Stepping into the abandoned Desfours Palace in the center of Prague, you immediately became a part of the art. Throughout the 4+4 Days in Motion Festival, viewers were invited to participate in the artwork in the exhibits. This participation came in many forms, from directly influencing the way the art is created, from observing, or simply being in the same space as the art.
The 4+4 Days in Motion Festival happened from October 5th to 13th in the Desfours Palace near the Masaryk train station. This annual festival has multiple exhibits, and this year’s included “Uncertainty of the Principle,” “It Started with a Memory,” and “Stories Are Us.” The overarching theme throughout the festival was, “the topic of Uncertainty Principle.” Over 50 artists were invited to contribute in this year’s striking combination of creations.
An extremely memorable part of this festival was the space itself. Built in 1845, the Desfours Palace is a charming, four-story building that has been abandoned; however, the 4+4 Days in Motion Festival brought it back to life. By using this unique location, they removed the idea that contemporary art is inaccessible and unapproachable. Instead, the viewer was brought into the art and was not forced to observe it from afar, as one would in an average museum. Smaller rooms allowed the viewers to become enveloped with what they were experiencing. With most rooms containing only one main artwork or theme, the outer world was completely removed. Walking from room to room felt like you were passing through multiple dimensions; the long hallways were the empty spaces between them.
Many artists used this unique space to their full advantage. One of which is Dries Verhoeven, a Dutch artist, with his interactive work, “Guilty Landscapes.” In this work, Verhoeven attempted to make the viewer feel discomfort with the confrontation of unfamiliar situations from around the world. In “Guilty Landscapes,” visitors entered the room completely alone. In the room, there was only a large screen occupying one of the walls, displaying an industrial factory with a deafening machinery noise. Soon, a young woman entered the screen, mimicking each viewer’s movements while also inviting the viewer to copy hers. So the viewer and the factory worker were both alone, together, while still remaining completely separate. It was extremely unnerving as the young woman stared at the viewer. The observer became the observed.
Performance art was a significant portion of the 4+4 Days in Motion Festival, and almost every performance required the viewer’s contribution. This idea was tested multiple times in the exhibits, compelling the viewer to become both the audience and the performer. A performance art piece that utilized the viewer as a performer is UN:TIT:LED by T.I.T.S, a performance art group that began at the Norwegian Theatre Academy in Fredrikstad. In this piece, the viewer was invited to participate by not only watching the performance but also by answering the performer’s questions and helping project images on the performers’ bodies. These activities invite the viewer to become the art, involving them in its creation, and allowing them to feel empowered by its success.
Bringing together the space, the artist, and the viewer in such an exceptional way makes the 4+4 Days in Motion Festival, held every October in a different location, a must-see for anyone who wants to collaborate with living art. Since the beginning, the festival has been led by producers Denisa Vaclavova, Marketa Cerna, production manager Nikola Böhmova and dramaturg Pavel Storek.
During the eight days that the festival resided in the Desfours Palace, an empty building once again was given life through the energy that the people brought. Everyone who attended was shown a new perspective on the way art is shared. Voyeuristic, eccentric, and dynamic, the artworks all came together to challenge what art can be and how viewers can experience it.