The central questions of the project had investigated how formal and informal nodes of transnational mobilities along the major road corridors in the triangle between Vienna, Tallinn, and the Turkish-Bulgarian border had been redeveloped and transformed since the fall of the Iron Curtain and the expansion of the European Union, and how these nodes, which others might perceive as typical non-places, are appropriated and transformed by mobile people into intimate anchors in the everyday lives of their multi-local existences.

Our toolkit of methods comprised the strategy of embedded research, which involved driving these routes ourselves in a mobile lab, performing interviews and mapping exercises at relevant sites along our paths, realising artistic interventions in public spaces, academic workshops, and exhibitions in Tallinn, Sofia, and Vienna, and trying to make both objects and subjects ‘speak’. This led to a continual rhythm of research, dissemination, and re-evaluation taking place almost simultaneously.

The aesthetic quality of the large-scale mappings and exhibited objects readily attracted people with different qualifications and backgrounds, and the universal readability of the visual languages we applied enabled them to easily join the project and bring their own individual mobility expertise. Hence, we were able to gain respect in the fields of mobilities research, arts-based research, urban studies, and from the many mobile subjects we encountered.


Push and pull factors


The selected case studies were characterised both by a variety of push and pull factors and different effects. In Tallinn a transnational road corridor changes into a ferry line. The driving forces for the enormous volume of passengers and cars between Tallinn and Helsinki was the radical difference of wages and the price of services and consumer goods in both countries. The rhythm of the arriving and departing ferries therefore has an enormous effect on the city – especially alongside the beaten paths of the tourists, where shops and kiosks pop up and close down on demand and buses, taxis, and cycle rickshaws wait for customers at the harbour terminal, the entrance to the Old Town, and the major malls. Alcoholic drinks can be pre-ordered in packages so one does not lose time. According to the harbour manager, alcohol drives the economy – while deprived Russians provide cheap labour and affluent Russians invest in real estate developments.

Additionally, Bulgaria had been a traditional transit nation: the important road corridor passing through Bulgaria and connecting Western Europe with Turkey and the Middle East offered chances for all kinds of legal and illegal business. Once the base of SOMAT, one of the biggest transport companies in Europe in Cold War times, today Bulgaria is a typical outsourcing destination for Western European enterprises, especially for logistics industries that register daughter companies in the low tax country and exploit badly paid drivers. Unlike in the ‘glory days’ of old, drivers no longer have chances to supplement their low income with personal side businesses because of permanent GPS controls and open EU borders.

Vienna International Bus Terminal is a node for the arrival and departure of several generations of low-wage service workers and their relatives to and from the neighbouring Slavic countries as well as from Romania and Bulgaria. For many of them, buses are the preferred means of transport, not only because of the reasonable ticket prices but moreover because buses can bring them much closer to their target destinations and can also transport goods of significant size, which is important for small suitcase traders and for bringing gifts for family members and friends.

After the wave of refugees in autumn 2015 we refocused on migration management and border logistics, also learning that customs offices had been the main employers in all the border areas we passed through during our trips and that it had been the bureaucratic obstacles and the severity of border controls that increased the value of expertise in how to successfully pass them – whether legally or illegally. The economic interests of these local networks will keep these borders much more permeable than politicians might wish they were.


The notion of public spaces in transition


With regard to the issues in the call for ‘Public Spaces in Transition’, the key method of our project – driving along the PAN-European road corridors with our own vehicle – enabled us to recognise a wide variety of qualities of ‘publics’ and ‘places’ as well as the quite different ways of appropriation and the effects of urban transformation. This variety is exemplary in the three central case studies.

The area of Tallinn harbour was entirely closed off during the socialist period. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the harbour – formerly used for cargo of all sorts – was transformed into a passenger terminal for ferries and later also for cruise ships. The harbour is located on public ground and managed by the state. But because the terminal buildings represent a transnational border and are a high-risk target for terror attacks, they are highly controlled, like international airports. Although the ferry lines are run privately, they are seen as a means of public transport servicing tourists and commuters.

