October saw the return of SIGNAL Festival in Prague. Devoted to presenting the very best in light, multimedia art and creativity, SIGNAL takes over the city with a range of indoor and outdoor installations for the duration of 4 days. Quays Culture, along with other members of the Light Up The North network, paid a visit to gain first-hand experience of the festival, the most widely visited cultural event in Czech Republic.
With 23 artworks to see, we were glad to have worn sensible shoes, walking just over 15 miles on the opening day in an attempt to cover the majority of city-centre happenings. Giant luminous figures as part of Amanda Parer’s ‘Fantastic Planet’ series clambered over buildings and sprawled themselves out on the parkland, causing mischief and delighting visitors who were able to get up-close and interact with them. The giant ‘Monolith’ installation by Czech collective Hyperbinary had a light structure reminiscent of Squidsoup’s ‘Aeolian Light’; this fixed sculpture absorbed surrounding light, creating a new visual experience. American artist Zachary Lieberman injected playful interactivity into his piece ‘Reflection Studies’ where visitors were able to paint with light and shadow using a specially built projection box. The installation was based on Lieberman’s coded sketches and software experiments.
Familiar gothic and baroque buildings were transformed into striking visual displays through projection mapping from a number of artists including Radugadesign, Tigrelab and Daniel Rossa, each taking advantage of the intricate architecture available to them to enhance their work.
Queuing outside in the Czech chill for the indoor installations often proved worth the wait, with plenty of surprises on the other side of the doors. David Vrbik’s ‘Strings’ blurred the lines between art object and musical instrument, with rays of light vibrating to generate reverberating sounds upon impact to create an immersive audiovisual experience. Cubic installation ‘Rezonator’ by Jan Hladil sat in stark contrast to the elaborate, traditional décor of Colloredo Mansfeldský Palác; a series of lasers within the perspex shell refracted and filled the room with ethereal light and shadow, fixating visitors for minutes on end.
On Friday afternoon we met with SIGNAL Director Martin Posta and Programmer Jan Rolnik along with representatives from light festivals across Europe for a networking lunch before heading to a conference where a number of artists presenting at SIGNAL provided an insight into their creative processes. It was great to gain an understanding of how digital work develops and the ways in which the fundamentals of software and coding contribute to elaborate displays of light and sound.
SIGNAL is a fantastic example of public realm art on a city wide scale and it’s easy to see how the festival’s visitor numbers have grown exponentially since its inception, reaching an impressive 400,000 in 2015.