From November 2017-January 2018, Tatum attended an artist residency with the Leipzig International Artist programme in Leipzig, Germany. During his time in Leipzig, he created new paintings. These works were made with liquid graphite and acrylic placed on paper and acetate cut-out forms. The paintings were placed on wallpaper collected from hardware stores in Leipzig. The cut-out forms in the paintings are arranged upwards and turn into hybrid creatures and combine aspects of tropical plants, human faces and human appendages.
The paintings were inspired by a narrative Tatum discovered while living in Leipzig. He discovered that during GDR (German Democratic Republic) times, many contract workers from Cuba were brought to Leipzig to fulfill temporary work placements within factories and other industries. The Cuban contract workers were brought to Germany as part of a trade agreement between GRD Germany and Cuba. This agreement assigned Cuban contract workers to live and work within German factories-like the Spinnerei- for fixed salaries, and they were discouraged from intermixing with the German public. After the trade agreement was removed, the Cuban contract workers were uprooted from their locations in Germany and sent back to Cuba. Tatum became concerned with the negative outlook of this narrative. The act of diaspora created from the design of contract workers caused the Cuban people to be bartered into unfamiliar locations like trading goods. He felt that this act was a result of a very complex social order in GDR Germany, and he wanted to address the previous existence of these contract workers within the historic Spinnerei complex. Therefore, he attempted to address the existence of these contract workers by painting multiple hybrid creatures that were placed on the wall of the Spinnerie complex and combined together to make a tropical mural.
Tatum’s mural responded to the contract worker narrative by using hybrid, tropical creatures to challenge the industrial format of the Spinnerie and turn it into a tropical space. Moreover, the creatures were also made to be portable painting objects that travel after their initial presentation in Leipzig. Tatum designed the paintings to disassemble into various parts and travel lightly within a 61x77x15cm box. The creatures are adaptable and will shift their orientation when reassembled in new locations. The temporary manner of the creatures allow them to make a tropical mural that displays a unique presence, yet it is not fixed to any one location. Instead, they move quickly and are defined by their transportation. The portability and temporary state of the creatures make them similar to the designed roles of the Cuban contract workers whose presence they represent.