Connecting Eastern Europe (Bratislava) to Vienna, the project TRAM is both a contemporary art gallery and a cultural center. To learn more about this travelling gallery and to announce their partnership with viennacontemporary 2018, we interviewed with the curator Juraj Carny.
Day Ticket reduced: 9.00 euro
Visitors with a TRAM train ticket receive reduced ticket prices.
TRAM Juraj Carny portrait. Photo Lenka L. Kukacovicova
VC: How does the TRAM project work? Is it a social project, a market gallery or a cultural center?
Juraj Carny: TRAM is a gallery and cultural center but at the same time a social project. The gallery, concert hall or cinema is normally visited voluntarily and the visitor can escape whenever he or she wishes. The situation in a train is completely different. Sitting in trains is not our usual goal as we want to be somewhere else and with someone else. On the other hand, for tourists, travelling is already part of the experience and visits to galleries are usually included in their plans. Art train TRAM operates 8-11 times per day as a regular ÖBB/ZSSK train between Hauptbahnhof Wien and Hlavna stanica Bratislava. The main idea was to commemorate common histories of Austrian-Slovak relations by means of cultural projects and to point to anniversaries, which we celebrate in 2018. The idea for this project came from Martin Sturm from OK Centrum Linz and the initiator was Helfried Carl, an Austrian ambassador in Slovakia.
How do you think the experience of travel will be like in the future?
Pressburger Bahn or Vienna Tram, as we call it in Slovakia, was planned at the end of the 19th century and has been operating since 1914. Nowadays the connection between Hauptbahnhof Wien and Main Station Bratislava is still not fully electrical. When I heard about the possible connection of our two cities for the first time by the start-up project Hyperloop, my fascination was likened to the fascination towards the initial tram at the beginning of the 20thcentury. Elon Musk would shorten the travel from the current 1 hour and 6 minutes to just 8 minutes, therefore making Vienna and Bratislava one city. But it is obvious today that there won’t be any Hyperloop. However we can look forward to travelling for only 43 minutes, which was recently realised by ÖBB. My personal preference is exploring places via virtual reality, which I would not be able to see. I believe that time capsules will be the best way to travel in the future.
TRAM exhibition Connections migrantas.org
How does the project TRAM add to the discourse of travel, cross-border migration and cultural exchange in light of current anti-migration sentiments in Europe and in many parts of the world?
During communism, dogs on the border between Austria and Czechoslovakia bit people. If you decided to cross the border, they would rather have killed you. The period of “open borders” after the Velvet Revolution has been relatively short and today we are confronted once more with the questions, which we have meanwhile stopped asking. All of us have had experiences with economic migrants. Those who travel the world and seek jobs and who have definitely moved away from their countries. In this particular case, our own principles have mysteriously stopped.
What is the role of culture and cultural projects in fighting for the future of our region and the whole world? Stephan Zweig, an Austrian writer, was asked before his tragic death what he and his colleagues could have done better to prevent Europe from terrible world wars. His answer was clear: cultural exchange and cooperation. The fear of the unknown has radically changed the preferences of voters not only in Central Europe. In the past, information was spread through institutions, which kept the information secure. Today everybody can experience Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame on the internet and social networks. Opinions have become more important than facts. The typical pub chat, which happened formerly behind the doors of pubs, can be found today in discussions under the articles of prestigious media.
That is why I am extremely fond of the cooperation with the artists who realize social projects. The important part of their work is research and the analysis of facts. Argentine-Berlin group Migrantas.org prepared for our art train TRAM a series of pictograms, which were created during workshops by migrants who reflected on their life stories. Daniela Krajčová interviewed the caretakers who travel regularly to work in Austria. Oto Hudec organized a trip to Vienna for Romani children from Eastern Slovakia and made a special guidebook from this trip. Kateřina Šedá, a social architect, prepared for us a Buskers Music Festival. In cooperation with the festival Fjúžn, refugees were travelling in our train and sharing their life stories.
What is TRAM’s biggest challenge right now?
Our challenge is the connection. I can see much more space in the interaction of both cities and of both countries in the train that is a symbol of the connection. I thought for a long time that Bratislava is not interesting for Vienna but I realized later on that Bratislava is paradoxically not interested in Vienna. We suffer from a mutual deficiency of knowledge of each other. That is why we prepared a special edition of the newspaper Denník N in German and Slovak for the passengers.
