29 January 2013

Mariela Limerutti: Pedersgata 5 years later

House portraits
Mariela Limerutti (AR)
One of several projects in Tou Works 1, 2008, Stavanger
19 engravings of houses on the sidewalk

House portraits

This is one of my favourite public artworks from 2008, the year Stavanger was a European capital of culture. The portraits of houses made by Argentinian artist Mariela Limerutti are still there to be enjoyed or discovered while walking along Pedersgata street in East Stavanger.

Mariela Limerutti: House portraits in Pedersgata

Limerutti made engravings of 19 houses along the street, some were abandoned, some were in danger of being demolished any time. Most of the houses are old timber houses, and they all have their own stories. In the artist's hometown San Juan in Argentina, all buildings are less than 70 years old. All of the town was demolished in a devastating earthquake in 1944. In Stavanger neglection and the economical boom are the destroyers. The portraits were carved into the pavement like death masks, with their task to commemorate the buildings after they were gone.

San Juan skyline
San Juan skyline at the foothills of the Andes, rather low houses for a town of 800 000 inhabitants

Mariela Limerutti: House portraits in Pedersgata
According to the artist, even some of the curtains are the same since 2008

These buildings in Pedersgata seem to be victims to ungratefulness. Are they left to decay because they do not meet the owners' comfort needs or their economical purposes? Close to the artist's hometown is a sactuary to the legend of Difunta Correa, a blessed woman. There people bring gifts in gratefulness for having a job, a car, a house, drinkingwater. The place is filled with water bottles, work clothes, car plates. And miniature models of buildings. These are representations of the buildings they are grateful for, the houses they love.

House models by Difunta Correa
House models at Difunta Correa, San Juan, Argentina

So what is the situation in Pedersgata today, almost five years after the project?

All 19 portraits are still there. All the houses are there as well. Some have not changed at all, they are still empty. Some buildings have got a new life, like the one now containing a sushi restaurant or another now housing a travel agent. Mariela Limerutti usually makes temporary artworks, but this is a long-lasting one.

Mariela Limerutti: House portraits in Pedersgata
A house with a new life, now with the take-away restaurant Sabi Sushi

The artwork was part of Tou Works 1, maybe the first of many art projects focusing on the east part of Stavanger, and especially the legendary Pedersgata. The street is an important passage through geography, time and cultures. The mood of this area has changed from gloomy to hip during this years, it has become a quite attractive area to be in.

Mariela Limerutti: House portraits in Pedersgata

So the portraits did not become death masks. Yet. They are rather mirrors. Their focus is on what could have been lost but are still there. Let us hope it stays that way, and that the houses will be given new life.