Prague in process

A work in process

Amid the vegetable stalls, a new art event takes root

Push past the crowded produce stands, walk past the stalls selling cheap clothing and electronics, and look for building No. 40 at the bustling outdoor market in Holešovice. That’s where you’ll find the temporary home of Process — a two-month cultural program that presents an exhibition by some 75 contemporary artists from 15 countries, along with a stream of performances including music of various genres, cabaret, improvisation, dance, film and even a couple of shows for kids.

The event (its full name is the International Symposium for the Interdisciplinary Process in Contemporary Art) opens this week with a vernissage Nov. 3, and continues through the end of the year. Process is among the first of a planned series of cultural happenings at the Pražská tržnice, which has been re-christened River Town Prague by investor Delta Climatizer as part of a massive image makeover of the Holešovice market.

Mark Divo, the main organizer and curator of the event, secured the newly refurbished three-story building for the symposium during a fortuitous meeting with Delta representatives after his talks with the National Gallery about staging the event in one of the museum’s spaces ran aground.

More of a salon than a traditional buttoned-down symposium, Process emphasizes informal discussion and debate among participants and visitors, says Divo. “There are lots of tables, settees, places for people to discuss, but on a private and personal level.”

The main goal for Process is to establish a solid basis for a cross-border, cross-discipline dialogue among symposium participants, as well as to set the stage for future cooperation among artists, musicians and performers from different countries.

at River Town Prague
Friday, Nov. 3–Jan. 1, 2007 (vernissage Nov. 3 at 6 p.m.) Building No. 40 at the Pražská tržnice (Prague Market), Bubenské nábřeží, Prague 7–Holešovice.
Open Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–8 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 10 a.m.–1 a.m.

At the heart of the exhibition is an “inhabited sculpture,” a hivelike series of interconnected installations where the artworks are displayed. Each of the cells within this larger framework has seating and a workspace, allowing visitors to experience a range of viewpoints and approaches to art — and, ideally, join in the discussions that are sure to take place in a babble of English, Czech, German and other tongues.

Constructed by a team of artists, the inhabited sculpture — made partly from recycled elements and partly from basic art materials such as cardboard, paper and paint — exemplifies the type of organic and collaborative working method that Process organizer Divo would like to see crop up again and again.

Plans are already in the works for a second Process Symposium to take place next year that would bring a group of established Zurich artists to the Czech Republic. A second event involving the same core group would switch the roles, sending Czech artists to Switzerland.

A consummate cultural organizer, Divo is known for transforming abandoned buildings into artists’ squats with living and working space, organizing a Dada festival in Zurich public toilets and spearheading a building takeover of the Cabaret Voltaire, the famed haunt of early 20th-century Dadaists, to protest its planned destruction. Characteristically, he quickly distanced himself from a project that turned the building he helped to rescue into a Dada museum — an institution sure to have Marcel Duchamp spinning in his grave.

Born in 1966 in Luxembourg and raised in Switzerland, Divo lived in Zurich, Berlin and New York City before moving to Prague last year. In whatever metropolis he calls home, he endeavors to create “cultural zones” for an exchange of ideas. “In the ’80s, it was easier to appropriate abandoned buildings; you can’t do that so much any more,” he says. These days, the convergence points are more likely to take the form of the weekly salons he holds in his studio or flat — or in venues like the Holešovice market’s Building No. 40.

What Divo aims to accomplish with moveable feasts of culture like Process is a brief but heady whirlwind of art and performance, driven by the energy of international artistic cooperation: “Something dense, intense and compact,” he says, “temporary actions with lasting impact.”

The opening of Process takes place Friday, Nov. 3, at 6 p.m. and a “second opening” is set for Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. All performances and events are open to the public.

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