Opened in 1872, the Northwest Railway Station with its still operational ÖBB container terminal is one of Vienna’s last logistics hubs close to the city center. With all tenancy and subtenancy agreements expiring at the end of the year 2017, dismantling and demolition measures will begin to clear the plot for a new urban development area.
Repeatedly confronted with the pending demolition of the premises’ structures and its postponement, the big private logistics companies have already migrated in parts, yet retained office and storage spaces. Numerous small carriers have moved in as subtenants. Bus companies park their tourist vehicles on the plot, and a “multicultural” driving school uses the area as its training ground. Austria’s number one in the field of film production, Props und Co., will have to move out before the critical day.
Many suppliers’ truck drivers, parking bus chauffeurs, warehouse employees, and some of the employers have an immigrant background. This is why the premises of the Northwest Railway Station not only offer themselves as an example for studying the transformation of urban space but also for tracing the city’s past history of mobility and migration based on the biographies of the people working there.
The Tracing Spaces team moved into a project space on the grounds so it would be embedded in the social milieu of the logistics landscape. It conducted (video) interviews with and produced portraits of the premises’ actors on site, asked them for significant objects from their everyday working life, and mapped their migration and mobility experiences in a manifold multimedia chart. The research results, particularly the audiovisual works, were not only displayed in a small museum-like presentation in the project space, but also reached out into the public area of the Northwest Railway Station. The supports chosen for these outdoor interventions were parts of the façades, unused structures such as loading ramps, or vehicles.
The works positioned on site by the artists marked a path through different zones and hinted at various dimensions of the area’s history of (interim) use.
Zara Pfeifer: Good Street!
“Since trucks have come to be used also as weapons and not only for moving sought-after goods across the continent, they draw a new kind of attention. Zara Pfeifer photographed anonymous trucks that block our view like censor bars and hide their load behind monochrome tarpaulins as well as—starting out from the Northwest Railway Station terminal—trucks as personal realms with their often lavishly furnished driver’s cabs satisfying their long-distance inhabitants’ habits. On route from Prague to London, the photographer was offered the opportunity to make herself familiar with the drivers’ everyday routine at close range: endless rides and breaks, logistics areas, highway restaurants.” (Ruth Horak)
The photographs were posted as large-format wallpapers on the warehouse façades and reflected back onto the everyday world of the logistics hub.
Martin Kaltwasser: Oases 2017
The logistics premises of Vienna’s erstwhile Northwest Railway Station boast a number of oases: green niches, seemingly forgotten and neglected leftover areas, where spontaneous vegetation spreads—quiet pockets of resistance within a pure business world. With a few exceptions, these leftover areas are, if at all, hardly perceived and sometimes littered up ruthlessly along the lines of today’s totally monetary-dominated homogenous commodity logistics. Martin Kaltwasser worked on three of these areas for eight days, removed the garbage, and added some pointed structures built from remains found on site.
Track Oasis: On the shut-down freight track on Loading Roadway #1, a sensitive peculiar vegetative world presented itself in the form of a romantic wild garden between and next to the exposed rails according to the motto “one man’s trash bin is the other’s paradise garden.”
Grandma’s Oasis: On Loading Roadway #3, the mother of the owner of a kitchen marketing company based there laid out a lovingly designed garden between two storage buildings. Advanced in years, the gardener could hardly look after the garden for health reasons in recent years, however. Martin Kaltwasser reconstructed the garden meticulously in consultation with the owner’s daughter and added some elements.
Forgotten Pool: An empty concrete basin of indefinite purpose is to be found in the southeastern corner of the premises next to the laid-up container cranes. Added markings, two handicraft starting blocks, and a pool ladder made of found wooden boards and one-way pallets transformed the basin into a place with the both unequivocal and blurry past of an oasis.
Katrin Hornek and Johanna Tinzl: The Cloud Was the First to Realize That the Chain Is Losing Its Core Supply
“Sound and sculptural intervention, 3D ABS polymer print, loading security net, audio piece, 10 min. The sacrum was on its way to Vienna’s green center. There was a demand for its materialization despite the lack of a concrete order. It was to be stored in the overhead facility of the area. The breakdown was complete, though. The sacrum tries to make contact with its supply chain through multimodal linkage. In vain.
The year is 2039. The World Wide Web has been in existence for fifty years, and its control architectures are running more or less smoothly. Something has gone wrong, however, with this year’s insertion of leap seconds into Coordinated Universal Time. This is why a not completely printed random object drops from the Cloud, landing on the premises in 2017, dazed. Status message: error print/navigation lost/regular cargo/rack good. The monologue begins.” (K. Hornek and J. Tinzl)
The story is available for playback on tracingspaces.net/core-supply/.
