People of Prague
Signal Festival’s Martin Pošta
In autumn 2010, a crowd gathered around the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square to celebrate its 600th birthday. The sky darkened. The clock’s face illuminated, recounting the structure’s centuries old history as onlookers watched in awe. For Martin Pošta, one of the organizers of the anniversary videomapping, it was like working behind the scenes of a Rolling Stones concert.
“You can see all those people gathering there, because you did something,” he says. He could feel the goosebumps.
As cofounder of Signal Festival, the annual outdoor interactive festival entering its seventh year, Pošta has come a long way since his debut at Prague’s clock tower. From 10–13 October, he and a team of 200 people will transform Prague into a canvas for innovative works of videomapping, light projects and installations.
Videomapping’s popularity in Prague and other European cities has bloomed since the Astronomical Clock celebration. In the last year alone, Praguers have witnessed the Apollo 11 mission launch off the Zizkov Television Tower and the 100-year evolution of the Czechoslovak state projected on the National Museum. Even Prague City Hall recently announced that it would ditch traditional fireworks in favor of this popular visual display for New Year’s Eve.
“It is great to see what impact Signal’s had on the popularization of digital art in general,” Pošta says.
Pošta’s first job in this business was when he was 14 years old working grunt jobs at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. Years before, his family had moved to Prague from Zagreb when war in Yugoslavia broke out. His Croatian father worked as a director of photography. This and KVFF introduced him to his love of film.
Referring to himself as a “serial founder,” Pošta went on to launch several business ventures, many of which incorporated film production. From the mid 2000s, he produced the international Fresh Film Festival, a design supermarket, and a hip-hop documentary called Czech RAPublic. He’s currently in production on an animated film to be released late next year.
It was at a pop-up bar in his design supermarket several years ago where he became a co-founder of Signal Festival by coincidence. There he got involved with Jan K. Rolnik and Amar Mulabegovic, who were originally considering a videomapping project for the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord in Jiřího z Poděbrad. Then the city approached them to do the Astronomical Clock anniversary.
“It was my first videomapping ever,” Pošta says. “We ran it without any tests.”
The event’s success led to more job offers. Pošta soon found himself traveling to Liverpool, Dubai and Paris to produce both commercial and artistic events. Eventually, he co-founded Signal Festival in Prague, which has grown from 250,000 attendees to 600,000 since its inception seven years ago.
“This job has been such a good marriage between being a geek and loving art,” he says.
This year, the festival draws inspiration from the 30-year anniversary of the Velvet Revolution and its impact on society. Some installations will look specifically at 1989 and the fall of the Iron Curation, while others examine more contemporary takes on this theme.
“We want to focus on the duality of revolution,” Pošta says. “It can be positive but it can also be violent… You add what’s happening with technology and we’re experiencing smaller revolutions on the day-to-day.”
One of the highlights of the 2019 program will be “Intensive Reflections on Modernity” by Jakub Pešek. The largest installation in the festival’s history, this laser show will connect the left and right banks of the Vltava River at Smetanovo nábřeží. Other can’t-miss installations include the 3D videomapping “R-Evolution” at Tyršův dům and “Space & Possibilities” at Kostel sv. Cyrila a Metoděje (see Your Guide to Signal Festival).
While attendees can enjoy the majority of the festival for free, some of the installations are paid entry. Pošta and his team introduced this in an effort to cut down on lines. Festival goers can pay for entry or get a festival pass for access to all six paid installations. Festival passes are 200Kc in advance, 300Kc at the festival, and can be purchased online on the Signal Festival and GoOut websites or at the Gallery zones located at several sites.
Pošta was already busy planning next year’s festival before this year’s even started. He has big plans for the future. While he didn’t want to share too many details, he did say that he wants to focus more on sustainability and mobility.
In the short term, he hopes the festival goers will get goosebumps just like he did at the Astronomical Clock almost a decade ago.
“I know it’s a cliche,” he says, “but I want to give them a sense of wonder. That’s the convening power of the arts, that feeling of getting out of in front of the television and experiencing your city in a new light.”
Story by Nicole Ely