Valentina Karga

Self-sufficiency in the era of the new Commons

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Semester Seminar at Studium Generale, Universität der Kunste, Berlin

The realization of complete source depletion has led to an energetic hysteria, which together with the economic crisis and the questioning of capitalism and neo-liberalism has brought the ideology of self-sufficiency into a broader discussion. The latter, a phenomenon that used to be connected to the rural world, is finding its way in the city today.

The commons are cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society; today, due to the internet, we have an interesting mixture of natural and digital commons while the new commons are considered to be communication, knowledge and cooperation. By combining self-sufficiency and the new commons, we may detect the beginning of a society that reuses old methods and institutions in new ways with the help of new tools and technology.

Nowadays, there are many attempts of a combination of provincial and metropolitan lifestyles; in the class we will analyze such paradigms and discuss whether they are dystopias or indeed possible futures.

This seminar will be an experiment in making a collaborative work and in experimental pedagogy. The students  will collaborate in designing and building a small unit for living in a self-sufficient way. More specifically, we will put together a complex of the proposed systems: a small cabin and greenhouse out of reused materials, an aquaponic system, a photovoltaic system, solar cookers, a water collector and a purification system, a water heating system, and a compost toilet. We will also create a garden after research on permaculture and companion planting techniques. We will have the chance to meet and discuss with experts, scientists, artists, writers and designers. At the end of the semester we will organise a public event.

Students will be asked to write a reflection to the discussed topics, document and create manuals, and they will  have the freedom to bring in personal interests.

Tags: self-sufficiency, design, habitat, commons, DIY, open-source, aquaponics, solar-cooking, rainwater, garden, manual, arduino, socially engaged art


Antonia Märzhäuser, Mascha Fehse, Julia Boström, Robert Eckstein, Veronika Hoffmann, Lilli Unger, Petja Ivanova, Friederike Müller, Ivy Lee, Mischa Vogel

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Making an off-grid solar system with Brian Edlefsen Lasch, solar engineer

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Petja setting up a “Garduino”

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Julia and Mischa pruning the tomatoes

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experimental tiny architectures workshop with Jan Körbes from Refunc

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a conversation with artist Åsa Sonjasdotter

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Mascha, Vero and Robert building a cabin

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