Which things do we keep, and which do we give away? An object’s practical or emotional value is not the only factor in this decision. We also need to consider the amount of space available—especially in the city, where storage in our own homes is an increasingly scarce resource. With traditional storage spaces, such as attics, disappearing and rent increases putting larger apartments out of reach, we’re faced with the question: where can we put these ever-multiplying things?
One option is “self storage”—flexible rented warehouse units that are accessible almost around the clock. The self-storage business model, which was developed in the USA in the 1960s, is still relatively new in Austria. But since the first self storage was opened in Vienna twenty years ago, both supply and demand have been increasing rapidly even here.
The exhibition “Where Things Live” inquires into the reasons and context for this trend—and into the kinds of people who use these new spaces and their reasons for doing so. What does the self-storage phenomenon tell us about contemporary urban development? What roles are played by fast-paced lifestyles and growing demands for mobility and flexibility? And what visions, plans and major life events are reflected in people’s use of self storage?
The heart of the exhibition comprises portraits of Viennese self-storage users and their warehoused “treasures”—from the family archive to the “off-site wardrobe”. They tell not only of personal strategies to deal with lack of space and the flood of things, but also of objects’ significance for their owners’ life-stories and identities.