Maximal Photography - open-air exhibition accompanies Summer Shakespeare Festival at Prague Castle


Those of you who have been to Prague Castle recently, must have noticed the large photographs on display around the grounds. The Summer Shakespeare Festival, which is currently underway in Prague, is accompanied by an open-air exhibition called "Maximal Photography". Twenty-seven enlarged works of leading Czech photographers decorate the castle area until September 11.

To find out more, I've asked Lars Kemper, a designer from the Igoj Chorchoj Studios responsible for the installation of the exhibition, to visit us at our studio. If you could start off by telling us what visitors can see when they enter the castle grounds:

"We prepared an installation of contemporary Czech photographs from the last century, with works from people like Ivan Pinkava, Frantisek Drtikol - some very good quality pieces. We scanned their photos and then put them on huge glass panels, so that they are really visible."

How big are they?

"It depends on the pictures. The glass panels are up to 2.80m tall and 1.50m wide. The exhibition is outside on the courtyard, in the gardens, or on terraces. The exhibition accompanies the Shakespeare festival that is held every year at Prague Castle."

But the photos do not feature Shakespeare, do they?


As the designer, what challenges did you face while you installed the exhibition?

"There are a lot of things that have to be dealt with when one does this kind of exhibition because you want the focus to be on the photographs on display and not the pedestal, platform, on which they are placed. This means that you need to design something attractive and absolutely visible, but the emphasis has to be placed on the photographs.

"There were a lot of problems. We start by working on the inside; this means you really have to think about how you are doing this. You are not allowed to fix it into the ground, to screw anything you can just put something inside.

"Then you are working on the outside. This means you need building permission. You need to think about the fact that there are a lot of people going around and these people might get hurt because these are big things. You need to think about the weather, oxidation and so on.''

And of course as you told me earlier, the Prague Castle is a cultural heritage site, so there were things that you weren't really allowed to do; that you would have done at other places.

''Yes. We just, of course, had to take care of this, so that the sight stays absolutely secure and in the same condition as we found it. We were not allowed to fix them into the ground. They could just stand in the courtyards.

"That is quite difficult with such big pieces of pedestals. Other things for example, the St. Vitus Cathedral and we had to keep a distance from that. You are not allowed to go closer than 3 m to the cathedral.''

And how did you manage to get the exhibits up to the Prague Castle?

''A lot of times we had to go there because these things are really heavy and we couldn't go in with a big truck. I can tell you that one of these pedestals weights nearly 500 kilos. Only the glass is approximately 160 kilos. It came in two pieces.

"There were the pedestals from steel and glass but you can imagine how many hands you need just to lift them from a trailer and to put them into the right position. But it was absolutely necessary to make them that heavy. You need that weight just to fix it and the pressure of the panel is really huge.

"We needed engineers for this and of course we calculated it before, we had different versions and we just found out that if, for example, one did not fit onto the lawn, so we just reduced it. The design was absolutely fine afterwards but you have to think about these things.''

You are from Germany. Did you have to install such an exhibition in Germany?

"No absolutely not. This is actually the first time that we are doing something in the outside like this. We have quite a lot of experience from our studio with exhibitions but they are mostly done inside. The idea behind our installation is not about the photographs, it is about the idea how we want to put the pictures on the castle.

"The idea was that it should be absolutely frameless because the art stands out from itself and we wanted to separate the art from our design. It has to be connected in a physical way, of course, but we really wanted to separate it in a design way. We wanted to find some material that we think fits well in the Prague Castle area. And we saw that this size is absolutely right because this complex is huge.

"They used very natural materials in the old times so we thought at the beginning about stainless steel but we just went on with steel that is used for kettles, or guns. When you melt it and it comes out of the oven and it goes into an oil bed. This stops the oxidation. Like old weapons, you have to oil them all the time. The oil stops the oxidation process.

"We will not stop the oxidation process on the panels at all but we will limit it a lot and the materials are quite rough but for an outside exhibition it doesn't have to be perfect. There are footprints, fingerprints, the weather, so I think we found a quite nice material."


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