A Project on Art, Participation and Digital Spaces
There used to be a total of 2,115 forced labour camps of the Nazi regime in Austria, 372 of them in Lower Austria. However, many of these former camps are no longer (or hardly) visible as such because any material traces that there might have been were either removed, built over, or transformed. Many sites of former Nazi forced labour camps are now fields, residential areas, parks or leisure facilities, in other cases the buildings are still there but used for other purposes. Only rarely is the history of these locations still anchored in regional or local memory, which means that the residents are unaware of their past – not least because there are fewer and fewer witnesses of these historical events.
The many forgotten and hardly visible Nazi camps give rise to the question of how to deal with their dark heritage. It is the ambition of our project to answer this question. Based on the example of a granite quarry in Roggendorf/Pulkau, where prisoners of war from Soviet Russia as well as forced labourers from Poland and Ukraine and later Jewish forced labourers from Hungary were exploited, the project uses digital technologies to experiment with new artistic formats and ways of remembering, visualising and rendering visible forgotten places with painful histories. The local population is invited to participate in the project within the framework of a history workshop and to engage in dialogue with the scientific project team (from the University for Continuing Education Krems and the St. Pölten UAS). In other words, the citizens are involved in all processes as far as possible (participatory knowledge production).
Objectives and Methods
The project sees itself as an experiment with laboratory features in which art, science, digital / creative media technologies, and participatory knowledge production enter into dialogue with local communities and develop new digital organisational forms of a culture of memory together. It is hoped that the participatory involvement of local and regional project partners (such as the municipality of Pulkau, Krahuletz Museum Eggenburg, Museum Retz, and Museum Horn) and the on-site communities (the cultural society “Bildung hat Wert” and other associations in Pulkau such as the Bibliothek-Mediathek Pulkau) in particular will generate new artistic impulses.
The artists’ confrontation with the Nazi forced labour camp in Roggendorf is oriented towards the following focus areas:
- Sites of Nazi terror are to be rediscovered and new approaches and organisational forms developed on the basis of current digital tools. Historical events are to be preserved while forming an anchor point for retelling and passing on history.
- The “regional” sites (micro-history) of the Holocaust are to be made tangible and awareness is to be raised for the fact that the Shoah happened in the immediate vicinity of the places in question – the “Nazi camp on my doorstep”.
- There are also plans to create opportunities to involve the public on site. For this purpose, interested communities will be given digital tools to become active themselves and participate in the “visualisation” of the place.
The historical documentation, digital collection, digital tools, guidelines and tutorials as well as all other project results will be openly accessible and therefore made available to further cultural institutions and/or communities for the setup of digital spaces dealing with forgotten Nazi camps. In order to make access as easy as possible, we are planning to establish a digital project workspace with links to the websites of the project team’s and project partners’ institutions. Visitors of the participating museums will also be made aware of the project, the media work of the involved institutions will be communicated to the public, and the interested scientific community will be informed on the project results through contributions in art media and publication bodies in the involved scientific fields. Moreover, we are planning to provide new impulses through the publicity for and broad dissemination of project contents that serve as concrete inspirations for comparable initiatives in places that share a similar history.
Additional information (in German):
- Donau Universität Krems
- FH St. Pölten
- Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften
- Stadtgemeinde Pulkau
- Kulturverein Bildung hat Wert Pulkau
- Krahuletz Museum Eggenburg
- Museum Horn
- Museum Retz