“Lungs” is a memorial to the 4,500 slave labourers that worked in Hall A of the former Deutschen Waffen und Munitionsfabriken A.G. during the Second World War (now the main exhibition hall of ZKM). By computing the vital lung capacity of these forced workers, the program emits their last breath of air.
The “Lungs” project is based on ways of bridging the gap between the perception of data and social experience. The aim is to take computer records of local events or communities that have been reduced or demeaned to the status of information and to allow the people to re-experience and/or recover their own value. The term “Lungs” refers to the technique of giving a database a pair of lungs by calculating the human lung capacity that is represented by the individuals in that dataset and “breathing out” the result through an audio system. This method of crossing a software machine with a human machine was here implemented as a software memorial to the slave labour that worked in the ex-munitions factory in Karlsruhe, Germany.
With thanks to the Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe for providing us with anonymous data about these former forced labourers. The data base containing records of over 57,000 foreign workers was set up in 2000 to help answer enquiries from affected persons and from the foundation "Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft" (Recollection, Responsibility and Future). Many of the entries have still not been historically reappraised even to this day, nor have the individual fates of labourers been appropriately acknowledged.
“Lungs: Slave Labour” was first exhibited at the “Making Things Public” show at ZKM, Karlsruhe, 20th March – 3rd October 2005. It has since been purchased for their permanent collection “Masterpieces of Media Art”.