The network of the former state monopolist company SOMAT for transnational cargo transport in socialist Bulgaria was, of course, based on state-run facilities and infrastructure, which had also been used for the private side-businesses of the truck drivers. In the first period of transformation and privatisation a range of privately operated service stations and kiosks popped up along the main roads, which were appropriated for all kinds of business and social interaction. But with the expansion of the EU and large-scale infrastructure programs these smaller semi-formal nodes of interaction are being repressed by a new set of regulations.

Vienna International Bus Terminal has suffered a series of dislocations over time as it was increasingly shunned by public authorities because of its reputation since the 1960s as a harbour for labour migrants and since 1989 for shipping migrants from South-Eastern European countries. Managed by a private company, it is located today beneath a highway bridge on a piece of land owned by a 100-per-cent daughter company of the state. The buses and bus lines are owned by a variety of private companies, mainly from Eastern European destination countries, and again are considered by passengers to be public lines. Although privately run, this terminal is accessible day and night.


Reflection on methods


Developing methods to engage fluidly with ongoing mobile practices on the roads, at borders, and at the transport nodes of Europe, both by being on the road and through the use of drawing as a means of elicitation and conversation, did not always work as fluidly as we imagined. Driving the corridors opened our eyes to so many spaces worth investigation. But the tight schedule did not allow us to stop wherever we desired, and if we stopped we had to painfully decide to ignore or dismiss most of these spaces. Drawing also required much more time for preparation than expected. It could not be practised at each place and in the format we intended, and it was driven as much by our own curiosity and expectations as it was by the narrations of our onsite informants. If ‘maps were always arguments about the way the maps’ makers thought the world should be’ (Wood 2015, 306) then this entire presentation also reflects our selective way of wishful thinking about these spaces of transition.


The informal nature of our mobility and of our creative practice allowed us to get close to the people and infrastructures that use and facilitate a range of mobilities, including shipping, working, trade, and migration.

The size of our vehicle and trailer automatically predetermined the places where we parked or stayed overnight, at parking lots for lorries and TIR stops, protected areas for international truck drivers, where we were literally embedded in the social field of our research. But often we were identified as non-professionals or even absolute beginners, having a car not as heavily loaded as all the others, not knowing a thing about how to fill in papers and bribe border control staff or police officers. For us, being stopped in a control for legal or criminal reasons (by official border control, by police officers gaining extra money into their private pockets or, even, by fake officers), what otherwise would be an embarrassing interruption of a trip, became an exciting subfield of research. And even the seemingly endless time spent driving the pan-European corridors was not considered ‘dead time’ in our minds but rather a productive period for rediscussing and re-evaluating interim research findings and for improving and preparing methods for conversation and elicitation to be applied at the next stop.


While we investigated how other people are ‘doing with space’ at these nodes and what these spaces are doing with them, we became aware of how we ourselves were ‘doing with space’, what it does to us in return and to the people we invited to join us: whether while driving, selecting the nodes to stop at, setting up the mobile display at specific places, performing while drawing, or dramaturgically arranging the relations of objects and people in workshop spaces, for interventions in public space, and also for exhibitions.


The transition of the eastern frontier of Europe, a place of becoming, with borders changing and new roads implemented, is a blurred, unstable space marked by mobility and informal activities, which can only be traced and investigated with the means of mobile strategies – such as nomadic ethnography, whose field works are the nodes where this hidden world becomes temporarily tangible. By exploring interconnections between the personal and the geopolitical, this project demonstrates the spatial and historical complexities of European networks, and it has become particularly timely with regards to migration management, the threat of new/old borders brought about by the restrictive policies of Eastern European nations, and Brexit, the prospective withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.


