Prague Quadrennial

World-class presentation of multi-media performance, interactive installations, and performance design

Paul Pacey

Written by Paul Pacey Published on 13.06.2011 10:19:28 (updated on 13.06.2011) Reading time: 5 minutes

Though perhaps dwarfed in size compared to other European capitals, Prague never ceases to amaze me in terms of the sheer volume of incredible cultural events happening on what seems any given calendar day. With so much happening, it’s often easy to either forget some events, or let them slip by due to the simple inability to keep up. But if you only get to see one exhibition to see this summer, this truly should be it.

As inspiring as it is humbling, the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space is an eleven-day, world-class presentation of multi-media performance, interactive installations, and performance art, comprised of some of the world’s finest audio and visual artists, and served to an international attendance of over 40,000.

Since it’s summer, and I’m more inclined to wear flip-flops than steel-toed boots, I won’t start dropping names, but do a quick Google search on the likes of Nathaniel Mellors, Josef Nadj, and Romeo Castellucci and you’ll start to understand the caliber of artist we’re talking about here.

While no single event can be all things to all people, with eye and head candy in scenography, theatre, puppetry, dance, visual art, film, architecture, opera, costume, sound, and lighting design, I can’t imagine anyone with a pulse coming to the event and not leaving with a sense of awe and wonder.

Anyone who has ever exercised their own creative instincts knows that there are few things more contagious than simply being around other works of incredible art. The amount of inspiration to be found wandering among, and interacting with, so much amazing talent will surely leave you foaming at the mouth to go create something ambitious of your own the moment you set foot in any of the 6+ locations spread among Prague.

And for those of you who can still appreciate the finer side of art without necessarily being an artist yourself, you’ll be delighted to catch rare technical glimpses into some of the most elaborate designs ever seen, presented by world-renowned experts, who provide inside looks from behind the eyes of some of today’s most forward-thinking visual and performing artists.

After a quick glimpse at the statistics, the numbers alone are staggering. With over 10,000 square meters, participants from over 60 countries, and hundreds of interactive exhibitions, dropping numbers to illustrate the brute size of the event is tantamount to calculating just how many rolls of toilet paper it would take to circle the world: there’s so many that it begins to defy one’s ability to actually make any sense of it all.

In layman’s terms, let’s just say it’s really, really big, and really, really cool.


Deciding where to start is no easy task. As art imitates life, viewers have the option of exercising the chaos theory in which you simply put a blind fold on, point yourself in one of 6 directions, throw a few darts, and hope for the best. No doubt, with so much happening you’d be pretty hard pressed not to hit a bull’s eye on just about every throw.

Conversely, for those less inclined to simply use “The Force” and more compelled by left-brain tendencies, everything you need to know is neatly laid out on PQ’s webpage, where visitors can wade through the program’s infinite options based on date, location, project, event type and discipline and even personalise their own program so as to maximise coverage.

In either case, I reserve the right to invoke the infinite wisdom of Forrest Gump’s mother.

Since I’ve always been a big believer in the Middle Way, I’ll likely do a bit of both. After a quick gaze through the options, there are certainly more than a few that stand out:

Portmanteau. Performed by York St. John University, England, Four Shadows tell stories from the lost and found suitcases they carry with them in what looks like surrealism and sounds like Spanglish.
16.6, 16:00-16:30 in Jungmannovo náměstí

Les enfants terribles. Performed by Phillip Glass, the nature of his 1996 chamber opera (The Holy Terrors) makes it ideal for staging in an alternative space.
17.6, 20:00-22:30 in the Bohnice Psychiatric Hospital

Mistermissmissmister. Performed by Joao Galante and Ana Borralho, three naked bodies engage with the spectators sitting in from of them. Nudity, in this case, does not stand as a private invitation, but a challenge, since each performer displays in his/her head and face signs of a sexual identity that their bodies deny.
18.6, 20:30-22:30 in Veletržní Palace-National Gallery

Second Act. Taking from the Czech fable ‘Iron Shoes,’ Roma Patel will create an immersive installation, weaving digital projections into the ancient fabric of the underground Bethlehem Chapel called Lapidarium that for centuries has been involved in conflict and controversy.
19.6, 09:30 – 16:00 in the Lapidarium of the Bethlehem Chapel.

The Adventures of White-Man. Performed by Paul Zaloom, a toe theatre spectacle about the male Caucasian human.
20.6, 17:00-18:00 in Veletržní Palace-National Gallery / Hall A

GreenPiece:Walking Talking Topiary. Performed by Pat Oleszko and punningly written for human inhabited topiaries as described by the costume activist as “an uprooting of the landscape featuring ten fabulous flora taking leaf of their senses and branching out to find their way into life as a peripatetic Garden of Eden.”
21.6, 12:00-13:00 in Veletržní Palace-National Gallery / Hall A

Body Writes Mood. A film presented by Lior Avizoor in which the marriage of dance and camera enables a choreographer to place the moving body in new locations – from a wild open landscape to an intimate room.
23.6, 22:00 – 22:50 in the Piazzetta of The National Theatre

Prague Crossroads as the Space for Open Global Dialogue. Václav Havel and Eva Jiřičná will discuss their collaboration on the deconsecrated St Anne’s church in relation to spaces for global and local discourse, as well as theatre architecture as political space, that has impact on human social contracts and relationships.
24.6, 14:00 – 15:30 at Prague Crossroads – St. Anne’s Church Gallery

The Bandits. Performed by Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design
A group of 7 characters just escaped from prison to perform and create chaos in the streets Inspired by a parade performance choreographed and designed by Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design in the UK on the streets of central London.
25.6, 14:00-14:30 in Jungmannovo náměstí

Check out the official website for more info on specific programs and locations, and stay tuned to for coverage of the event as it unfolds.

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