TRAM exhibition Connections Stano Masar. Photo: Lenka L. Lukacovicova
Could you explain some of the methodologies used by artists who have created work for TRAM and how they were able to reach an art audience beyond the white box of museums and conventional galleries?
The most important artistic strategy for me was participation. As a curator and together with artists, I was searching for new forms of participation – how could people participate and at the same time take something with them. So in the train you can find the poster of the Polish author Marta Kopyt, who won the international competition of the Train Cover Project. In the train, we distribute stickers of activist groups like Kundy Crew (Pussy Crew) “I am not racist but…”, postcards and poetic train tickets by Stano Masár. Gottfried Gusenbauer, director of Karikaturmuseum Krems, gave us the brilliant idea to exhibit works on Flip Books. The viewer leafs through the small book and watches the film. Tomáš Vaněk sprayed the cameras on the wall of the carriage for the safety of our exhibitions. Alena Foustková, at the entrance of the train, installed the photography of doorbells from Vienna and Bratislava in which she crossed out the names that remained in foreign language. Magda Stanová concentrated on the theory of travelling while Ivana Šáteková distributed original graphics of her work. Otis Laubert prepared the restaurant and sleeping car. Stano Masár created a special reservation system and also exhibited pictograms of the most expensive artworks in the history of art. Nicole Six and Paul Petritsch confronted works from the collection of Haus der Geschichte Österreich with objects found in the lost property of the ÖBB Office.
TRAM exhibition connections Ivana Šáteková, Lenka L. Kukacovicova
Suzanne Lacy coined the term “Social-practice art” and claimed, “What exists in the space between the words public and art is an unknown relationship between artist and audience, a relationship that may itself be the artwork”. How do you imagine the relations between the artworks and the audience of TRAM?
Most of the passengers in our art train TRAM prefer resting during their travels. They open a book or their notebook, mobile phone or they close their eyes. Three students (Magdalena Hubauer, Lukas Weithas and Anne Zühlke) and Brigitte Felderer from the department of Social Design at Universität für angewandte Kunst, Vienna decided to change this situation. They created an online project wagonwideweb.eu, which invites people to communicate with each other during their travels on the train. They can chat, share and leave behind their photographs or sound recordings.
My task as a curator was to design the space with the help of the artists. We were confronted with a never-ending list of limitations and restrictions. I realised that it is highly improbable that our viewers are regular gallery visitors. But the most important fact for me was to leave a strong impression through the audience’s interaction with art. What is missing in society today is critical thinking. I am aware that it is impossible to teach people how to think critically by one exhibition but I am convinced that we should never stop trying.
TRAM Kateřina Šedá buskers festival. Photo: Renata Cernayova
TRAM exhibition connections Tomáš Vaněk. Photo: Lenka L. Kukacovicova
What are your future visions for the project?
We initiated the cooperation with very interesting partners, namely OK Centrum in Linz, Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien, Technisches Museum Wien, Haus der Geschichte Österreich as well as a cute museum in Schwechat called Eisenbahnmuseum. We decided to start a long-term project based on artist interventions in the museum collections and in Schwechat. The Pressburger Bahn exhibition is still running in the Technisches Museum Wien but what is most important is that contact between artists and curators remain.
The TRAM is about connecting
Connecting passengers travelling in the train filled with art, and also connecting places, countries and people. Step by step, we´ve been redesigning one train into a gallery. We invited visual artists to create art works, which should break your everyday routine and banality of travelling. We would like to talk with you about travelling, the jobs, you commute to, migration, the topics, which used to connect us in the past, and also about our common future. Feel free to become part of the intellectual game! We invite you to think critically and share your perspectives on who we are and where we are heading.
TRAM is a contemporary art gallery and cultural centre operating regularly as an ÖBB/ZSSK train between central stations in Vienna and Bratislava. The title refers to the historical Vienna tram (in German Pressburger Bahn), which has been connecting Vienna and Bratislava since 1914.
TRAM Cultural Centre is providing space called “Chat Point” for discussions, presentations and lectures by special guests (every Wednesday evenings), while on the other days this space is available for unmoderated discussions of passengers. For the TRAM centre, social architect Kateřina Šedá prepared a Buskers music festival, and Zuzana Godálová from Nástupišťe 1-12 and Rokko Juhász initiated 2 performance festivals.
TRAM was initiated by the Austrian Embassy Bratislava the Austrian Cultural Forum and the Curatorial Studies Institute in cooperation with ÖBB and ZSSK
Save the Date
27–30 September 2018
Marx Halle Vienna