SIGNAL Light Festival 2014, Prague
In its second year, the spectacular three-day celebration becomes the Czech Republic's most well-attended cultural event
With Prague's incredible collection of pristine architecture, it's hard to imagine it possible to make this former Bohemian capital even more beautiful. The SIGNAL Light Festival however succeeds in doing just that. Wrapping up its second year this past weekend, SIGNAL transforms Prague into an immersive visual art gallery with installations created by teams of light designers, architects, engineers and hackers. The festival, founded by Martin Posta, strives to revive both well-known and hidden, mysterious places throughout the city while celebrating an emergence of creativity driven by innovative technology. "I personally love the contrast of the new technology and the beauty of the magical and classical Prague," Posta tells CH. "It is some form of symbiosis in contrast and it works amazingly well."
Posta, who partnered with Amar Mulabegović of video mapping team The Macula, says that SIGNAL was conceptualized while the artists were on a business trip. "It crossed our minds that it would be cool to pull off something crazy, such as a huge open city light festival," Posta explains. The thought came after he joined The Macula to design a video mapping project for the 600th anniversary of the Prague clock tower, an event that captured global attention. "I honestly think the guys were thinking of something more intimate, maybe community oriented," Posta says, "but I knew it would be nearly impossible to raise funds for a small type of event."
After three years of planning, SIGNAL launched in 2013 and immediately became the Czech Republic's most-attended cultural event, attracting 250,000 people its first year. Though down from last year's 35—by choice—this year's SIGNAL featured 21 installations (ten of which premiered at the festival), all free and open to the public. "We decided to focus on the more complex and complicated installations," Posta explains. Selected artists were a mix of those approached by SIGNAL and entrants from the festival's open call. "Response to our open call was extreme," Posta says. "We received over 450 projects from all over the world," from which only six were eventually chosen.
While video mapping projections—such as Maxin10sity's hypnotizing show on Kinsky Palace—tend to steal the show due to their scale and use of some of Prague's most prestigious landmarks, SIGNAL offers a broad spectrum of light experimentation, from performances to interactive pieces that guests could touch and manipulate. Cyclique, a kinetic installation by Maxime Houot and Nohista of Collectif Coin, used 256 helium-filled balloons lit by LEDs to create a magical light show. Posta notes that he was "pleasantly surprised" by a piece called Zona by Petr Nikl & David Vrbík, which mixed an impish performance by Nikl (who donned a huge light-up dunce hat) with a reflective pool that the audience could play with. Ultimately, Posta says, "We are seeking beauty, innovative use of technology in art and extreme creativity."
While this year's festival has drawn to a close, there is no end in sight for Posta's work on SIGNAL. "We are immediately starting to work on fundraising for the next edition," he says. "We will be starting an open call for 2015 in a couple of days and we are really looking forward to the projects that we receive." SIGNAL will also be transporting ten installations throughout the country as part of a tour called Czech the Light, and will be presenting a new series of art pieces in Pilsen as part of the European Capital of Culture project in February of 2015. Most exciting is Posta's plan to establish the SIGNAL Lab, an institution for developing new interdisciplinary projects. "We will be expanding," Posta says. "A bright future awaits us."
Images courtesy of SIGNAL, video courtesy of Maxin10sity.