Originally trained as a fashion designer, artist Lucy Orta (1966) founded Studio-Orta in 1991 together with Jorge Orta (1953), an Argentine artist based in Paris since the 80s and precursor of large-scale light-based interventions in public spaces. Dedicated to a socially engaged artistic practice, they have since then initiated a variety of multimodal projects that respond to social issues by creating an array of visually poetic artefacts, events, workshops and performances. The exhibition of selected works to be seen at Motive Gallery gathers installations and preparatory drawings from the Orta’s latest operations, ‘Orta Water’, and a selection of pieces from Lucy’s earlier series, ‘Refuge Wear’ (1992-1998) and ‘Urban Life Guard’(1999-2006).

Originated in the city of Venice at the Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa in 2005, ‘Orta Water’ was born from the wish to draw critical attention to the global issue of drinking water and the future accessibility of this vital resource. Based on an interdisciplinary approach, the project took the form of a true entrepreneurial endeavour and crystallized in a series of fully functioning water purification and distribution machines: from a complex water filtration system to a whole range of storage, distribution and transportation equipments. In fact, the waters of the adjacent Grand Canal were purified, bottled and offered to visitors for immediate consumption. With the intention to financially support a drinking water pilot project in a developing country, a special edition of bottled water was created in order to raise funds. At the beginning of 2006 a second phase of ‘Orta Water’ took place in the Netherlands at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.

Surrounding the humanitarian aspects of this project and the actual engineered device for recycling water are a wide range of less-functional evocative art works. Display cabinets, ‘windows on the world’ and other objects constitute suggestive metaphors for the challenges and drawbacks of the reality that the ‘Orta Water’ project addresses. Here lies the aesthetic strategy of these objects: they mimic – as much as critique — the state of affairs that alarmed Lucy and Jorge in the first place. Simultaneously inspiring and questioning, playful and serious, they project both an apocalyptic and resourceful future – a vision that empowers the viewer with renewed perspectives for altering the balance of global powers.

In the early 90s, Lucy came to international recognition as an artist as a result of her series ‘Refuge Wear’. Tackling the issues of displacement, nomadism and homelessness, Lucy’s work fused her knowledge of the clothing industry, the realm of emergency management and ecology. The sleeping bags, tents and stretcher beds incorporating kits and overalls, and other pieces from the ‘Refuge Wear’ and ‘Urban Life Guard’ series on display at Motive Gallery stand as examples of her personal engagement at coming to terms with questions that have become paramount to our times.

From the 9th of September till the 14th of October, the selected works on show at Motive Gallery in Amsterdam constitute a unique chance to get a glimpse at emblematic pieces of what has become one of the most coherent contemporary attempts at reconciling art and democracy – when democracy is understood as a system in which everyone has equal rights and access to primary resources and when art becomes a consciousness-raising tool in a world going global.

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