Huge Signal festival to light up Prague for fourth time from Thursday

Installation by Tundra, photo: archive of Signal Festival

The best attended arts event of the year in the Czech Republic gets underway on Thursday. At 22 venues and over four evenings, the Signal Festival of Lights is expected to bring hundreds of thousands of people into the streets of the capital to enjoy works by top international and local light artists. On the eve of the fourth edition of the festival, I asked founder Martin Pošta what was new this year.

Signal Dome, photo: archive of Signal Festival
“Each year Signal festival is a bit new, since the artists we invite are different nearly every year.

“But we have a specially prepared kids’ programme, which is something that has never been presented at Signal festival on such a large scale as is going to be the case this year.

“We have prepared an animated movie on Charles IV, which is going to be presented at the Signal Dome every day; that’s going to start during the daytime, which is a bit different.

“We have also prepared a lot of interactive installations which are also going to be focused on kids.

“Some of them are going to be situated in La Loca, which is a music bar in the city centre, close to Karlovo náměstí. And some of the installations are going to be spread out throughout the festival.”

I’m sure you’re going to tell me that everything in the festival is great. But are there any particular installations or shows that people absolutely shouldn’t miss, in your view?

“Yes, exactly, correct – I think all the installations that we’ve prepared are amazing!

“But one I’m particularly curious about is the installation by a Russian studio called Tundra, which is going to be located in an unfinished building on Národní třída.

Installation by Tundra, photo: archive of Signal Festival
“It’s going to be a light show that will dissect or intersect through the interior of the building.

“But it’s going to have limited access, because we can only allow a certain number of people at a time.

“I think this installation is going to be one that shouldn’t be missed.”

This is the fourth year of Signal. How has the festival developed over that time?

“I think we’re tightening the festival – we’re trying to improve it every year a little bit.

“This year we’ve put a lot more emphasis on the audience, on its development, how we approach them, how many kind of meeting points with the festival they can have.

“So we have installed two semi-permanent information points where people can access or get their brochures, festival programmes or merchandise.

Martin Pošta, photo: Ian Willoughby
“Also we have tried to approach more artists that we couldn’t have reached before, since the festival’s ‘fame’ [laughs] has been quite good.”

You say that you are the biggest cultural event in the Czech Republic. By what measure are you the biggest?

“It is the biggest by number of visitors. Because over the three years we have done the festival it has been visited by over a million viewers or visitors.

“Each edition has approximately 400,000 or 450,000 people attending.”

And you measure that by mobile phones, in some way?

“Yes, we do, anonymously, by measuring so-called residual data on the mobile networks.

“So we can have a pretty good estimate of how many people visit each of the editions.”

I know you yourself started out, even before the festival, with video mapping. How big of an element in the festival is video mapping today?

Signal 2015, photo: archive of Signal Festival
“It’s still quite important, but we don’t put as much emphasis on video mapping.

“We try to have it evenly kind of spread out throughout the variety of the festival.

“But video mappings tend to draw more attention because they are large-scale and more spectacular.”