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