QWAS: Zurich-Almaty

Swiss-Kazakhstan exhibition

Vzletnaya art space

Exhibition dates: 08–17.09.2017 

Сurators: Peter Traenkle, Rada Leu (ZHdK)

Why take the train for a transcontinental journey in the age of cheap airtravel, transatlantic and transeurasian logistics and super-high-speed highways? Is it more than a mere means of transportation, still breathing the fumes of industrial progress or only a bothersome vehicle, steeped in romanticised notions of fleeting encounters and adventures?


The train carries not only passengers but also multiple ideas and meanings: the mythical, futurist steam engines that inspired writers like Zola, Verne or Tolstoy, that provided the basis for thought-experiments on relativity and connected long-fallen empires and continents, that gave humanity its first taste of automated acceleration and made long-distance travel possible.


The needle that sewed a path from the Silk Road to the Alps, a time capsule that preserves ancient habits, a relic from the industrial age – what might it mean for contemporary artists from two geographically distant and culturally different parts of the world?

We use the train as both a tool and a location – a third space, a platform not only for exchange but also for artistic research and interventions. It offers the possibility of exploring the passage through space, borders, time and contexts equally well as it is itself an object of inquiry. The travellers faced challenges due to the limitations of both physical and personal space, having to adapt to a pre-given rhythm and numerous encounters. By traversing the space between the two countries, the QWAS participants were invited to contextualise their own artistic perspectives on research topics such as migration, nomadism, mobility, identity politics, distance, mapping, borders, languages and other means of communication, experience of time and space, experiments and utopias. The train journey provided the setting for an experimental exploration of those topics.


Following a week-long workshop phase in Zurich, the QWAS artists boarded the train towards Berlin in Zurich. After nine days with various stopovers (in Berlin, Warsaw, Moscow and Turkestan) and many, many adventures, they finally arrived in Almaty. Whilst crossing various time zones, borders and languages barriers, cultures and habits, they set up artistic interventions, spoke to passengers from diverse backgrounds, recorded soundscapes, staged performances and documented their experience.

Lucien Wampfler

Claudia Stöckli

Gregor Vogel

Jana Vanecek

Marea Hildebrand

Anvar Musrepov

Leonid Khan

Dana Iskakova

Takhir Yakhyarov

Dilda Kulmagambetova

Anne-Laure Franchet

“QWAS – Migrating Dialogue” is a transcultural collaboration between the Zurich University of Arts (ZHdK) and the Eurasian Cultural Alliance (ECA) in Almaty, Kazakhstan. It organises an annual artistic exchange for young artists from both cites: Students of the ZHdK and the “School of Artistic gesture”. This year’s collaboration was the pilot project.


© 2018 by International festival of contemporary art ARTBAT FEST