Helmut and Johanna Kandl
Signaling the protection of a cultural asset, the artist duo painted the emblem of the International Civil Defence Organisation established in accordance with the Geneva Conventions onto the road surface in the center of the huge ÖBB complex. While its size made the emblem visible for airplanes, the technique used for it, which suggested that it had been in existence for decades and made it appear appropriately battered, hinted at the manifold cultural heritage inscribed into the area.
Gabriele Sturm: loaded/unloaded
Day after day, unloaded trucks enter the premises of Vienna’s Northwest Freight Station and leave it loaded or vice versa.
Gabriele Sturm reduced data and facts of the transportation of goods to an imprint of the difference in weight between loaded and unloaded trucks. The footprint of this difference between vehicles with and without goods also visualized the profile of the Northwest Station’s grounds.
Gabriele Sturm: Nwbhf hpfmbh „nordwestbahnhof handelsplattform mit beschränkter haftung“ (northwest station limited liability trade platform)
Trade = culture. Gabriele Sturm focused on the system of trade from different perspectives: working conditions, logistics, consumption patterns with interventions for local networks, and distribution chain. In 2006/7, she accompanied twenty tons of tomatoes transported across nearly two thousand miles by truck from southern Turkey to their place of distribution in Wien-Inzersdorf and documented this parallel world by means of photography, video, and real-time performance.
Based on this research and experiences, Gabriele Sturm turned herself into a link of the distribution chain, exchanging the observer’s position with the agent’s in order to make the process “trade = culture” transparent. As a commercially registered trader, she founded the northwest station limited liability trade platform, cooperating with the companies established there. She negotiated, dealt with, and traded merchandise delivered to the Northwest Freight Station. Goods are an integral part of life and circulate in numbers as large as never before in human history. These goods were given visibility in the online shop and stored in overseas shipping crates. General trade and art market presented themselves as two different contexts within which such commodity objects may oscillate.
Ina Weber: Foosball/Women’s Team
Ina Weber’s outdoor sculpture provided the logistics area’s users with an entertaining diversion. To those ready to play, the soccer table offered an exercise facility, helped to have it out with someone in a sportsmanlike manner, or simply ensured some fun while waiting between trips, before unloading, or when taking a break.
It was a free offer: When the balls would have disappeared in the table, a slot machine mounted nearby guaranteed their cheap replacement. The only thing the user had to find was one or more persons to play with. Foosball is a communicative and collective activity.
The installed soccer table differed from the usual models in one aspect, however: The players were not abstracted male figures but two women’s teams with different standard clothing sizes, hair and skin colors. The predominantly male world of the logistics area was thus playfully retouched.
Working in this place of transformation also had a melancholy dimension: Most railroad workers and warehousemen had already ceased work because of changed employment conditions, and truck drivers had hardly any breaks to enjoy the game.
Michael Hieslmair and Michael Zinganel
In the former cafeteria of the Panalpina company, Michael Hieslmair and Michael Zinganel traced the premises’ history of use in the form of a multimedia timeline from flood area to terminus and from the grounds’ intermediate use for a skiing hall and National Socialist propaganda events to a modern trading center.
A multifaceted accompanying program addressed the area’s visitors from neighboring districts and the culture-loving public.
The project was to confront Vienna’s inhabitants with the history of a special location in the city before its demise. The Northwestern Railway Station is no cold anthropological non-place without a history; it was a significant backstage for supplying the city with goods and a crucial hub for all agents whose work helped to guarantee the functioning of Vienna.
STADT IN BEWEGUNG (CITY ON THE MOVE) was conceived and organized by Tracing Spaces. Institute for Artistic and Scientific Research and supported by KÖR Kunst im öffentlichen Raum Wien.
Tracing Spaces project space, Ladestraße 1, 1200 Vienna
lives and works in Vienna (AT)
Helmut und Johanna Kandl
*1953 in Laa/Thaya (AT)
*1954 in Wien (AT)
live and work in Vienna (AT) and Berlin (DE)
*1965 in Münster (DE)
lives and works in Berlin (DE)
*1984 in Cologne (DE)
lives and works in Vienna (AT)
*1976 in Innsbruck (AT)
lives and works in Vienna (AT)
*1964 in Diez (DE)
lives and works in Berlin (DE)
Michael Hieslmair und Michael Zinganel
*1974 in Linz (AT)
*1960 in Bad Radkersburg (AT)
live and work in Vienna (AT)
STADT IN BEWEGUNG. Zum Abschied eines Logistik-ArealsTracing Spaces
January to November 2017
project space and exhibition
Saturday, Sunday 11am-3pm
interventions and parcours
Saturday, Sunday, holidays 11am-8pm
Guided tours upon appointment and at every event on the area.