A Windshield Tour Of Eastern Europe
The Cyber-Yugo team works on the interface.
By Andrew Moesel
What better way to experience the former Yugoslavian Federation than sitting in one of the country’s most recognizable products – even if it is one of the most universally reviled cars in automobile history?
A group of Eastern European artists called Raccoon, based in Long Island City, have embarked on a project called Cyber-Yugo, an effort to turn a dilapidated Yugo into a multimedia attraction and learning tool.
The team has outfitted a broken down Yugo with computer and visual technology to take passengers on a virtual ride through post-Yugoslav societies. A detailed geographic map will be projected on a wall in front of the car, and “riders” will use the steering wheel and pedals to move a cursor on the map and select locations.
The Yugo on its trip to Queens (l.) and its interior (r.)
When someone selects a site with the cursor, they will be taken to digital photographs and live Web cams of the corresponding region. There will also be links to educational resources to learn more about the different sites.
Because no ride is complete without a little music, the Cyber-Yugo will have a mock radio and cassette player that play media streams from independent radio stations in the former Yugoslavia.
Raccoon hopes the Cyber-Yugo will be transported to different museums around the country, educating students about the culture and conflict in post-Yugoslav societies.
Yugos were sold in the United States between 1985 and 1991, a byproduct of what at the time was a cordial diplomatic relationship between American and Soviet officials.
As the countries that contributed to the Yugo’s assembly began to feud, the quality of the car diminished. It soon gained the reputation as the worst car ever to be driven on American roads.
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That reputation made the car a kitsch phenomenon and inspired somewhat of a cult-like artistic following. In a project called Yugo Next, a professor at the Manhattan School of Visual Art rebuilt 39 dead Yugos into differently themed sculptures, eventually displaying the finished exhibition in Grand Central Station.
Raccoon admits that its project is rich in both nostalgia and irony. But the artists feel the easily recognizable symbol of this war-torn region portrays a strong metaphor for both struggle and resilience.
According to the 2000 Census, 90,345 people in Queens associate themselves with Eastern European ancestry, meaning they are from either Poland, The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, the Ukraine, or Yugoslavia. Of the entire group, Polish people are the largest in number with more than 21,000 in Queens.