Prague’s buildings light up as 10th edition of Signal Festival gets underway

Caitlind Brown & Wayne Garrett, Cloud

Prague is hosting the 10th edition of the annual Signal Festival of light art this week. Well over a dozen venues across the Czech capital have been transformed into light installations that are spread across two routes around the Vltava river and the nearby Vinohrady and Vršovice districts. Among the highlights is a powerful installation focusing on the ongoing war in Ukraine, as well as a unique AI project created by Turkish-American artist Refik Anadol.

The four day festival kicked-off this Thursday and will be running until the end of the week. Festival director Martin Pošta told Czech Radio whats in store.

“For this year’s edition of the Signal Festival we prepared 14 completely new installations as well as one that we brought back because it was the most popular feature of the first festival. It was the Cloud installation, created by Canadian artists.”

Maxim Velčovský,  The Physical Possibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living | Photo: Signal Festival

Perhaps the most emotive feature of this year’s festival are four burnt-out cars brought from Ukraine by the renowned Czech artist Maxim Velčovský. Lit up in various ways and with an accompanying smoke effect, each of the cars tells a specific human story. The installation, which is located on Mariánské Square, is called “The Physical Possibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” and was developed in cooperation with the Ukrainian Embassy in Prague.

Among the many visitors who came to see the installation on Thursday was also Prague local Ondřej.

“I think that the exhibit is a fantastic demonstration of the gruesome reality that people in Ukraine are currently experiencing. People have a tendency to forget fast, but this installation serves as a perfect reminder.”

Refik Anadol,  Prague Dreams: A site-specific work of art born from the depths of urban data | Photo: Jan Malý,  IPR Praha

Further down south, in the Center for Architecture and Urban Planning (CAMP), lies another highlight of this year’s festival called “Prague Dreams”. Developed by world-renowned artist Refik Anadol, the large-scale projection is the result of data collected from more than 4,500km of Prague streets which was subsequently processed through machine learning algorithms. The organisers say that the resulting 3D model merges abstract visuals with the concrete architecture of the surrounding CAMP building.

FEL ČVUT,  Forum Robotum | Photo: Signal Festival

Just a few hundred metres away from the CAMP building, around the Charles Square Campus of the Czech Technical University, lies another installation that makes use of cutting-edge science - Forum Robotum. Here, visitors can see several robots walking around while an accompanying  projection simulates the exploration of an unknown space by machine vision.

The author of the exhibit, Jiří Zemánek, told Czech Radio that he felt the installation brought out a mix of emotions among visitors.

“It can also bring about excitement about technology, about the speed of its development and where robotics is moving. I think we will be encountering robots more and more in the future. It is good to have some respect towards machines, while also being aware that when you upload your data somewhere you may also be losing control over it.”

AV Extended  (Jérémie Bellot,  Josselin Fouché,  Ena Eno),  Iris | Photo: Signal Festival

The three exhibits are part of the red “Centre” route that visitors of the festival can take. An alternate green route leads through the nearby neighbourhoods of Vinohrady and Vršovice. It features, among other things, impressive lightshows projected onto the famous local churches of Saint Ludmila and Saint Wenceslas.

Organisers expect that hundreds of thousands of visitors will come to see what has become one of the Czech capital’s most popular annual festivals.

Authors: Thomas McEnchroe , Jiří Štefl , Sabina Vosecká
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