Gestures of exploration : : Strolling & Scrolling

How do artists relate to digital archives of historical library documents? How do artworks based on these archives reflect the specific essence of these documents?
For the ONB Labs Web Residency 2022 two artists engaged with two selected digital collections. We are proud to present the artworks in our virtual Artspace.

Preview of artworks from Sînziana Păltineanu (left) and Ida Westh-Hansen (right)

For the scope of fostering creative use of digital library collections the ONB Labs ran a second art program for the ODL project. The ONB Labs team decided again for the format of a Web Residency, launching an open international call at a time of ongoing Covid restrictions.

The residency program

The residency program was an open call, open for everybody to hand in applications. The ONB Labs asked applicants to send a portfolio and a project idea. The Vienna school for poetry (schule für dichtung) supported us with disseminating the call and finding Heike Fiedler as additional juror for the selection process. Seth Weiner, who already accompanied the first Web Residency as curator, selected the residents together with Heike and the Labs Team. He gave advice throughout the whole process, especially on the possibilities of the Web browser for interactive presentation.
Each ONB Labs Web Residency offered a budget for the implementation of the project, service from the Labs Team and the advisor, as well as publication of the artwork in the ONB Labs Artspace and promotion.

The data

For the 2022 Web Residency the Labs team chose two rather distinct datasets, a collection of approximately 5.000 aerial photographs from the early 1930s and historical issues of the newspaper “Wiener Zeitung” dating from 1703 to 1882. The aerial photographs were subject of public engagement in a former crowd sourcing project, where users were invited to tag and evaluate locations and types of landscapes and settlements. Though the type of material is rather specific, we felt that these representations of landscapes from the past were a good starting point for artistic engagement. In order to counterbalance the visual material of the photographs we chose the “Wiener Zeitung” for its textual richness. Founded in 1703 as “Wiener Diarium”, the newspaper reported on “everything worthy of note / that has happened from day to day / in this imperial city of Vienna itself / as well as from other places from all over the world.” We wondered whether both collections were too specific for an international call, but the applications handed in showed that the question of relevance (what is relevant to whom and why?) of specific library documents brings unforeseen answers when these resources are opened for creative usage. Therefore, we did not pose any restrictions on the topics.

Video arrangement of Web Residency artworks

The projects

We received a range of very different applications, among them poetic and more text based projects, performative projects or even craftwork projects.

Thunder and lightning

The two ONB Labs Web Residency artists for 2022 were Sînziana Păltineanu and Ida Westh-Hansen. The Berlin based writer and researcher Sînziana Păltineanu worked on the intersection of fiction and history writing with her “multilingual interactive fiction” Thunder and lightning. Records of a passing snowstorm on the first Wednesday of the New Year. From the collection of historical issues of the Wiener Zeitung Sînziana selected the first issue of each year and crafted a serendipitous narrative by combining English, German and Romanian. The reader reaches a junction with each click that leads to unforeseeable turns, one time a text snippet taken from the Wiener Zeitung, next time a picture, one time a curious “fact” as reported in the newspaper, next time something to take away your imagination like “eodem ants”.

What the artist said:

“Being part of the Web Residency program at the Austrian National Library was a truly delightful experience. I had long wanted to find the time to craft an interactive fiction, when the occasion arose this year in spring at the ONB Labs. I thought it was fabulous that I could carry out my work in connection to such an experimental library lab. The team at the ONB Labs and the jurors created a space to virtually meet, offered constant support and insightful feedback throughout the months I spent researching and crafting this multilingual piece. I’m most grateful and also so excited that the artwork has just been released – I hope that it will be meaningful to many kinds of readers.”
(Sînziana Păltineanu)

Boon Scrolling

The Vienna based Danish artist Ida Westh-Hansen chose a selection of aerial photographs to combine them with snippets taken from her personal image stock to random collages. With every scroll a new setting appears, an ephemeral setting, because the visitor nevers gets back to the same setting again. The artwork titled Boon Scrolling reflects on the explorative gesture of scrolling while critically adressing the phenomenon of doom scrolling. Boon – i.e. a thing that is helpful and benificial – is meant to become the counterpart of doom.
What is also special about Ida’s work are the traces of the physical in the digital artwork. She literally cut out shapes from copies of the photographs chosen and tranferred the physical collages into the digital again. Sophie (ONB Labs/ ODL) also had the “boon” opportunity to visit Ida at her studio getting an insight into the making of Boon Scrolling.

Both artworks are based on specific documents taken from a library collection, but at the same time they are reflections on gestures of the digital human.

Visit the artworks at our ONB Labs Artspace and let yourself be taken away!