Küba: Journey against the Current

Aboard the converted container barge Negrelli Turkish artist Kutluğ Ataman’s film installation Küba traveled 1,500 kilometers up the Danube River. A geografic space with specific social, political and cultural contexts unfolded; at each stop – in Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia – a new artwork specifically commissioned by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary was presented in dialogue with Ataman’s original installation.

Over two months “Küba” has been travelling on a barge motoring, against the current, up the Danube from the Black Sea to Vienna. As the boat docked in different cities along the river—Rousse in Bulgaria, Novi Sad in Serbia, Vukovar in Croatia, Budapest in Hungary and Bratislava in Slovakia—local artists exhibited new work that they made in response to Mr Ataman’s films. The result is a nomadic art project called “Küba: Journey Against the Current”: a dynamic dialogue between a travelling work of art and the artists it meets en route.

Küba is a community of men, women and children who live in one of the most notorious ghettos in Istanbul, a shantytown slum that started as a hideout for left-wing militants and other outsiders, refugees from the “East” in the 1960s. Since then it has developed into a cohesive society, a security zone presenting an impenetrable solidarity to the outside world and providing protection against violent assaults and political terror. Today, Küba consists of several hundred temporary refuges. The makeshift houses, built from scrap metal and soil, stand in the shadow of a twenty-first century megalopolis.

For Kutluğ Ataman, the stories of “Küba” are universal. They raise questions about how outsiders can fit into a dominant culture and create a conversation with viewers that compels them to respond to these dispossessed people as individuals, rather than as a mass of others. Mr Ataman believes the work should be seen outside the static space of a museum and is delighted that, now the barge has docked in Vienna.

Commissioned by Artangel, London, co-produced by Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York; Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna; Theater der Welt, Stuttgart; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

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