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Interview with Sodja Lotker, PQ Artistic Director and the Tribes Curator
1) What makes the Prague Quadrennial unique? What status does it have
on the international theatre scene?
The Prague Quadrennial is unique, and the largest theatre exhibition in the world.
Its uniqueness lies in the spectrum of countries, theatrical disciplines and genres
presented. There is usually work from over 80 countries on display. Since the late
1990s we have focused on broadening the understanding of what scenography/
performance design is (going beyond standard drama, ballet and opera into new
performance genres – site-specific, interventions and installations using a variety
of materials, media and technologies). We have also transformed the Quadrennial
from an exhibition into an event that incorporates hundreds of workshops,
performances, lectures and other events, thus making the PQ unique, vibrant place
of exchange and close encounter for thousands of theatre students and professionals
from a variety of disciplines and from all over the world .
2) How has performance design changed since the first edition of the PQ
in 1967?
I would say that there are two important, radical tendencies that have changed
performance design: one is the leaving of the theatre building to find stages in
variety of public and private spaces. The other one is contemporary dance and
performance, where not much is really built, but the performance designer becomes
an organizer of space and spatial relations; sometimes I call this invisible
3) Has the role played by performance design shifted in the context of the
creation of theatre performances?
The roles of all theatre makers have shifted in contemporary theatre, with the rise of
planned, collective work, in which authorship and copyright are understood
differently. Performance designers further initiate their own artistic projects –
installations, interventions, fashion shows etc. Unfortunately, in more traditional
theatre forms the role of scenographer is still perceived as a certain kind of service
to the play and director, and the role of the stage designer is reserved for men and
costume designer for women. I find this very strange.
4) In what ways would you say that Czech performance design has
changed? Does the current generation have any personalities who have
achieved success abroad like, for example, Josef Svoboda and František
Tröster in the previous century?
Nobody is as famous as Josef Svoboda internationally! I cannot think of any
designers from other countries who have been as influential and admired as Josef
However, due to the strong tradition and legacy of (and in spite of) authorities such
as Svoboda and Tröster, there are a great many excellent designers in the Czech
Republic. Just some of my (personal) favorites are Jana Preková, Jan Štěpánek,
Martin Chocholoušek, Martin Černý, Marek Cpin, Kamila Polívková, Antoním Šílar,
Lucia Škandiková, Robert Smolík …
5) The theme of the 13th edition of the PQ 2015 performance design
festival is SharedSpace: Music Weather Politics. How will these themes
manifest themselves in exhibitions?
I wanted to inspire the curators of national selections to think about ´why we do
things´: not to present yet another design for yet another Ibsen or Shakespeare
production, but to tell us about the significance of what performance design ´does´,
how it influences the performance and the audience, in the same way that music,
weather and politics (art, ethics and Mother Nature) deeply influence our lives on a
daily basis. How the work of a designer is influenced by their specific worldview, by
the specific culture or issues with which they are dealing, is, in my opinion, the most
interesting aspect.
6) This is the fifth time that you have worked on preparations for the
Prague Quadrennial, and the second time that you have been the
director. How are you able to influence the PQ concept through your
The influence of the Concept of the Prague Quadrennial (dramaturgical mission
statement that stands at the beginning of each Quadrennial) is very strong. We
aspire to inspire and challenge curators and teams of national selections to think
about performance design in new ways (as both a practice and profession) via
concepts that we propose; at the same time we try to keep all doors and windows
open so that the curators and teams can present issues, concepts and designs that
are important locally. This is a very interesting challenge.
I am, however, proud to say that through our exhibitions, projects and symposia we
have legitimized a whole new way of thinking about scenography in the sense of
form, role, impact.
7) In which respects is PQ 2015 different to previous editions? What
might surprise visitors?
PQ 2015 will be very different spatially: for the first time the main sections (Section
of Countries and Regions and the Student Section) will be spread over several
venues. All of these venues are located in the very center of Prague and have
differing architectural characters. Additionally we have a large number of projects
in public spaces in the center of Prague. I think this will create opportunities for a
greater dialogue with the city and its inhabitants.
We will further have eatable scenography (the Makers Section), hundreds of
masked groups of people travelling, shopping and walking around the center
(Tribes), secret stories of Objects….
8) Many of the installations share a common thread – interactivity. Do
you see in this a certain trend in contemporary performance design?
