An interactive exhibiton PLAY is a continuation of the successful Orbis Pictus or… project, which was conceived by Petr Nikl and participated in other artists, Czech as well as foreign. Nikl sees PLAY as a continuous game, which does not come to an end at the gallery’s doors. Play is for children and parents as well as all other visitors. Play is the place where one’s creativity and invention come to the fore.
This playful exhibition occupied the famous Mánes Gallery in Prague for almost four months. It was visited by a record number of visitors in Czech history: 107 310 in total, 1154 as the daily average. This earned the exhibiion first place among the most successful and most visited exhibitions in the Czech Republic in recent years.
From 4 November 2010 to 20 February 2011, visitors could not only enjoy participating directly in the PLAY project, but could also attend a series of happenings, theatre shows, workshops and, last but not least, the PLAY music festival. The gallery space was transformed into a landscape of activity, mapping the continuous rise and fall of various micro events. The process was continually photographed and a documentary film was created from the material gathered. Moreover, four cameras were positioned around the main hall, and these could be operated online so that visitors were allowed to watch the process of crystallisation after leaving the gallery. A video was also streamed onto a large screen on the outer wall of the Mánes building.
The exhibition typically comprises the unique Crystallisation presentation – a collective landscape of ideas, which are “crystallised” thanks to the direct intervention and creativity of all visitors to the exhibition. “Flowerbeds” lie on the ground with small items of loose, solid, moulding material, which visitors can build, construct, piece together and join to form parts of an evolving organism. This composite whole is being developed organically to take the form of a plant or crystal, which resembles a living organism that is growing from the ground and taking over the gallery space. Visitors can observe this process through various kinds of periscopes and other optical devices, which offer a different perspective.
Visitors are allowed to bring along a small object and place it in the crystallising landscape. The object cannot be bigger than 10 cm3. The landscape will thus represent the visitors’ tastes and embody the choices they make, which should produce a number of bizarre and contrasting symbioses.
In contrast to the chaotically evolving Crystallisation, compact chambers promoting intense sensory experiences are provided. These recesses combine to create a labyrinth of devices exploring the sensations of light, sound and touch. Objects created by participating artists as well as some exhibits from the Orbis Pictus collection have been placed here so that they can be examined by visitors to reveal their creative possibilities. In different ways, both levels activate a communicative game, which gives free reign to the imagination and fantasies of all age groups. The division between these two spaces can also be seen as a metaphor for the world above and below the surface.