Prague Lit Up by SIGNAL Festival
This past weekend, the city of Prague lit up, and not with its usual charming city lights. SIGNAL Festival, the most significant cultural event of the month in Prague, transformed classic landmarks and neighbourhoods into a sleek and exhilarating display of modern art installations. These installations displayed several European artists who combined elements of technology, unconventional materials, and most importantly, light.
As a first time visitor in Prague I was ecstatic that I would be able to attend the biggest cultural event in the city during my semester visit. On Thursday, I boarded the overflowing tram to the first exhibit on my list, Caryatids. This was perhaps the most dramatic exhibit of the festival, due its sheer size. French artist Yann Nguema video mapping installations transformed Namesti Miru, and the gothic cathedral St Ludmila into a massive video mapping piece. I stepped off my tram stop and shuffled through the crowd of hundreds to find a good spot to enjoy the show. Mindless chatter filled the air as we waited for the clock to strike 19:15, as the installation began every 15 minutes. The moment the minute turned, the entire square went dark, the distinct chatter turned to muted whispers and the music and projection began. Thousands of stones on the cathedral began to move in a choreographed manner, appearing to fall to the ground in a theatrical crash or turn into one another defying gravity and physics. The three-dimensional installation created an impossible illusion of the Cathedral changing its very form, all while matching the beat of the electronic, high tempo music. Nguema’s installation was, in my opinion, astonishing. The combination of precise and poetic movements used the fascinating technology of 3D mapping to transform one of Prague’s oldest historical landmarks.
After watching Nguema’s installation, I jumped on the tram to the next exhibits in Vinohrady. I was shocked by Kit Webster dramatic installation AXIOM, located in Jiřího z Poděbrad square. The installation combined interactive sculpture and digital light to form a sizeable geometric sculpture. The interactive installation of bright florescent lights flashed repeatedly, disorienting and surprising each viewer. With each flash, I’d refocus on the sculpture seeing it from a new perspective. The catalogue for the installation stated Webster’s desire to “create uncertainty among viewers as to what they are looking for - what they really are, and what is just a virtual projection.” (https://www.signalfestival.com/instalace/axiom/) Webster’s installation certainly provided uncertainty and the trend of abstract installations continued as I walked through Vinohrady.
Particularly shocking was an installation from Czech artist and musician Vladimir 518. The installation, Man Machine utilized several images to display the way men are embedded and forever linked to machines. The flashes of x-ray images, human limbs, skulls, and clips from television and entertainment displayed the conjunction of the two realities in a chilling and Avant-garde exhibition.
After experiencing the darker implications of technology with Man Machine, I was happy to move on to a warmer and more elegant installation. Submergence, a dazzling forest of lights by Squidsoup (UK), allowed viewers to walk through ropes of lights with more than 8,000 individual points. The lights changed colours and shape in a twelve-minute sequence, displaying the astonishing beauty technology can provide. I walked through the installation with a glass of hot wine in hand, in complete hypnosis by Squidsoup’s creation.
Throughout the weekend, I made my way throughout the city and experienced the rest of the exhibits. SIGNAL Festival provided thought-provoking and interesting installations that combined light, technology and modern art. However, my favourite part of the festival was the way it brought the city together in a way I had never seen before. Young adults, families with children, and the older generations alike flocked to experience and appreciate the massive art installations that took over Prague for a weekend.
Additional information provided by: www.signalfestival.com/program
Photography by Signal Festival, www.signalfestival.com/press