The Prague Quadrennial of Stage Design, Theatre Design and Architecture


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

Every four years, Prague transforms into a huge theatre scene that brings together scenographers, designers, directors, artists and audiences from around the world. The current 15th edition of the Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space closed on 18 June, and over 2,000 artists from 59 countries were presented within 11 days. In addition to the two main expositions – that of the countries and regions, and the student exhibition, the Quadrennial also offered theatre performances, outdoor and indoor performance actions, exhibitions of theatre buildings, technology, lighting, workshops, discussions, lectures, and many more events not only for a professional audience, but also for a wide audience.

However, one of the very interesting aspects of the Quadrennial, which usually remains outside the focus of the reviews and comments about it, is the children’s program and the extremely active visit of the young spectators not only to the activities and exhibitions specifically targeted for them, but also among all the installations. Every morning, groups of students of different ages ventured into the expositions, immersed themselves in their worlds and discovered their mysteries.

One of the 20 prizes awarded at this year’s edition was awarded by the children. It was awarded to the exhibition of Portugal called “Half the Minutes”, which offered not only children but all visitors an intense tactile experience.

The installation was made of various fabrics and materials that provoked the senses of visitors. The motivation of the jury says that the Portuguese exhibition: “… is playful, interactive, inviting the use of all senses. It evokes pure joy from exploring an unfamiliar space. Entering it is like entering the land of dreams.” Children’s sections in such large forums are extremely important for the formation of both an audience and an attitude, a taste for art and the environment that surrounds us.

The fifteenth edition of the Quadrennial also proposed several significant changes compared to its previous edition, as well as some of the established traditions for conducting the forum. One of them is related to the awards, which are the natural culmination of the event. This year, there were twenty of them and they were distributed in an extremely conceptual form that corresponded to the common focus, namely the theme – RARE, or unique human relationships and situations, and our ability to detect them. The Grand Prix for the National Exhibition Golden Triga or Golden Chariot, a symbol of the national theatre in the Czech Republic, this year was literally destructed and distributed to all the laureates in the different categories in test tubes – each received a particle of it, as well as a specific artifact from the Quadrennial as specks from the catalogue of its first edition in 1967, for example. Another feature was the fact that there were no awards for individual achievements, and the categories were 6 more than usual, in which the emphasis was on the ability of art to reflect on modern social processes, crises, and changes in the world. As a common feature for all the distinguished expositions of both countries and regions, as well as students, it can be pointed out that they concerned a significant socio-social problem, refracted through the idea of its spatial dimensions, relations, and connections with the world and the community.

This year, the jury awarded Cyprus the Quadrennial Grand Prix for the project “Spectators in a Ghost City” by the designer Melita Kuta and the curator Marina Maleni. And their concept is based on “reverse scenography” or theatricalization of utilitarian spaces. The focus of the project is the city in Cyprus completely abandoned and depopulated after a military conflict. The installation was created from pieces of Famagusta’s buildings, which include archival footage of former life in the city. In this way, the authors transport the viewers into a semi-imaginative space populated by the soaring stories of former life.

One of the most impactful expositions was of the hosts from the Czech Republic (awarded 2 prizes) and their Limbo Hardware, through which they explored the feeling of space. Visual artist David Mozny and the curator of the Czech pavilion Pevel Schweck reflect on the topic of a disturbing reflection of a fragmented world consisting of a multitude of parallel truths and alternative realities. They all reflect on our consciousness and people’s ability to think rationally, but also on our perception of space and physical distance and distance. The installation consists of meticulously constructed corridors (with real textures, materials and lighting) that each of us crosses daily: to the entrance of our own apartment, to the neighbouring office, to the elevator. However, they are glued together and have an unusual width, only about 30 centimetres, which creates a claustrophobic feeling.

Despite its over-realism (all elements are taken directly “from life”), the full construction of metal beams of plywood, etc. remains on display for the viewer, thus clearly showing that this is a fragment of reality assembled before our eyes.

Although it was not among the awarded expositions, the Bulgarian pavilion called “Anthropocene Late Finds” fully fit in with the direction of this year’s Quadrennial and the trends that were demonstrated in Prague. Precisely for reconsidering theatrical materiality, by taking it out of the stage context and placing it in a new environment where it no longer needs the actor and the director to exist, but still needs its audience to appreciate it. The performative approach to this topic, which the commissioner of the exhibition Petya Boyukova and the director Mariy Rosen have chosen to address these issues not only in front of the theatre, but also for society – how we treat our unnecessary things, turns out to be a good starting material for a broader discussion already happening in a number of countries and which is yet to happen in Bulgaria.

The focus of the exhibition was on the theatrical costume and props, or small theatrical objects that stage designers make for performances and which actors usually actively use. The pavilion housed theatrical objects and costumes of 30 scenographers, and for their active presentation to the audience in Prague (not only displayed on the racks), Petya Boyukova and Mariy Rosen created an unpretentious, but at the same time charged with a delicate sense of humour and even self-irony performance. Interviews with each of the authors of the items conducted in advance served a basis for its scenario (work of Ivanka Mogilska). And the actor Alexander Mitrev presents three of them every day. The curious move here is that after each parade, objects from the exhibition are sold at a real auction and the audience is challenged to give them new meaning.

It was this activation of the people that was the theatrical gesture that turned the Bulgarian pavilion into a lively, dynamic, and pulsating space where unique human encounters took place every day.

*The article is a joint publication with въпреки.com

Portugal, Half the Minutes, photographer R. Plzak
Estonia, Eternity, Limbo Hardware, photographer: Jakub Hrab
Czech Republic, Limbo Hardware, photographer: Jakub Hrab
Cyprus, Spectators from the Ghost Town, photographer Viktor Tuček
Serbia, Moonshine Piano, photographer Héctor Cruz
Bulgaria, Anthropocene Late Finds, photographer A. Tagareva
Bulgaria, Anthropocene Late Finds, photographer A. Tagareva
Bulgaria, Anthropocene Late Finds, photographer A. Tagareva

The Prague Quadrennial of Stage Design, Theatre Design and Architecture

Close Menu