October 1, 2016 → Hot Stuff: heated public bench within Urban School Ruhr programme in Witten DE

Bringing fire back into the public realm, Berlin-based artist and architect Valentina Karga in collaboration with architects Mascha Fehse and Sébastien Tripod, introduces HOT STUFF (2016) in the university city of Witten, Germany. Composed of two rocket stoves and a mass heater, the installation is the first of its kind to be built in a shared open space, offering the possibility to spend more time outdoors in the winter, while keeping cozy and warm.

A Rocket Mass Heater is a very efficient kind of heater which uses very little fuel (wood) for a maximum output. With the rise of open source knowledge and the online DIY scene, rocket mass heaters became an internet phenomenon. Locals were invited to learn and to experiment together with the making of such a heater in Witten’s public space. A video tutorial of ‘how to build a rocket mass heater for public space’ is indispensable part of the concept, in order to freely share the knowledge of this innovation. The public sculpture has been produced as a part of the Urban School Ruhr (USR), an educational program by Open Raumlabor University commissioned by Urbane Künste Ruhr.

It is important to negotiate what is allowed in public space, claiming back our ‘right to the city’. Sitting in a sofa and cooking are activities, which belong mostly to the sphere of private life, to the private household. Transferring them in public can shape a new concept of the household, a productive unit that is more socially engaged and diffused to its context (the urban space), deconstructing the modernistic idea of the household as a secluded, private unit of consumption. In a way, HOT STUFF is a critical and shared public infrastructure, disguised as artwork.

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By Valentina Karga, Mascha Fehse and Sébastien Tripod

commissioned by Urban School Ruhr and raumlabor, Witten, Germany, 2016