Coming back for seconds: Prague Biennial number 2

Prague Biennial 2003

You might well remember the posters of an animated Mona Lisa all over Prague two years ago, advertising the city's first biennial. Two years on, and the sharpest among you will have already realized that another biennial is now due. Plans for this second biennial were unveiled on Wednesday, along with its title - fittingly, 'at second sight'. Rosie Johnston has more...

Tomas Vlcek is in charge of Prague's national gallery of modern art, and also heads the biennial committee; he tells me the significance of the event's name:

"Second sight or shifted identity stands for what is happening in art right now. Art is in a very different situation now, than it was at any point during the twentieth century. In the twentieth century, the ideal was to be 'avant-garde', to have something new and totally different. Now we know that there is no such thing as new idea. Modernity is somehow over, art is looking for second sight."

The biennial looks set to include around thirty different projects, with participants coming from as far afield as Iceland, Lebanon and South Africa. To try and get a small taster of what to expect, I asked Thomas Vlcek specifically about the British, American and Canadian projects planned:

"This is very difficult, because what is very characteristic of this biennale is that the curators don't just select art and artists from their countries. Various projects involve American, Canadian and British artists; alongside other nationalities. Of course there are some British, American and Canadian projects apparent; for example David Dernie from the university of Cambridge has created a communication space using contemporary architecture and Ian Jeffrey is going to discuss photography and video today, which will use artists from all over the world. There is also an American project from the Museum of Modern art in Chicago."

The director of National Gallery Milan Knizak and Tomas Vlcek,  photo: CTK
The biennial is not just about 'visual art', there will be theatre and music going on too. Again, Tomas Vlcek:

"Crossing borders is one subject of the Biennial. The notion of 'visual art' is far too inflexible to encompass all the possibilities there are in painting and sculpture and so forth. Visual art now is audio-visual, performances, our physical body, our physical space. This biennial would like to cross the borders of what were previously thought of as different genres of art."

We will see if Mr. Vlcek's ideas cross over from the realms of fantasy when the biennial opens on June 14th. Until then, we can only second guess what sort of creations will come under the heading 'at second sight'.