Reflections on research experience, methods, and interim findings



Abrams, Janet, and Peter Hall, eds. 2006. Else/Where: Mapping New Cartographies of Networks and Territories (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press)


Augé, Mark. 1995. Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (New York: Verso)


Bauman, Zygmunt. 2000. Liquid Modernity (Cambridge: Polity Press)


Benigni, Federica, and Marika Pierdicca. 2016. ‘Keep Moving! Strategien der Wegmobilisierung als Teil des italienischen Migrationsmanagements’, TRANSIT 10.2 <> [accessed 22 September 2017]


Bittner, Regina, Wilfried Hackenbroich, and Kai Vöckler, eds. 2006. Transiträume: Transit Spaces, Edition Bauhaus 19 (Berlin: Jovis)


Brunnbauer, Ulf. 2005. ‘The Town of the Youth: Dimitrovgrad and Bulgarian Socialism’, Ethnologia Balkanica, 9: 91–114


Brunnbauer, Ulf. 2010. ‘Dimitrovgrad: Eine sozialistische Stadt in Bulgarien’, in Marie-Janine Calic and Thomas Bohn (eds), Urbanisierung und Stadtentwicklung in Südosteuropa vom 19. bis zum 21. Jahrhundert (= Südosteuropa-Jahrbuch, Bd. 37) (Munich: Kubon und Sagner), 197–222

Büscher, Monika, and John Urry. 2009. ‘Mobile Methods and the Empirical’, European Journal of Social Theory, 12.1: 99–116


Corner, James. 1999. ‘The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention’, in Denis Cosgrove (ed.), Mappings (London: Reaktion Books), pp. 213–52


Crang, Michael. 2001. ‘Rhythms of the City: Temporalised Space and Motion’, in Jon May and Nigel Thrift (eds.), Timespace: Geographies of Temporality (London: Routledge), pp. 187–207


Cresswell, Tim. 2010. ‘Towards a Politics of Mobility’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 28.1: 17–31


Cresswell, Tim, and Peter Merriman, eds. 2011. Geographies of Mobilities: Practices, Spaces, Subjects (Farnham, UK: Ashgate)


Crowley, David, and Susan E. Reid, eds. 2002. Socialist Spaces: Sites of Everyday Life in the Eastern Bloc (Oxford: Berg)


Czakó, Ágnes, and Endre Sik. 1999. ‘Characteristics and Origins of the COMECON Open-Air Market in Hungary’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 23.4: 715–37


Dalakoglou, Dimitris. 2017. The Road: An Ethnography of (Im)mobility, Space, and Cross-Border Infrastructures in the Balkans (Manchester: Manchester University Press)


Dandolova, Iskra. 2016. ‘Dimitrovgrade: La naissance d’une ville socialiste en Bulgarie’, SociologieS, Files, Espaces et transactions sociales, 16 June 2016 <> [22 September 2017]


Davčev, Vladimir. 1959. Dimitrovgrad (Sofia: Nauka i izkustvo)


Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. by Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press)


Edensor, Tim. 2010. ‘Introduction: Thinking about Rhythm and Space’, in Tim Edensor (ed.), Geographies of Rhythm: Nature, Place, Mobilities and Bodies (London: Ashgate), pp. 1–20


Foucault, Michel. 1986. ‘Of Other Spaces’, Diacritics, 16.1: 22–27


Grekova, Maya. 2012. ‘Society was Intensely Split and Strongly Politicised: An Interview with Hristo Tzvetkov. Dimitrovgrad, 03 October 2012’, [The Transition: Voices, Images, Memory] <> [accessed 22 September 2017]


Groß, Angélique. 2015. Die Bildpädagogik Otto Neuraths: Methodische Prinzipien der Darstellung von Wissen (Heidelberg: Springer)


Grubbauer, Monika, and Joanna Kusiak, eds. 2012. Chasing Warsaw: Socio-material Dynamics of Urban Change since 1990 (Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag)


Haberfellner, Friedrich. 2014. Interview by the authors with Friedrich Haberfellner, head and coordinator of Vienna International Bus Terminal, Blaguss travel and transportation company, 28 April 2014


Hägerstrand, Torsten. 1970. ‘What about People in Regional Science?’, Papers of the Regional Science Association, 24: 7–21


Hall, Colin Michael, and Alan M. Williams. 2002. Tourism and Migration: New Relationships between Production and Consumption (London: Kluwer Academic Publishing)


Harley, J. B. 1989. ‘Deconstructing the Map’, Cartographica, 26.2: 1–20


Harvey, David. 1989. The Condition of Postmodernity (London: Blackwell)


Harvey, Penny, and Hannah Knox. 2015. Roads: An Anthropology of Infrastructure and Expertise (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press)


