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The New Municipal Library in Stuttgart
“Are you looking for your contact lenses or is that art?”

Screenshot from the video „Literatursitz“
Screenshot from the video „Literatursitz“ | Photo (detail): © Katharina Wibmer

The artist, Katharina Wibmer, has literally turned the new municipal library on Mailänder Platz in Stuttgart upside down. In her video installation, Die Biblioskopin, she explores the unusual building and, while doing so, she creates her own architectural fantasies.

By Ula Brunner

Actually, I do not have that much to do with books. I am more of a visual and auditory person, very curious and creatively enthusiastic. I have, however, of course, been very much aware of the new municipal library on Mailänder Platz ever since its opening in 2011. With its impressive architecture, it also attracts many tourists. The first time I experienced the view from the top of the four-storey, funnel-shaped staircase, I felt really dizzy. It reminded me of the pictures of M.C. Escher, with their impossible perspectives and optical illusions. The central interior is gleaming white, and I felt a kind of discrepancy between the sublime, cleanliness of the rooms and the books that have been through so many experiences. The impression was almost surreal. The whole building is a challenge.

Katharina Wibmer standing in front of the library Katharina Wibmer standing in front of the library | Photo (detail): © Katharina Wibmer The foyer of the municipal library houses what is known as Galerie b, an exhibition area with 16 monitors, which display the works of various artists over a certain period of time. In 2016 curator Johannes Auer asked me if I would like to exhibit there. I was free to choose the topic myself. Since I do not have my own studio and was fascinated by the library's rooms, I hit upon the idea of shooting a film there.

Querdenken, © Katharina Wibmer
I wanted to explore the architecture, see what effects it had on me from different perspectives, play with the theme of orientation. Although the library is purist in its design, it nevertheless seems so complex that it is initially difficult for users to find their way around.

I work experimentally and at first started to improvise, to look at spaces and things from new perspectives and to take the impression of a certain overload to the extreme. From the purely technical point of view, I worked a lot with mirroring and different camera positions.
Zeitungssitz, © Katharina Wibmer
Zeitungssitz, for example, was shot in the magazine corner of the library. In the video it looks as if the sofa is hanging upright on the wall. Newspapers seem to fly towards me. The whole thing is, of course, an optical illusion and although the viewer sees that the sofa in question is actually in front of the monitor on the floor, he has fallen into the perspective trap.

For an entire month, I went to the library early in the morning to shoot my film before it opened. It took me well over an hour to position the camera and then I only had an hour to film the scene. At times it took on acrobatic proportions as I moved my body over sofas, stairs and floors to get the right image for the shot. Sometimes the cleaners came over and asked, “Are you alright?”
Lesestufen, © Katharina Wibmer
For a scene in my Lesestufen video I had to clamber down a staircase on all fours. On seeing this, one of my co-workers said, “Are you looking for your contact lenses, or is that art?” For this video, I had various scenes of me shot on the stairs – either in a sitting position or moving in different directions. I mounted these clips in such a way that a new space was created, with staircases that were not actually possible from the architectural or perspective point of view.
Verstiegenheit, © Katharina Wibmer
Verstiegenheit came about on the huge roof terrace. Many young people go up there to take selfies. As young people these days are often looking for borderline experiences, I decided to turn the phenomenon into a thematic statement. In the video it looks as if I'm doing some breakneck aerial acrobatics. In fact, the shooting situation was not dangerous in any way at all. Again, it was up to the exhibition visitors to decipher this calculated misconception for themselves.

For me, the time I spent, so to speak, “working through”  the library was very intensely structured. In the morning I filmed, in the afternoon I did the viewing and cutting. I was like a researcher, fascinated and obsessed with my work. My family suffered, I was difficult to approach or talk to. Due to the project, my attitude to architecture changed. My form of sceptical respect turned into approval. I think that the generously appointed building endows the books with a certain dignity and enhances the reading experience.

Visitors in the Galerie b Visitors in the Galerie b | Photo (detail): © Katharina Wibmer The 16 loops, video clips of varying lengths, were then shown from September to November 2016 whenever the library was open. The staff told me it was one of the exhibitions that was most appreciated. Many visitors stood for quite a while in front of the videos, puzzling over what they could see and laughing a lot.
The video artist and musician, Katharina Wibmer, was born in 1966. Her artistic origins, however, go back initially to the world of theatre. With her video installations, she has been represented at international exhibitions and in 1997 she received, among other things, the Marler Video Art Award. From 21.9. until 26.11.2016 she showed her video installation Die Biblioskopin in the municipal library on Mailänder Platz in Stuttgart. Since October 2011, Stuttgart’s central library has been housed in the newly erected building of the municipal library on Mailänder Platz. The elegant cuboid building was designed by Korean architect, Eun Young Yi. The central element is an empty, completely white, four-storey room. The building provides space for half a million books and media over an area of 11,500 square meters.