East Contemporary

Tracing Spaces: Guided Tour through Nordwestbahnhof

Vienna, 12:00-15:00, March 17, 2017, http://tracingspaces.net

The Tracing Spaces project is investigating the urban fabric of an old freight train station (Nordwestbahnhof in Vienna) that is going to be closed down in the near future. The project falls into an area between site specific art, anthropology and urban architecture research. The initiators of the Tracing Spaces project, Michael Hieslmair and Michael Zinganel, organized a guided tour around the freight train station, introducing different tenants, their businesses and the interconnections that exist between the architecture, commerce and logistic networks.

I picked up an invitation to the event at the Allan Sekula exhibition at TBA21, and there seemed to be some relation between these two events, through the keyword of logistics and global flows of goods. Yet while the Sekula exhibit was documentary, the guided tour was real, engaging with the here and how of Vienna, and concerned with urbanism-related topics. The initiator’s background appeared to be in urban research, and during the tour, they seemed to stress the poetic and narrative aspects of the site, giving a face (or a whole array of faces) to a rather nondescript warehouse zone. A more in-depth economic and critical perspective appeared only latently in some more inquiring questions from tour participants. I was hoping for some art too, but the only piece we came across was one large photo print of a truck photograph (Zara Pfeifer, LKW).

Nevertheless, participating in the tour was worthwhile. Organizing the tour was probably not easy in the first place, and the initiators must have spent considerable time befriending and negotiating with different warehouse tenants, whose interests and background is probably lightyears away from contemporary art and urbanism. On the other side was an audience that was lightyears away from matters of logistics and trade.

The warehouse and company managers were professionals in their own field, talking about their own experience, from their own perspective. Hieslmair and Zinganel provided a frame and narrative through which the participants could access this otherwise invisible network of knowledge and experience, creating a temporary space for exchange and dialogue.

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