Prague Quadrennial presenting scenography through live events

Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space, the largest festival of its kind in the world, gets underway in Prague on Thursday. Located in various venues around the capital, it will explore scenography in its broadest sense, from scenic art to street performances. I discussed the event with its artistic director, Markéta Fantová, and first asked her about its main theme, which is RARE:

Photo: Libor Galia,  Prague Quadrennial 2023

“We chose this topic because it reflects the situation we are all in; the situation of our current world, considering the pandemic we just went through and the Russian aggression.

“The word “rare” seems to express it really well because it allows us to look at unique things in different countries and regions and areas and it also tells the story of what surrounds us. And it seems that countries and regions and their creative teems are reflecting it quite nicely.”

Markéta Fantová | Photo: Tomáš Vodňanský,  Czech Radio

How is this year's edition different from the previous ones?

“I think this edition, compared to the last one, has much larger percentage of live events, meaning that even the exhibitions of performance design are showing scenography and performance design in its live format.

“Instead of showing models or objects or things to look at, this time there are environments that people can truly experience with all of their senses. It might be also because each exhibitions seems far more immersive than in the past.”

Infinite Dune | Photo: Adéla Vosičková,  Prague Quadrennial

The main exhibition of PQ is the Exhibition of Countries and Regions. What are some of the highlights of the programme?

“I would certainly say, please come and look at the Czech exhibition, because it has a unique part of Brno in it. You should also see the French exhibition that is using material, sand, in a very unique way.

“Both of these pieces could actually be exhibited in a gallery but because they have performative elements, they are part of our exhibition. So it’s live again and it’s also quite tactile.

“And then there is the Brazilian exhibition that is being constructed as we speak, which offers really interesting elements and objects and a way of looking at them and it looks really playful.”

Peces Caminando! | Photo: Jan Hromádko,  Prague Quadrennial

Will the programme reflect the ongoing conflict in Ukraine?

“Yes, in many senses. It affected the making of it, in some way. We also have a keynote from Izolyatsia, which is an art and cultural platform that used to have its main location in the Donetsk region.

“In 2014, they were pushed out by Russian separatists, moved to Kyiv, all of the art they collected has been destroyed and their original place was used as a Russian prison.

“We have been working with them for a very long time and we are working with them on a couple of projects now. We also have in each section a Ukrainian exhibition as well.”

Holešovice market square | Photo: Prague Quadrennial 2023

And finally, what are you personally most looking forward to?

“I am truly curious about the whole Student Exhibition, because for the first time in the history of the PQ we have asked students to create an exhibition outside, open to the elements.

“They really embraced it and it looks very interesting. I just walked through there and there are some really beautiful small exhibition spaces that grew in the central market square in Holešovice.

Photo: Libor Galia,  Prague Quadrennial 2023

“So I am really curious about that one, as well as about the Exhibition of Performance Space that requests scenographers and theatre artists to work outside theatre buildings and I am looking forward to learning from countries that have been doing it for a very long time.”