This was the second ArtScience Residency

Migration and displacement pose some of the biggest humanitarian challenges of our time. The winner of this year’s ArtScience Residency enabled by Art Collection Deutsche Telekom, Irakli Sabekia, addressed the issues of spatial justice in his project the “Archive of Spatial Knowledge”.

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The archive’s first volume, presented during the Ars Electronica festival 2022, focused on the Russian-occupied territories of Georgia, where villages and towns were deliberately erased from the landscape, leaving no trace of the communities of former residents displaced as a result of the war.

Archive of Spatial Knowledge” is a digital platform dedicated to collecting and preserving the spatial and social memory of individuals who have been forcefully displaced and denied spatial rights. Its main tool is a mobile application called Space Reader, which allows archive’s contributors to attach written memories of their former communities and living environments to the original locations in a virtual layer. Using this tool, the archive creates a protected pool of knowledge overlaid on the physical landscape in which the erased narratives can be preserved and accessed by the archive’s viewers, enabling them to juxtapose the hidden stories and the reality of the physical spaces.

At the exhibition, visitors were introduced to the project’s online platform and the Space Reader mobile application. In the spatial installation of the archive, narratives erased from their original locations were brought into the exhibition environment in the shape of defensive barricade structures, allowing stories to claim the space at the presentation and inviting the viewers to engage with them.

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Let us give you an insight into the different phases of the project:

The Sustainable AI Lab at the University of Bonn became this year’s science partner for the very first time. Prof. Dr Aimee van Wynsberghe and her wonderful team supported Irakli’s research with their expertise in ethics and technology. The exchange started with online sessions, followed by one-week in-person collaboration at the lab in Bonn.

On June 9th 2022 the first findings were presented to the public at the event User Manual for Digital Humanists: ArtScience Special in the Headquarter of Deutsche Telekom in Bonn. Later, on the Shared Experience Lab podcast, Irakli gave further insight into the project’s progress in the conversation with Laura Welzenbach and Sabina Suru. Finally, during the festival days in Linz, together with Christian Rauch, Robertina Šebjanič and Marjan Žitnik, Irakli and Aimee talked about their residency experience at the Ars Electronica Festival Panel Residency. But How?.

Photo showing Christian Rauch (DE), Irakli Sabekia (GE), Aimee Van Wynsberghe (CA), Marjan Žitnik (HR) and Robertina Šebjanič (SI) during their Panel Discussion on STARTS Day. Photo: Philipp Greindl

In between these events, Irakli travelled to Georgia for his research to meet the contributors of the platform in person. He edited a selection of nine stories to showcase diverse perspectives, composing the archive’s first volume. In September 2022, at the Ars Electronica Festival, “The Archive of Spatial Knowledge”, with its mobile application and website, opened to the public for the first time. This is only the beginning of a long-term research project which touches on a highly topical issue. Committed preserve the memory of the displaced communities, the project aims to explore the urgencies of spatial justice in the region and beyond.

This artwork was created with the support of the Creative Industries Fund (NL) in 2021, and during the ArtScience Residency, enabled by the partnership of Ars Electronica and Deutsche Telekom and the Sustainable AI Lab at the University of Bonn in 2022.