villa deponie (house from the landfill)

Mountainside landfill structure with temporary roof near Brixen in N. Italy
 “Villa Deponie” was built by Chicago-based artist Dan Peterman in 2002 and publicly displayed during a three-day outdoor festival in the South Tyrolian city of Brixen, Italy. It appeared as a small, animated house, similar to mountain cabins used locally by hikers or alpine farmers, but with a Keaton-esque front wall which had seemingly fallen open. The structure was also covered, inside and out, with a visually dynamic, recycled material that Peterman had acquired from the regional waste handling association of South Tyrol. As with many of his projects, the specific material choice opened the door (or entire wall in this case) on a complex set of ecological, social, and technological issues related to human impact on the environment and the management of waste. 

The visually dynamic appearance of this material--recycled from shoes, ski boots and assorted recreational equipment--was incidental to its intended function. This material was, in fact, manufactured for use as a necessary technical component in the design of the local landfill (deponie): a tough, cushioning material that would prevent damage to the perimeter plastic liner while garbage was densely compacted into the site. Although recycled from the waste stream, this material was ironically doomed to be buried as part of the structure of the landfill itself. 

With “Villa Deponie,” Peterman reversed the usual flow of waste material from home to landfill, literally bringing the “house from the landfill” back into the city. In doing so, he playfully opened up issues of global concern related to the flow of waste materials, while simultaneously exploring a locally compelling connection between humble, vernacular structures and the unique architecture of a mountainside landfill (deponie) carefully engineered to minimize contaminating the highly sensitive mountain environment that surrounds it.

In addition to the Fest/Kunst festival in Brixen Italy, Villa Deponie, has also been exhibited in Berlin, Germany; Miami, Florida; and now resides in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Illinois.