Hüwelmeier, Gertrud. 2008. ‘Spirits in the Market Place: Transnational Networks of Vietnamese Migrants in Berlin’, in M. P. Smith and J. Eade (eds), Transnational Ties: Cities, Migrations, and Identities, CUCR Book Series 9 (New Brunswick: Transaction), pp. 131–44


Hüwelmeier, Gertrud. 2013. ‘Post-Socialist Bazaars: Diversity, Solidarity, and Conflict in the Marketplace’, Laboratorium: Russian Review of Social Research, 5.1: 42–66


Hüwelmeier, Gertrud. 2015. ‘From “Jarmark Europa” to “Commodity City”: New Marketplaces, Post-Socialist Migrations, and Cultural Diversity in Central and Eastern Europe’, Central and Eastern European Migration Review (CEEMR), 4.1: 27–39


Ingold, Tim. 2007. Lines: A Brief History (New York: Routledge)


Ingold, Tim. 2011. Redrawing Anthropology: Materials, Movements, Lines (Aldershot: Ashgate)


Keller, Felix. 2013. ‘Gesellschaft als Comic: Soziologie via Bilderzählung’, in Urs Hangartner, Felix Keller, and Dorothea Oechslin (eds), Wissen durch Bilder: Sachcomics als Medien von Bildung und Information (Bielefeld: Transcript), pp. 93–130


Kitchin, Rob, Chris Perkins, and Martin Dodge. 2009. ‘Thinking about Maps’, in Martin Dodge, Rob Kitchin, and Chris Perkins (eds), Rethinking Maps: New Frontiers in Cartographic Theory (London: Routledge), pp. 1–25


Klorek, Natalia, and Monika Szulecka. 2013. ‘Migrant Economic Institutions and Their Environmental Influence: A Case Study of Trade Centers Located in Wólka Kosowska’, in Analyses, Reports, Expertises (Warsaw: Association for Legal Intervention), no. 3


Konstantinov, Yulian. 1996. ‘Patterns of Reinterpretation: Trader-Tourism in the Balkans (Bulgaria) as a Picaresque Metaphorical Enactment of Post-Totalitarianism’, American Ethnologist, 23.4: 762–82


Konstantinov, Yulian, Gideon M. Kressel, and Trond Thuen. 1988. ‘Outclassed by Former Outcasts: Petty Trading in Varna’, American Ethnologist, 25.4: 729–45


Latour, Bruno. 1987. Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press)


Latour, Bruno. 2005. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press)


Lussault, Michel, and Mathis Stock. 2010. ‘“Doing with Space”: Towards a Pragmatics of Space’, Social Geography, 5.1: 11–19


Lynch, Kevin. 1960. The Image of the City (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press)


Mayerhofer, Wolfgang. 2016. Interview by the authors with Wolfgang Mayerhofer, Logistics Command, Head of Traffic and Transport, Major of the Austrian Armed Forces, 8 September 2016


Mörtenböck, Peter, and Helge Mooshammer, eds. 2015. Informal Market Worlds: The Architecture of Economic Pressure; Atlas (Rotterdam: NAI010 Publishers)


Mörtenböck, Peter, Helge Mooshammer, Teddy Cruz, and Fonna Forman, eds. 2015. Informal Market Worlds: The Architecture of Economic Pressure; Reader (Rotterdam: NAI010 publishers)


Neilson, Brett, and Ned Rossiter. eds. 2014. Logistical Worlds 1 (November) <> [accessed 20 February 2017]


Petrova, Velislava. 2010. ‘Take the Market Out of Sight!’, in Seminar_BG [En ligne], Issues, New Media, New Cultures, Old Cities – Selected Papers from 2009/2010, updated 24 May 2012 <> [accessed 6 October 2017]


Pozharliev, Lyubomir. 2016. ‘Collectivity vs. Connectivity: Highway Peripheralization in Former Yugoslavia (1940s–1980s)’, Journal of Transport History, 37.2: 194–213


