January 2018
Artistic Research
The Anthropocene Surge

The Anthropocene Surge — evolution, expansion and depth of Vienna's urban environment

The term Anthropocene is widely used today, and has become the epitome for human-driven global change. In the geosciences, it stands for human intervention in geological processes and the traces left by humans in sediment records. From the perspective of the humanities and the arts, current (post-)anthropocene debates question changing narratives and relations of terms like “culture“ and “nature“.

On this basis, researchers of both the University of Vienna and the University of Applied Arts Vienna, under the direction of the sedimentologist Michael Wagreich, are mapping, quantifying and contextualising Vienna’s anthropogenic layers of rubble, and thus contributing to the current debate regarding a new geological era.

The interdisciplinary research project works with different methods from various fields. On the one hand, the spatial and chronological development of the Anthropocene from the ancient Romans until today is implemented into a GIS (geographical information system) and reconstructed as a three-dimensional model using historical maps and existing databases such as drill core data, respectively data from the Viennese Urban Archaeology Division. One challenge here lies in how to render blind spots through spatial interpolation methods, where no real data is available.

On the other hand, the increase in anthropogenic influence is investigated by geochemical methods. To characterise and differentiate the layers in the sedimentation archive, samples are examined for their heavy metal content to be able to draw material-based time horizons.

Parallel to this, the visual artist Katrin Hornek is working on an essay film that maps the fabric of Vienna’s anthropogenic underground in terms of space, time, mass, sprawl, history and accumulation rates of both the physical strata and their digital representative. As a result, the digitalisation process of Vienna’s sub-surface is followed into a geo-referenced landscape modeled in 3D — from the physical sample to its data record, from terrestrial body to avatar, from location to geo-location. Points of contact between the analog and digital domains are analysed in order to trace potential correlations and proliferating networks they may have formed.

Principal Investigator: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Michael Wagreich, University of Vienna Co-Principal Investigator: Univ.-Ass. Mag.art. Katrin Hornek, University of Applied Arts Vienna, Dept Site-Specific Art Team members: Mag. Mag. Kira Lappé, Maria Meszar MSc , University of Vienna

Project duration: Jan 01, 2018 – Dec 31, 2021 Cooperation partners: Municipal Dept 29 Foundation Engineering — Christine Jawecki, Urban Archaeology Division, Vienna — Martin Mosser, Geological Survey of Austria — Clemens Porpaczy, University of Vienna — Erich Draganits, Matt Edgeworth (Department of Archaeology & Anthropology, University of Cambridge)

Funding: WWTF, Emerging Field Grant (Faculty of Earth Sciences, Geography and Astronomy)

Image: Gerrit Coetzee (hackaday.com)


Images: Katrin Hornek