In this week’s Arts my guest is New York-based landscape architect Martin Barry who last year launched a new festival and conference in Prague called reSITE, focussing on urbanism and rethinking the public space. To this aim, he and organisers involved everyone from internationally recognised designers and urban planners, to students of arts and architecture, and last, but not least, politicians.
Restoration work at the famous Palác Lucerna in Prague has taken an unusual turn – combining modern street art with the ancient technique of window decoration. The feature that has attracted attention is a stained glass window that was designed by one of the best known local graffiti artists, Pasta Oner.
The centre of Prague will be transformed for several nights this week, when it hosts the first ever Signal Light Festival. From Thursday to Sunday, leading European practitioners of video mapping will be turning some of the city’s buildings into giant screens, while a number of well-known Czech artists have also created special installations. The man behind the whole thing is Martin Pošta, former director of the Fresh Film Fest. When we spoke, I first asked Pošta how he had got into the field of light art.
Influenced by the likes of the Fugs, Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground, the fiercely independent Plastic People of the Universe were a thorn in the side of Czechoslovakia’s Communist authorities. Despite severe harassment, the PPU refused to buckle, continuing to make often abrasive music until a key member was forced into exile. However, after the change of regime the group eventually reformed – and just last week played a special show marking the 45th anniversary of their formation.
The annual multi-discipline and multi-venue contemporary art festival called 4+4 Days in Motion begins in Prague this Friday. Now in its 18th year, the festival looks at some of the controversial and problematic topics surrounding the modern city, through dance and theater performances, an exhibition, public lectures and discussions. In today’s Arts, we speak to the festival’s producer, Markéta Černá, who talked about why they chose a vacant palace, situated on Wenceslas Square, as the main venue.
This week, Prague has been transformed into a hub for designers from the Czech Republic and further afield for the annual Designblok festival. Almost everything under the umbrella of design – including fashion, home design, art, architecture, lighting and jewellery – can be found in a plethora of exhibitions, shows, seminars and presentations at several locations around Prague.
Many Czech movie critics have been up in arms this week over the country’s nomination for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. While the Czech Film Academy’s choice was the highly regarded drama Burning Bush, it doesn’t meet Oscar criteria and the Czech Republic will in the end be represented by the poorly-received new picture by Jiří Menzel.
One of the curious things about Central Europe is how little people from the various countries of the region know about each other. A recent sociological study suggested that Czechs and Poles have very similar views of the world and similar sets of values. They share a border five hundred miles long, speak languages that are close enough for them to be able to understand each other without too much difficulty, and yet the two nations have a habit of acting as if the other didn’t exist. Even in these days of open borders, assumptions and prejudices
Until the advent of the First World War, intellectuals and artists sitting in Prague’s smoky coffee houses would have talked in ‘isms’: modernism, cubism, futurism, and realism- just as did they in Paris, Vienna and other cultural hubs around Europe. These artistic movements of the early Twentieth Century celebrated the wonder of contemporary progress, the speed of its technological advance and the power of the machine.