Photo Flash: First Look At Switzerland's National Contribution To The Prague Quadrennial
Challenging ideas of 'untouched' nature and the impact of technology on natural landscapes, the Swiss contribution to the international festival of performance design and space has environmental issues at heart.
6 - 16 June 2019
Switzerland will be bringing a selection of exhibitions to the 2019 Prague Quadrennial (PQ19), with Artificial Arcadia: measured and adjustable (?) landscapes as their headline piece. The installation, presented by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia at PQ19s central display 'Exhibition of Countries and Regions', will be a cross-discipline, interactive piece that questions the advancing digitalisation of the world and its natural landscapes. In other sections of PQ19, Switzerland's contribution will also include a work from the students of the Zurich University of the Arts, site specific events, and The Unusual Weather Phenomena Machine, a large-scale music machine based on observations of weather phenomena.
The Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space was established in 1967 to bring the best of design for performance, scenography, and theatre architecture to the frontline of cultural activities. Held in the Czech capital once every four years, it is widely regarded as the Olympics of theatre design with countries from every corner of the globe coming together. The exhibitions, festivals, and educational programs act as a global catalyst of creative progress by encouraging experimentation, networking, innovation, and future collaborations between artistically energetic creators. In 2019, it will bring together over 800 artists from 79 countries. This year, the theme of PQ is "Imagination, Transformation and Memory".
The Swiss contribution Artificial Arcadia: measured and adjustable (?) landscapes has been created by Fragmentin, an art practice based in Lausan! ne, and KOSMOS Architects based in Geneva to unpick clichéd ideas of Swiss scenery, and to challenge our ideas of the natural world as unaffected by technology. Though known for its natural, 'untouched' beauty, Switzerland's contemporary landscapes are supported by a complex man-made machine, from tunnels through mountains, dams through rivers, irrigation systems, snow cannons, avalanche protection and electrical networks. The scenographic landscape of Artificial Arcadia is inspired by global modified landscapes - particularly glaciers -, the aesthetics of Swiss infrastructure, and the ways in which natural, artificial and digital realms are entangled.
Artificial Arcadia uses 'bauprofile', metal sticks or construction poles that appear on Swiss landscapes to announce new buildings and trigger debate. The forest of slow-moving metal poles, topped by a textile roof reminiscent of Swiss mountain landscapes (and more specifically fr! om the blanket used to cover the Rhône Glacier to prevent it from melding), rises and lowers as the viewer walks through them, informing them of changes in levels of ice and snow.
Over the ten days, artist Camille Alena will create performances taking the form of a musical dramaturgy specifically developed for the interactive structure designed by Fragmentin & KOSMOS Architects. The artist will work with local participants to create a diaristic piece that asks: how will humans escape from the curse of artificial and digital traceability?
Artem Kitaev from KOSMOS Architects said: "The most important part of the installation are the visitors. We want to raise awareness of the direct impact of each person on nature. The installation is fully interactive: each step a person takes in its interior is recognised by detectors, and changes the overall shape of the installation; finally all of these transformations are reflected in real time on the screen."
Laura Perrenoud from Fragmentin added "One of the key elements of Artificial Arcadia is its performative aspect, but we also designed the experience to open a discussion and raise awareness on global topics such as climate change - starting from the case study of the Swiss melting glaciers - or the impact of digitalisation our society."
Elsewhere in the festival at the Student Exhibition, Pro Helvetia will be supporting the work of students of the Faculty of BA Theatre, Stage Design and Theatre Education, Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) in their exhibition Transplantations. From image space to spatial image.
The Unusual Weather Phenomena Machine will be featured as part of Fragments, a special exhibition highlighting the work of a living-legend from each country. An automatic stage design created by Thom Luz, the piece is designed to look like a weather phenomenon. Originally staged as a live performance piece with four musicia! ns, it has now become a large-scale music machine that uses audio loops.
The Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia is an institution supporting Swiss arts and culture with a special focus on diversity. The foundation had a presence at the last Prague Quadrennial in 2015, including a prize-winning photographic work by Iren Stehli who won the gold medal for Best Performance Design Photo.
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