Lara Almarcegui came to prominence in recent years through a number of unusual projects. She became known to a wide international audience particularly thanks to shows such as her presentation at the Venice Biennial in 2013. Many months before the project Excavated Material from Basel, 2015, began in the Kunsthaus Baselland the artist travelled to Basel several times. She roamed the city landscape with a curious gaze, working from a tight circle around the Kunsthaus and moving out through the urban structure, largely on foot, speaking with the authorities and with architects she knew in order to get to know the current municipal and housing projects in the Basel region: the Dreispitz-Areal; Erlenmatt; Rheinhafen; the demolition of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) in Muttenz; projects in Pratteln etc.. Certain questions accompanied her throughout: what is the current situation as regards building, what is the consistency of the ground?
For many years Lara Almarcegui has sounded out the spaces of civilization in our cities and investigated relationships between construction, regeneration and dereliction. She looks at transitional spaces, where the order of the city encounters the order of nature and the new steps in city development emerge. In this time, she has temporarily deconstructed buildings, not to clarify questions of building artistry, architectural theory or cultural history, but to make their materiality and construction visible and tangible. This is particularly clear in Almarcegui’s listing of the building materials of the cities of Dijon, São Paolo and Lund – the millions of tons of concrete, glass, iron, steel or asphalt that hold a city together.
Now, for the Kunshaus Baselland, Almarcegui has piled in 300 cubic metres of excavated material, creating heaps several metres high. This may sound sensationalist. But if you know Lara Almarcegui it is soon clear that it is anything but cheap showmanship. Instead with her works she examines what seems normal and given to us in an informed artistic and scientific manner. What is architecture made of? How is it constructed? Is built space a binding, or also transient, pliable form, which carries its own ruin within, from the moment of construction? What do the countless urban building projects rest upon? Who is in possession; who are the owners? These are the fundamental questions relating to how we live together and coexist in urban contexts that interest the artist.
In her most recent work, Mineral Rights, Tveitvangen, which Lara Almarcegui is showing in the Kunsthaus in the form of a projection, she looks into the essential, yet scarcely asked, questions about ownership of the ground and the depths beneath it. Mineral Rights are regulated differently from country to country and it is customarily impossible for a private individual to acquire them. Lara Almarcegui recently gained mineral rights in Norway, in Tveitvangen, not far from Oslo, for an area of one square kilometre. In the projection that she shows in the Kunsthaus, the viewer is taken into a landscape of information about stone, leftover snow, patches of forest, grass and bushes. It is an area known for the occurrence of iron. Iron is one of the most important materials in the building business; hardly a contemporary building can be made without it. Lara Almarcegui will not excavate the iron, but with her project and the rights that she now holds she draws our gaze to one of the key construction materials and the sometimes remarkable or even questionable nature of how it is held and owned. With her works she does not merely create commentary, but she creates a sensibility of our being, acting and dealing with the world.
(Extract from the publication Lara Almarcegui, ed. Ines Goldbach, Christoph Merian Verlag, publication 13 June 2015.)
Lara Almarcegui was born in 1972 and lives and works in Rotterdam
Selected solo exhibitions:
2015: GEM, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag; 2014: The Last Coal Extraction in Newcastle, AV Festival, The NewBridge Project Space, Newcastle; 2013: Spanish Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennial; 2011: Fondazione Pastifizio Cerere, Rome; 2010: Secession, Vienna; 2008: Bilbao Wastelands, Sala Rekalde, Bilbao; 2007: Santiago de Compostela
Selected group exhibitions:
2015: Wohnungsfrage, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Riddle of the Burial Ground, Project Arts Centre, Dublin; Living in the Material World, Haus Lange, Krefeld; 2013: Artificial Amsterdam, De Appel, Amsterdam; Living as Art Form, University Art Gallery, University of California, San Diego; 2012: Manifesta 9, Genk, Limburg; 2011: Found in Translation Chaper L, Casino Luxembourg; 2010: Portscapes, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam.
Artist Talk and Book Launch with Lara Almarcegui
Thursday, June 18, 2015 | 10am
Lara Almarcegui in dialogue with Ines Goldbach (in English)
Lara Almarcegui, excavation from Basel, installation view Kunsthaus Baselland
Photo: Serge Hasenböhler