(I wouldn’t use the word interactive; all art is interactive in different ways).
Installations in the main sections will this time be something we call ´relational’ -
they simply anticipate the presence of the audience within the exposition. The
exhibitions are, in a way, little ‘stages’ for audiences.
And, yes I think this is an important aspect of performance design - that it creates
space for live, mental and physical relationships among living people. This is very
9) The Prague Quadrennial has already brought the exhibition into the
public space once before, in 2011 (Intersections on the Piazetta of the
National Theatre Prague). Will there be something similar this year?
I have mentioned the Tribes project before. We will have over 80 groups of people,
designed by artists and students from all over the world, travelling through the
center of Prague over the whole duration of the festival.
The Intersection project was very exciting, but we have decided to do something
bigger (over 80 groups) that is, at the same time, more ecological (we will not be
building anything): a project that creates a presence for performance design in
(and collision with) everyday life, in the public space.
10) Which exhibitions have most engaged your interest?
I am very intrigued by (and secretly proud of) what we used to call the ‘Eastern
European’ countries: Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Croatia,
Serbia etc. I feel a very strong tendency to merge conceptual, precise and innovative
thinking with thinking that is poetic (even, in a good way, romantic) and open. For
the first time I feel that these expositions have something in common that is unique
to the region. However, this is based on the reading of the concepts of expositions,
and reality is yet to be encountered.
11) What will the exhibition by the Czech Republic look like?
The exposition of the Czech Republic is curated by Czech designer Jana Preková,
who focuses on the work of the distinctive Czech director Jan Nebeský, who has a
very specific way of working and has inspired generations of artists, and his
collaborators – artists, designers, musicians… The exposition will consist of
installations, interventions, an archive and an on-going party… from what I last
12) Amongst other things, the Prague Quadrennial of also a competition
exhibition. In which categories can makers win a Golden Triga this year?
Who bestows the awards?
This year we will have many awards covering the variety of sub-disciplines of
performance design (stage, costume, lighting, sound design) as well as Award for
Provoking a Dialogue, Innovative Approach to Performance Design and of course
the main prize, the Golden Triga for the Best Exposition.
I am especially proud of the jury, which is very diverse and full of professionals that
are pushing theatre and performance design forward in many ways: Kirsten
Dehlholm, creator of concepts and exhibitions, as well as director for, primarily,
Hotel Pro Forma; Eloise Kazan, the award-winning Mexican designer in theatre,
dance, opera, interior architecture and film; Joslin McKinney, Associate Professor
in Scenography at the School of Performance & Cultural Industries of the University
of Leeds, was originally a theatre designer; Katrīna Neiburga is one of the most
admired Latvian artists of this decade in visual arts and theatre; Kamila Polívková
is an award-winning Czech scenographer and director who works in both the Czech
Republic and abroad; Antônio Araújo is Artistic Director of the Teatro da Vertigem
and Professor at the Department of Performing Arts of ECA-USP, as well as Golden
Medal winner in the category of Best Realization of a Production at PQ 2011;
Dmitry Krymov is a Russian director and designer whose work fuses art, prose,
poetry and popular culture, as well as being winner of the Golden Triga at PQ
2007; Radivoje Dinulović is a Serbian architect, set-designer and theorist, author of
over one hundred projects in the field of theatrical architecture and set-design. He is
also the author of the book ‘The Architecture of the Theater of the Twentieth
Century’ (2009); Dominic Huber is a stage designer and theatre maker, co-founder
of Blendwerk GMBH and who has worked with, among others, the Rimini Protokoll.
13) The Prague Quadrennial traditionally also gives students the
opportunity to showcase their work. What are the benefits to them of
participation in the PQ?
The Prague Quadrennial is a wonderful, inspirational place for students, a place
where they have the opportunity to meet – to talk to and work with – top
professionals in the field, and where they can start orienting themselves in
contemporary practices and trends.
On the other hand, for us at the Prague Quadrennial, students are great inspiration
and fuel for creation of Quadrennials to come.
For more information please contact
PR and press service:
Eva Riebová
PR Manager
Prague Quadrennial
of Performance Design and Space
Celetná 17, 110 00 Prague 1, Czech Republic
Phone: +420 224 809 102
Mobile: +420 602 494 404
E-mail: [email protected]
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