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Pod #002, Parasite Heating Unit - Rikke Luther
Berlin and Copenhagen, Germany and Denmark, 2011

Creative Organisation: Learning Site

Funders / Commissioners: The Festival Über Lebenskunst (The Art of Living) was initiated by the German Federal Cultural Foundation in co-operation with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin.

Location Details: Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt, John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10, 10557 Berlin, Germany. Krudtloebsvej 7Z, 1439, Copenhagen Harbour, Denmark.

Date of Delivery: Completed 17–21 August 2011 in Berlin, now ongoing at the harbour of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Medium: Installation

Dimensions / Technical Specs: Variable

Funding Sources: Federal Government

Themes: Energy, Waste, Recycling, Consumption

Duration: Temporary/Ephemeral

Author: Lucy Ainsworth

Pod #002, Parasite Heating Unit is a modular dwelling that can be transported and installed in different locations. Representing the relationship between parasite and host, Pod #002, Parasite Heating Unit is attached to an existing building, utilising its light intake to heat the dwelling. Originally created for the Festival Über Lebenskunst (The Art of Living) at the Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt, Berlin, in 2011, the work was installed over the top of one of the museum’s skylight shafts, appearing to be an extension of the building. The walls of the unit contained in-built composting apparatus, which allowed the user to deposit vegetable scraps and garden matter into one section and retrieve excess liquid and new soil from another. Reaching temperatures between 50–60 degrees Celsius, the compost dually heated and insulated the building, whilst servicing a local community garden.

Informed by the site specificity of each artwork’s location, Luther’s projects critically address the material resources and different economies of each site. Past works have examined land ownership and rights, economic and environmental factors and the production and distribution of knowledge. Previous projects that connect with Pod#002, Parasite Heating Unit are Pod #001 (created for the exhibition Weather Report: Art and Climate Change, curated by Lucy R. Lippard, 14 September–21 December 2007, The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art),  N55 Spaceframe, and Floating Platform. The latter is an 18 m2 modular dwelling, where Rikke Luther currently lives with her family, and Pod #002, Parasite Heating Unit has now been relocated and attached to this dwelling.

AIMS

Cultural

Aesthetic/Visual and Innovation/Risk (Conceptual and Technical): Rikke Luther wanted to create a modular urban dwelling using the bubble design principle of maximising space while using fewer materials. The structure was designed to be attached as an addition to existing buildings, thus exploring the idea of a parasite unit. POD #002, Parasite Heating Unit follows a body of work that explores options for sustainable inner-city living, therefore Luther wanted to produce a structure that could be easily transported and re-used after the Festival. One innovative aim was to use an in-built composting system to heat the unit.

Audience Engagement: Luther produced a series of posters to help explain the artwork and composting system. These addressed central topics including the issues of heat, sustainability and ecology. The unit contained windows that enabled visitors to view the composting system. Visitors were invited inside the unit to experience and imagine the unit as a dwelling.

Social

Community Development: The artwork aimed to incorporate a local community garden; members of the garden were invited to participate and assisted in setting up the composting system and contributing worms. In return they were given the compost at the end of the exhibiting period. Luther sourced vegetable scraps for the compost from the museum’s kitchen.

Environmental

Climate Change Adaptation, Waste Reduction and Management, Energy Efficiency/Generation: Luther aimed to create an installation that addressed Climate Change adaptation and did this by making a practical artwork that could be re-purposed as a usable dwelling. The idea of the parasite dwelling was to address issues surrounding access to land, how we use land in the city, and different types of housing. The artist aimed to construct the structure from readily available materials, including recycled aluminium. She also looked at energy efficiency, creating heat and insulation by means of a composting system.

OUTCOMES & IMPACTS

Cultural

Audience Engagement: An artist talk was held to discuss the concept and future of POD #002, Parasite Heating Unit. The Festival Über Lebenskunst lasted four days, granting limited access to the work. However, interest in the work has increased since its relocation and connection to the Luther’s home—the also re-purposed artwork Floating Platform—in the harbour in Copenhagen. 

Social

Social Activation: Since the unit was relocated and connected to Luther’s dwelling in Copenhagen, school groups, kayakers, local residents, etc., have visited the unit and the artist has held further discussions about the work. The addition of POD #002, Parasite Heating Unit has enhanced Learning Site’s overall objectives by expanding its Copenhagen base. 

Environmental

Climate Change Adaptation: The unit was conceived to have a sustainable life after its initial presentation, and has been added to the artist’sfloating dwelling in Copenhagen.

PROJECT DELIVERY

Rikke Luther was invited to participate in the Festival Über Lebenskunst at the Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt, Berlin. The Festival was held over four days and engaged artists, designers and scientists to develop and display models for day-to-day sustainable living. Luther wanted to create a long-term project that exceeded the four-day duration of the Festival, in keeping with the Festival’s focus on sustainability; however, the museum is an historical, protected site, and she was not able to permanently attach or change the facade of the building. The restrictions placed on the project enabled Luther to develop a ‘parasite dwelling’ concept she had had for some years,   to create a structure that could be installed at the Haus Der Kulturen der Welt and then later attached to her Floating Platform home in Copenhagen. The shape of the unit was designed to be compatible with the Floating Platform. Relocating the installation to a permanent position in Copenhagen has benefitted the project by facilitating greater access to the work; Luther often holds artist talks and site visits.

IMPACTS OF ARTWORK PRODUCTION

All materials used to construct Pod #002, Parasite Heating Unit were sourced in Germany. In the past, Rikke Luther had used stainless steel to construct dwellings, but for this project she decided to use recycled aluminium for the exterior. This decision was partially made for sustainability reasons but also because it is lightweight, making it easy to transport. Metal was a more suitable material than wood in this instance, as it can withstand the cold weather conditions in Denmark without too much maintenance. Aluminium is 100 per cent recyclable and the recycling process uses only 5 per cent of the energy used to create new aluminium, whilst emitting only 5 per cent of the greenhouse gases.

Sustainability issues were considered when selecting  coloured inks for printing the graphics and posters. Yellow, which is a more resource-heavy colour to produce, was avoided, and pinks, purples and blues were mainly used.

At the Festival’s conclusion, the unit was dismantled and transported in a truck from Berlin to Copenhagen. A truck was evaluated to be the most environmentally friendly option for transport.

 SOURCES

Australian Aluminium Council Ltd.  “Recycling.” Australian Aluminium Council. http://aluminium.org.au/recycling (accessed August 15, 2012).

Luther, Rikke. Interview by author, August 15, 2012.

Luther, Rikke. “Pod#002, Parasite Heating Unit.” Learning Site. http://www.learningsite.info/pod002.html (accessed August 16, 2012).

This database is developed by the National Institute for Experimental Arts (NIEA) at COFA, UNSW in association with the City of Sydney and Carbon Arts as part of the Australian Research Council ARC linkage project Curating Cities.