Farver, "Artur Zmijewski: Selected Works 1998-2003" is the first U.S. solo exhibition by this Warsaw-based artist. His works challenge social codes that prohibit displaying "defective" human beings and notions that the disabled can succeed only if they achieve at the same standards as the physically fit.

In his videos, Zmijewski creates situations to shape relationships between so-called "normal" individuals and those with physical defects, then records what happens.

In "Singing Lesson I" and "Singing Lesson II," deaf children learn to sing. "Eye for an Eye" depicts a fit young woman helping a man wash his disabled body, and two men--one with two healthy legs and one missing a limb--climbing stairs and walking together. In "Out for a Walk," paraplegics are assisted by able-bodied men in trying to walk.

Gallery talks/films

Boston filmmaker, teacher and curator John Gianvito has organized two films to be shown in conjunction with the Potrc exhibition. Both films will be shown at 6:30 p.m. in Bartos Theater.

Thursday, May 20--"God's Children" (Japan/Philippines, 2001), directed by Hiroshi Shinomiya, documents the residents of Payatas, one of the largest garbage dumps in the world outside Manila.

Thursday, May 27--"Dark Days" (United States, 2000), directed by Marc Singer, is an award-winning documentary about people living in forgotten and abandoned Manhattan subway tunnels.

Bill Arning, curator at the List Center, will lead a special gallery talk for Potrc's exhibit with Joe MacDonald, assistant professor of architecture at Harvard and principal at Urban A+O Design Studio, on Friday, May 21 at 6 p.m. Arning will also conduct gallery talks at noon on May 19 and June 11.

Hiroko Kikuchi, the List Center's education and outreach coordinator, will discuss the shows on May 23, June 13, June 27 and July 11 at 2 p.m. On Wednesday, May 26, Farver will discuss Zmijewski's work at noon.

Both shows are on view through July 11. For more information, call 253-4680 or see

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 19, 2004 (download PDF).

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