NIDA students’ Prague invasion
NIDA’s Design for Performance second-year students recently completed a very successful engagement with the international design festival, Prague Quadrennial 2015 (PQ15). The group presented two works: In the Walls, an installation in Kafka House with students from the Victorian College of the Arts and University of Technology Sydney as ‘room mates’; and The Glorious Crawl, a collaborative performance piece that saw groups of masked beings travelling through the centre of Prague.
In the Walls
This project responded to one of the three areas of exploration that PQ15 proposed – the politics of weather, space and music. NIDA Design students chose The Politics of Space and worked with Design Lecturer Carson Andreas and Directing Graduate James Dalton in the conceptual exploration and the resulting work.
James and Carson proposed the following parameters: Occupation of space is a recurring anxiety in contemporary Australian dialogue. It is common to hear of private space referred to as “in demand” or “too expensive” while public space is perceived as threatened territory, so much so that acts of government are passed to prevent anticipated violence, whether it is a fight through the consumption of alcohol or gathering action based on political ideals. An ecosystem of such dialogue has led to space contextualised as a precious resource – one that must be protected, no matter how many other ideals, humanitarian included, may be compromised in the process.
In the Walls is a series of interventions in interior spaces in Prague, including Kafka House. To begin the process of designing and fabricating a work that would physically transform the space of Kafka House, the students used two starting questions:
If this interior space is seen as a precious resource, how can an intervention “give it back to the people”?
If this intervention is generated from a contemporary Australian context, what dialogue can it have with both a space in Prague and an international festival audience?
Design students used H.P. Lovecraft's gothic tale, Rats in the Walls as the narrative through which they explored these various themes of spatial politics. The physical outcome of this exploration was a three-dimensional model created by the group in response to the spatial stimuli of Kafka House.
The Glorious Crawl
James and Design Lecturer Sue Field then guided the students through creating The Glorious Crawl, the students’ contribution to Tribes. The group was asked to envisage themselves as a tribe, manufacture costumes that identified them as a tribe and wear them on a journey through the streets of Prague.
Continuing to use Rats in the Walls as a springboard, the Design students naturally decided that they would become a tribe of rats. The resulting promenade was spectacular as they worked their way through public and private spaces throughout Prague – catching the subway, shopping, interacting with a bridal party and children in a park, taking an unsuspecting dog by surprise, and playing with another group of students in the forecourt of the national theatre in a territorial encounter.
I was immensely proud of the second-year Design students’ contribution to PQ15. I know for many of them this experience was a game changer, or as one student put it to me “I now know what it is that I want to do with design”.
Photography courtesy of final year Design students.