CLOUD at Signal Festival

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Whether we are characters in a choose-your-own-adventure novel, or merely the founders and caretakers of a blossoming CLOUD Factory, Wayne Garrett and I have tucked another CLOUD city under our belt.

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Moving from one time zone to the next, and one temporary (and tantalizing) life to another, CLOUD has floated us across borders and over oceans to sample communities in four different cities – Calgary, Moscow, Chicago, and Prague – with a fifth on the way in November (GLOW Festival in Eindhoven, Netherlands).

Writing this blog post from an airplane (soaring above the real clouds of Manitoba), I reflect on two weeks in Prague and the voyages that CLOUD has coerced us into. We owe a great deal of gratitude to a great many people and organizations (not the least of which is Nuit Blanche Calgary, which got us started, Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, which funded the material costs of the second edition, and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts which covered our crate, and some of the expenses of install).

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This monster of a sculpture has crystallized a great many opportunities for us, and some days we don’t even feel as though we’re flying by the seat of our pants any more. More than this, we have chanced upon a fascinating method for gently testing viewers in various cities, their receptivity to interactive artworks, and the nuances of those interactions. It’s like an anthropological study of how children play.

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Unlike Nuit Blanche Calgary (the one night art festival for which CLOUD was originally conceived) we had four exhibition nights at Signal Festival. Accessibility was similar to Nuit Blanche – Signal was a free, open to the public, and primarily outdoors. From 7:30 pm – 11:30 pm, viewers and passersby were invited to wander around downtown Prague, finding light works in dark alleyways and churches, projected on historical buildings, and glowing from street corners. With a mission to re-activate historic spaces in Prague and illuminate forgotten and unexpected places, the festival appealed to all ages, demographics, and states of sobriety, with many locals and tourists alike stumbling into the scene.

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In our limited free time, we managed to view a significant portion of Signal Festival. Considering that Signal is a brand new festival, we were extremely impressed with its size and spread throughout the city. Of course, things went wrong, technology didn’t always cooperate, volunteers were scarce or non-existent, and the Signal Festival staff ran around pulling out their hair and feeling overwhelmed. But the festival was so popular that is single-handedly overflowed the metros in Prague, driving probably around 100,000+ visitors through the already bustling streets of the city.

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In general, the magic of Signal Festival was that it promoted acts of focused exploration and heightened engagement with Prague, blending historical architecture with state-of-the-art technologies (where did they get all those projectors?!) Plus, the Artists Reception was on a river Boat Cruise.

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Our experiences at Signal Festival were wonderful, and we thank the staff – Jan, Martin, Simona, Leona, Milan, Petr, et al – and our lovely Festival Guide, Assistant, and new pal Stepanka for showing us the most awesome parts of a super cool city. We look forward to watching Signal unfold in upcoming years. And who knows, maybe someday we’ll be back in Prague, showing something new…

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