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Metaphor: Universal Boat


Walker Art Center



Institution Walker Art Center
In his work, Kcho often uses the contour of the boat as a metaphor for the physical and diplomatic isolation of his native Cuba. Like Cuba, a boat can be considered an island. Though the boat has multiple possibilities of direction, destination, and time, the books that make up Obras Escogidas speak equally to its many impossibilities. It is literally a boat that cannot float.

Since ancient times and in many cultures, the boat has served as an artistic and literary metaphor for real and spiritual journeys.

Placed in the tomb of a deceased noble or government official, this object faithfully represents the vessels used in daily life for fishing and for transportation on the Nile. A model boat enabled the deceased to make a pilgrimage by magical proxy to the city of Abydos, the cult center of the god Osiris.

Cultures around the world and throughout history have used boats as a means of migrating across water. The shape and function of boats is universal and cuts across cultural and geographic boundaries. Moroccans use a type of vessel they call pateras to cross the Strait of Gibraltar to Spain. When Kcho mounted a work in Madrid, Spain, many mistook him for Moroccan because the shape of the boats in his work resembled the pateras. In Korea, he exhibited a work called Para Olvidar (To Forget), a Korean ship made with Korean materials. "If you look at it and don't read the name of the artist," the artist explains, "you may think it was made by anyone, even someone from Korea . . . ."

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Type: Commentary, online content
Source: Metaphor: Universal Boat, from the website Global Positioning: Exploring Contemporary World Art, 2003.
Rights: Copyright 2003 Walker Art Center
Added to Site: March 1, 2009