The lavish interiors of Prague, Czech Republic’s Mirror Chapel were recently transformed into a psychedelic art space thanks to New York-based design studio SOFTlab. Commissioned by the 2018 Signal Festival that concluded last month, the designers inserted an interactive and circular art installation made of responsive mirrors and LEDs. Dubbed Iris, the luminous artwork reacted to ambient sound and the movement of people through the rotation of mirrors, creating vertically fragmented images for a dream-like effect.
Built in the early 18th century, the Mirror Chapel has long drawn visitors for its sumptuous interiors dressed with marble, mirrors, gilded stucco decorations and frescoed and painted ceilings. In the 1930s, the beautiful chapel — which belongs to the historic complex of buildings in Prague called Clementinum — began being used for secular purposes such as concerts and exhibitions. The building has also been a popular destination for the Signal Festival of Lights, the largest cultural event in the Czech Republic that unites art, urban space and modern technology and has drawn crowds of more than two million people since it was launched five years ago.
One of the many invited international design practices, SOFTlab crafted a site-specific artwork for Mirror Chapel that takes inspiration from the building’s many mirrored surfaces. Arranged as a circular array, the Iris art installation reacts to sound and movement to create a bewildering display of light and reflections evocative of a ‘mise en abyme’ — a French term describing the technique of putting a copy of an image within itself — that mixes elements of the chapel, viewers and light into a series of recursive and panoramic images.
“Both the intricate nature of the Mirror Chapel’s architecture and its use as a classical concert hall drive the design of the installation,” the designers explained. “A mirrored object in the round reflects the ornate surroundings externally while reflecting the viewer infinitely on the interior of the circular enclosure. This reflective enclosure is disrupted as people approach for a closer look. In this way, it is curiosity and sound that activate the installation. A closer look has the potential to produce a delightful bewilderment as the exterior leaks in while space and sound become multiplied in unexpected ways. In that sense, Iris is not an object, image or artifact on its own, but relies on the existing space as the medium. As it bends, multiplies and conflates light and sound, it calls into question the lenses (both mechanical and cultural) that limit or expand our spatial experiences.”
Images via Signal Festival of Lights / SOFTlab