Immersive Set Design and Performance From Across the World At This Weekend’s Prague Quadrennial

Since 1967, the Prague Quadrennial has platformed the most innovative and progressive interdisciplinary works within theatre and design. Photo credit: Ruby Dark.

The Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space culminated this weekend with a series of performances, talks and exhibits. This year’s Quadrennial ran from 8-18 June across several spaces in Prague, including the Holešovice Market and the Trade Fair of the National Gallery.

Since 1967, the Prague Quadrennial has platformed the most innovative and progressive interdisciplinary works within theatre and design, and this year was no different. 2023 marks the 15th edition of the multi-genre festival. The theme was ‘Rare’, with designers, scenographers and performers encouraged to envision what our post-pandemic world could look like.

The typical art gallery rule of “look but don’t touch” doesn’t apply at the Quadrennial. Visitors are encouraged to immerse themselves in the pieces and experiences on show.

As the heart of the festival, Holešovice Market showcased the Student Exhibition in the open-space market square, with set design pieces from schools across the world, and many interactive exhibits. Visitors could wade through a forest of hanging rope, dense enough to get lost in. Or, take an item from the community pantry, with staple goods from across the world, as long as they could donate something to fill the gap.

The Exhibition of Countries and Regions was situated within the halls of Holešovice Market, with a total of 100 installations from 59 countries and regions. The halls were filled with immersive sets, stages and constructions to transport visitors into different regions, times and geographies. These included the opportunity to explore a post-apocalyptic bunker which stands as a “reclamation of concrete colonial structures”, or step across the hall and enter a virtual jungle which feels endless, even though it’s contained in a room no bigger than a closet.

Performances spontaneously erupted throughout the day, as actors from across the represented countries interacted with the set pieces and audiences. The Quadrennial also featured talks, workshops and shows across the venues.

Credit: Ruby Dark.

Friday 16 June saw the fusion of technology and performance from the Open Labs & Playground workshop. In one 20-minute performance, dancers moved through the room while pools of light responded to their touch. Laser beams acted as dancing partners, moving in tandem with the dancers. The performers sculpted the shapes casted by the lights as they moved their hands and feet, as if dancing in a puddle of water.

Similarly boundary-breaking experiences graced the final two days of the Quadrennial. On Saturday, the Infra-ordinary Lab invited visitors to join them for a multi-sensory exploration of the Holešovice market. On Sunday, three memoirists explored their experience growing up under communism through puppets, films and diary, with families encouraged to join.

The Quadrennial offers the chance to climb into hundreds of different realities, lived and imaginary, physical and virtual. Artistic visions from across the world are presented not only as passive pieces to enjoy, but worlds to dive into.

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