Prague will lighten up
Signal festival will bring dozens of light artists to city for four days
Posted: October 9, 2013
A videomapping from French group 1024 Architecture, who will build a hypercube on Old Town Square.
Paris may be known as the City of Light, but soon Prague will be trying to lay claim to that title, if just for a few days. A festival called Signal will let Czech and international artists bring special projects to more than 30 locations spread across the city from Oct. 17-20. The projects will be as varied as the locations, ranging from videomapping with soundscapes to light sculptures made from unusual materials.
Videomappings in Prague aren't new; ones have been done in Old Town Square, náměstí Republiky and náměstí Jiřího z Podebrad. Lasers and other light sources project customized images tailored to fit the specific shape of the building and are synchronized to music and sound effects. The mapping can tell a story or just be a succession of designs. The people behind the previous ones in Prague, a group called the Macula, will bring the idea to the Church of St. Ludmila at náměstí Miru. Three other video mappings are in the festival, at Divadlo Hybernia, Arcibiskupský palác near Prague Castle, and Michnův palác.
One video projection - technically not a videomapping since it uses a blank wall instead of a specific building- is based on the work of a Czech abstract artist. "The name of the show is the 'Interpretation of Black and White Structures of Zdeněk Sýkora.' He is really an icon for us, and we will make an installation with video, lasers and sound all synchronized together," multitalented artist Vladimir 518 told The Prague Post. He and David Vrbík make up an artistic collaboration calling itself Spam.
Sýkora worked with circles, squares and triangles, Vladimir 518 said. "We are just using his ideas but we want to turn them into an audiovisual [show]. I spoke with him before he died and he was very curious about what could happen," he said.
When: Oct. 17-20
Where: Across the city; headquarters at náměstí Jana Palacha
Tickets: Most events free; nominal fees for workshops; cruises 699 Kč
Sýkora used mathematical formulas for his art, and those same formulas are being used for the images and music in the show. "The music is developing together with the pictures, so it is not the normal pop [music] sound. … It is experimental electronic contemporary music," he said, adding that the show runs about 20 minutes because visitors to the festival will want to see multiple shows in one evening.
At the other end of the festival's spectrum there are installations of pieces that more closely resemble sculptures. Artist Rony Plesl works with uranium glass "It is very special type of glass which is typical for me because I have been working with it for maybe 10 years," he said. The glass looks greenish-yellow and was popular in the baroque era. His installation will be at the Church of St. Martin in the Wall.
"If you use UV light together with uranium you can see very special light, a very special effect," he said. "In that church I would like to build a big figure [that is] a little bit of a symbol of a person," he said, declining to give more details. "I hope it will be a little bit different that the other projects because this chandelier will be there for all the time [of the festival]. You can see this project not only in the night; it is possible in the morning and all day," he said. While uranium is used in making the glass, the end result is not radioactive. "It is perfectly safe," he said.
The festival will be highly visible across the city, with the Metronome at Letná shooting laser beams up into the night sky, lights in the glass window of the Nová Scena of the National Theater, a lighthouse effect added to the Petřín Tower and other projects in Wenceslas Square, Old Town Square, the Můstek metro stop and other prominent locations. Some concerts with special effects inspired by Czech sci-fi movies are planned for Čertovka, the stream near the Charles Bridge, and there are lightship cruises.
For those who want to participate, energy giant ČEZ is setting up a hamster-style running wheel at Ovocný trh where people can see how much light their expended energy produces. A workshop will also teach people how to add programmable LEDs to their bikes, followed by a bike ride Oct. 17 from náměstí Jiřího z Podebrad.
Raymond Johnston can be reached at