The 2021 referendum on water rights in Slovenia pointed to a shift in attitudes towards nature in contemporary culture: from a society of owners to a society of caretakers. In the eyes of a caretaker, a river is not an object but a subject. As a subject, its rights will eventually be recognized by law, which, no longer human-centred, will acknowledge the agency of nature. Who, then, is a river as a person, and what is our dialogue with it? Can a river own itself? What does a river want? Marjetica Potrč explored these issues in a project for the 23rd Sydney Biennale (2022), in which she collaborated with the Wiradjuri elder Ray Woods, a caretaker of the Lachlan River in New South Wales. She will discuss Woods’s knowledge and practices and their similarity to positions taken by today’s environmentalists.
Marjetica Potrč is an artist and architect based in Ljubljana. Her multidisciplinary practice merges art, architecture, ecology and anthropology. From 2011 to 2018, she was a professor of social practice at the University of Fine Arts/HFBK in Hamburg. Her work emphasises individual and community empowerment, problem-solving tools, and strategies for the future that transcend neoliberal agreement. A recent project at the 23rd Biennale of Sydney, Australia (2022), in which she collaborated with the Wiradjuri elder Ray Woods, focused on the rights of Nature.