Monday, June 22, 2015

on the prague quadrennial

The Georgian display
 At first, I didn’t now what a Quadrennial was, so when my wife told me we were going to the Georgian Pavilion, I did what any smart husband would do and nodded my head and smiled. Also knowing that it was a Georgian event, I knew that there might be some free wine to be scored, and Georgian wine is always great to have a glass or four of. Nobody makes a sweet red quite like them, so you can keep your Tokays and Beaujolais thank you. We made our way to where the Georgian Pavilion was, which was in the historic Clam-Gallasuv palace. It’s a bit redundant to say something in Prague is historic, since the place bleeds history, but still. The palace is on Husova and Marianske in Prague’s old town. It was built in 1714 for the Viceroy of Naples, and the parties there saw such hipster musicians of the day like Mozart and Beethoven in attendance - I’m sure fashion will swing full circle and powders and wigs will replace the mustaches. Now it holds festivals and events, like the Opera Barocca in August and the Quadrennial every fourth summer.

The Cyprus exhibit
Before arriving at the Clam-Gallasuv, we stopped for ice cream at the Haagan-Dasz, but quickly realized that that was a mistake, since one scoop there cost 4 dollars. We opted for a one dollar scoop down the street and then made our way to the festival palace. Once there, we paid our 80 czk (normally 100, but there are discounts for students and for public transit users) each and went on into the Georgian Pavilion. 

Entering the room, I finally was clued into what the Quadrennial was. From the looks of it, it was some sort of presentation of theater and art. The Georgian room was black walled with televisions everywhere. On the left was a wall of televisions, showing the single image of two dancers moving across the viewing area. The dancers were without faces; the faces instead showing what the Georgian curator described was the back of the set, representing the actors as puppets, and by extension, humans as actors. On the other wall were various televisions, each displaying scenes from a play in Georgia. The set designs were all quite interesting, making me somewhat regret not catching a show while living in Tbilisi and peaking my interest in seeing something while here in Prague. 

Inside a Canadian outhouse
Some of the other rooms were all the more amazing and others were mere vain attempts to showcase something without much thought. The best presentations were from Canada and Cyprus. The Canadian group had set up some six outhouses, and within each outhouse was a presentation of a toilet and some random stuff that had to do with whatever play the outhouse represented. Quite an interactive experience, though one hopes a person isn’t too moved to interact to the fullest extent. The Cyprus one was a super dark room, lit only by a strange mannequin lamp, seen in the picture. In different shadow boxes along the wall were presentations of their theater productions. Also, there were two holes connected to cleaning gloves that stretched outside the box. There was a camera and monitor above, allowing you to view what was happening with the gloves. You could put your hands in those and do any sort of terrible thing without consequence. I attempted to steal many a purse, but unfortunately it’s impossible to run anywhere when attached to a wall. 

All is vanity
Closing out the experience, there was a talk from the Georgian curator and lots of free Georgian wine. All academic mumbo jumbo was lost on me after my forth glass of some delicious Khareba, but the weird skeleton statues taking selfies were entertaining enough. 

My suspicions about the Quadrennial were correct. It is a showcase of performance design, though it’s also - at other exhibition halls - a showcase of architecture and makerspace. The Prague Quadrennial has been held every fourth year in the summer since 1976, and is being held now until the 28th of June. Go check it out and let me know what you saw and where I should visit next!

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