Physical Existence

Who are we? Where are we? What connects us? What’s our story? One thing is for sure: Life in the city moves far away from nature. With our work we wanted to investigate our effect on nature in one key aspect – our sewer system. How does it affect nature? Where does it go? What is to be found there? We examined the whole system closely: Who is involved, where it originates, how it moves, where it goes, and how does it interact with untouched nature? The basic principle of this system is that water is taken from nature and (eventually) returned to nature after a chain of cleaning processes. Is there a difference between input and output?
In our research we examined three points of the Danube. The first point was located in the north of Vienna, the second one is located in the main centre of Vienna, and the third specimen was taken from the south of Vienna. The intention behind the selection of these points was to take a look on the Danube before, in-between, and after Vienna’s impact. Our hypothesis was that there would be major differences in the samples, as human effect is obviously present.

A secondary hypothesis of our work was that there would be “invasive aliens” – living forms that come from abroad and settle in the Danube basin of Vienna. We were able to evidence at least one of those “settlers”. What was most interesting is that the water from the Danube contains an amount of human hair. The highest peak of human hair was found in the inner-city sample. The least amount of hair was found at the southern-most sample. Hair was not found at the northern point, but the sample had a higher amount of microorganisms in return. The hair in the river shows that everyone is affecting the river; either he or she lives in the immediate region or is travelling through. With the hair we find a very intimate part of every human moving in that area, whether they were here today or many years ago. The Danube connects us in this strange physical way.
As a visual reaction to our research, the sculpture was created that relates to this connectedness. Flowing through the city, the river collects samples of every person residing near it. The Danube continues its way through Europe collecting more and more stories. Our whole genome lies within one hair, with that set of data almost every part of our body can be recreated. Ghosts of our physical existence haunt the river and prove our existence.


Fact Box

Physical Existence
January 24, 2011