Monday, October 17, 2016

signal, a festival of light

St. Ludmila's
There are many ways to waste electricity. You can keep the lights on all night, you can keep the television on while you cook, you can run the heaters all day and night long. Or you can spray billions of watts into the air to make a cathedral pulse and glimmer or a Baroque building shatter as a snake comes bursting out. In Europe, it's clear there's no lack of the the enigmatic electron. In some countries around the Continent, they’re running so well on alternative energies that some months, they might even pay you to use energy. So the extra watt or thousand really isn't a big worry anymore. Maybe it was from this notion, this celebration of man's pioneering galvanism, that the Signal Festival was created, a truly modern blend of art and technology, on display to everyone.

The Signal Festival is one of Prague’s biggest festivals—and for a city of a thousand festivals, that says a lot. It goes on for four nights every October, sending blinding beams of light across buildings and up into the air. The first year we went, I remember there being a huge mat across a riverside park, and everywhere you’d step, it would light up in different patterns, and another one where you’d walk in front of a projector and, using some sort of quantum formula, it’d scatter your particles across the white screen beyond. These such exhibits are displayed all across the city, with each neighborhood seemingly at a contest to outdo the other.

Signal Festival began three years ago and has been such a success, with the streets literally overflowing with crowds all through the night, that I imagine it will be a mainstay in the festivities programming for centuries to come.

The hanging man of shooter's island
The usual hotspot of the festival is at Namesti Miru, where they do a complete video mapping of the 18th century, neo-Gothic St. Liudmila’s Church. The projection is played to some pulsing, heart-shaking, deep bass-blasting electronic music, and makes it appear that the church is at once breaking into pieces, spinning into some vortex, or launching off into outer-space. There’s usually a similar projection at the Old Town Square.

The projection though that really stole the show this year was Tigre’s mapping of a building near Kampa Park. 3D glasses were for purchase for a couple of euro, and the show included science fiction/fantasy creatures that literally jumped out of the windows and broke down the walls. It was a pretty awesome work of art and something that would be truly hard to find an imitation of anywhere. 

In other squares and neighborhoods, there were smaller species of displays, many seemingly without aim or purpose. But then, that's art for you, ars gratis artis. One was something like a reverse white tesseract, with random letters from random alphabets floating upwards. Another few were large balloon man. One had his neck snapped, as though he were hanging from a gallows, and the other was lying on the ground, possibly after the deceased were removed from the said gallows. Another was a tattered old windmill with patterns spinning to a deep electronic soundtrack. The musical theme was definitely something glitch with a touch of horror.

So if you’re planning on a trip to Prague, I’d recommend overlapping it with the Signal Festival. It’s an event that really takes this historic city into the next century.

And some videos:


  1. A lot more to do in Prague than downtown Dallas ;-)

    1. You got that right. And it's not a 2-hour drive to do anything either!