Richardson, Tim. 2006. ‘Making European Spaces: New Corridors in Eastern Europe’, in Regina Bittner, Wilfried Hackenbroich, and Kai Vöckler (eds), Transiträume: Transit Spaces, Edition Bauhaus 19 (Berlin: Jovis), pp. 50–73


Roberts, Les, ed. 2016. ‘Deep Mapping and Spatial Anthropology’, Humanities, 5.5 <>


Rutten, Kris, An van. Dienderen, and Ronald Soetaert. 2013. ‘Revisiting the Ethnographic Turn in Contemporary Art’, Critical Arts: South-North Cultural and Media Studies, 27.5: 459–73


Schlögel, Karl. 2005. Marjampole oder Europas Wiederkehr aus dem Geist der Städte (Munich: Hanser)


Schlögel, Karl. 2009. ‘Die Ameisenhändler vom Bahnhof Zoo: Geschichte im Abseits und vergessene Europäer’, Osteuropa, 59: 53–60 


Sgibnev, Wladimir, and Andrey Vozyanov. 2017. ‘Assemblages of Mobility: The Marshrutkas of Central Asia’, in Philipp Schröder (ed.), Urban Spaces and Lifestyles in Central Asia and Beyond (London: Routledge)


Sheller, Mimi. 2011. ‘Mobility’, Sociopedia.isa <> [accessed 12 January 2016]


Sheller, Mimi, and John Urry. 2006. ‘The New Mobilities Paradigm’, Environment and Planning A, 38: 207–26


Sik, Endre, and Claire Wallace. 1999. ‘The Development of Open-Air Markets in East-Central Europe’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 23.4: 697–714


Sousanis, Nick. 2015. Unflattening (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press)


Stewart, Kathleen. 2014. ‘Road Registers’, Cultural Geographies, 21.4: 549–63


Tatzgern, Gerald. 2016. Interview by the authors with Gerald Tatzgern, head of the Central Service on Combating Alien Smuggling and Human Trafficking, Federal Ministry of the Interior, Federal Criminal Police Office, 8 September 2016


Tufte, Edward R. 1983. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press)


Urry, John. 2007. Mobilities (London: Polity)


Venkov, Nikola A. 2017. ‘Gentrification of the Women’s Market: The Construction of Urban Policies and Transformation of Local Relations’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Sofia)


Venturi, Robert, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour. 1972. Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press)


Vossoughian, Nader, ed. 2008. Otto Neurath: The Language of the Global Polis (Rotterdam: NAi)


Warsza, Joanna. 2009. Stadium X – A Place That Never Was – A Reader (Warsaw: Bęc Zmiana Foundation)


Wood, Denis. 1992. The Power of Maps (New York: Guilford)

Wood, Denis. 2015. ‘Mapping Deeply’, Humanities, 4.3: 304–318 <>


Zapfl, Gerhard. 2016a. Interview by the authors with Gerhard Zapfl, Mayor of Nickelsdorf, 18 March 2016


Zapfl, Gerhard. 2016b. Interview by the authors with Gerhard Zapfl, Mayor of Nickelsdorf, 8 October 2016


Zinganel, Michael, and Michael Hieslmair. 2013. ‘Stopover: An Excerpt From the Network of Actor-Oriented Mobility Movements’, in Sven Kesselring, Gerlinde Vogl, and Susanne Witzgall (eds.), New Mobilities Regimes in Art and Social Sciences (Aldershot: Ashgate), 115–134. For further works see [accessed 20 February 2017]


Zinganel, Michael, and Michael Hieslmair. 2015. ‘Test Run – Stop and Go: Mapping Nodes of Mobility and Migration’, in Judith Laister and Anna Lipphardt (eds), ‘Urban Place-Making between Art, Qualitative Research and Politics’, special issue, Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, 24.2: 117–27


Zinganel, Michael, and Michael Hieslmair. 2016. ‘Schwerpunkt: Korridore der Mobilität – Knoten, Akteure, Netzwerke’, in Dérive – Zeitschrift für Stadtforschung, 63 <> [accessed 20 February 2017]


Zinganel, Michael, and Michael Hieslmair. 2017. Road*Registers: Logbook of Mobile Worlds, exhibition catalogue (Vienna: Academy of Fine Arts)