Installation makes actors of passers-by at Prague’s New Stage

Photo: Marek Volf

With barely a month to go until the New Stage theatre on Prague’s Národní třída turns 30, an art installation from Aleš Hvízdal, Marek Volf and Dominika Nettwallová has transformed the piazza underneath the theatre into a giant camera obscura. Until the 4th of October spectators can view the square and the surrounding street through a warped projection in which unassuming passers-by become the central characters of an impromptu virtual stage.

Photo: Marek Volf
Normally the square at Prague’s New Stage theatre serves as hangout for skateboarders and BMX riders but for the last few weeks the site was transformed by three Prague artists with their installation Na Podzim (In the Autumn). One of the creators of the project, Dominika Nettwallová, told me more about how the installation works.

“Our installation consists of two parts. One part is the camera obscura itself, which you can imagine as a large wooden box, and in one wall in the middle there is a hole and a glass lens, through which we project the outer image - the piazetta itself- and the view of the stage of the national theatre on a big screen here inside of camera obscura.

“The idea behind it was to bring the theatre outside the building. The people that are just passing by or hurrying to work actually become our actors, and they don’t even know about it.”

The impression created when looking through the lens of the camera obscura is initially one of confusion. But the feeling of disorientation, oddly enough, lessens quickly once a tram rolls past or a pedestrian walks by, albeit upside down. Artist Dominika Nettwallová again:

“You can see a place that you already know very well from another point of view. The message behind it was to question the people and places you know.”

Photo: Marek Volf
For years now, the square by one of Prague’s most famous examples of Brutalist architecture (also often reviled for its heaviness – not least in contrast to the 19th century National Theatre next door) has attracted young people milling about, doing ollies and kick-flips on their skateboards. Dominika Nettwaldová, says that they – like other young passers-by – have been encouraged by installations such as this one – taking the space, even temporarily, in new directions.

“I mentioned the young ones here in Prague and I noticed that they were looking towards Berlin as a progressive town or city, and they were disappointed that Prague is more conservative and that it is not that supportive of artists. But here and now, they’ve noticed that Prague became more alive. So we are happy to see that our capital city of Czech Republic became more alive and supportive.”