1070 unseen

with Alexandra Fruhstorfer, Lisa Hofer, and Johanna Pichlbauer.

128 times a week, doorbells ring across Vienna’s 7th municipal district.
Doors open to let in Caritas Heimhilfe (help at home) employees, who lend a helping hand with groceries, personal care, household chores – and sometimes, simply share a friendly chat over coffee. They catch glimpses of worlds hidden to passers-by.

With 1070 unseen, we chanced a  glance behind the curtains of the daily hustle and bustle in the busy district of Wien-Neubau:
we spent a summer accompanying employees of Caritas Heimhilfe on their daily assignments and getting to know their clients: people who aren’t able to leave their apartments due to reduced mobility, and can no longer fully participate in public life.

Recordings from these visits slowly merged into a collage of sound files, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the hidden nooks of the district: Wartime memories, thoughts about the future, anecdotes from everyday life – the unnoticed voices of the city have many a story to tell.

Objects borrowed from their apartments  create a connection between Heimhilfe clients and the outside world. The installation is currently on display at the Amerlinghaus, where visitors can listen to the fateful story of Mrs. Wolf’s shoes, find out what a “Donnerbalken” is with Mr. Melcher, or enjoy one of Frau Ullmann’s exquisite book recommendations.

We also set up a postbox next to the installation in a hope to establish real human connection (one of the great challenges of social design). The amount of visitors reaching out to the people whose stories they just listened to was astounding. We personally delivered the postcards as a surprise –  much to our participants awe (and amusement!).

What is the value of neighborship in urban communities? What role do caring professions play in times of anonymization and digitalization?
How can we acknowledge the needs of an aging population in our plans for urban futures?
The project offers an impulse to fuel the discussion about new forms of interaction within a community.

Here’s a video of our participants reading their fan mail:

We were awarded the Erste Bank Mehrwertpreis 2018, which aims to raise awareness for the potential of social design.

From the jury statement:
“The project successfully portrays the work of home helpers, the situation of care-dependent people and life behind the facade of the seventh district in a concentrated yet empathic way. Personalities come to light and stories can be experienced, a sense of
closeness develops without parading or crossing boundaries. The team approached the participants authentically, respectfully and with great esteem. The choice of artistic medium and the noticeable  presence of home helpers at certain times is touching,
the objects and the stories they represent are as ingeniously chosen as the sound material.”

You can listen to some of the stories and snippets here: