..in Prague, 2023 and 2024
The Basel Fasnacht is a unique three-day city festival full of color, shapes and creativity that delights hundreds of thousands of participants and spectators every year. The Prague Fasnacht was founded only eleven years ago and since then has grown into a festival of likewise spectacular figures and forms. What both festivities have in common is the tackling of societal and political topics (in Basel called “sujets”) for which new costumes are created every year for the carnival parade, as well as the use of masks (larvae) covering the entire face.
The core of the suggested project for Prague will be a special exhibition and a get together of carnival associations from both cities, culminating in the participation of Basel carnival groups (cliques) in the Prague parade. In addition, an academic symposium will be held in Prague and a new documentary film will be produced about the Basel Carnival.
Thus, the project «Beneath the Mask» will not be preceded by an overarching question, because this would limit the project›s outcome right from the start. Due to the broad interest in the project, the actual objective is to use a low-threshold and immersive format, using the example of the Basel Carnival, to provide space for inspiration and dialogue between Prague and Basel and to be able to integrate many questions.
As a living tradition that creates identity beyond the region, the Basel Fasnacht has an important social significance and function. Participation in the annual ritual cuts across all social, cultural and demographic strata and moves thousands of people. In addition to its social function, the Basel Carnival also contributes a great deal to regional added value in its economic aspect and creates jobs. These opportunities are to be communicated to the public in Prague in order to show the potential of a carnival tradition.
Currently our project includes the four cornerstones exhibition communication/experience), parade (participation), symposium (exchange) and film (documentation/mediation). The immersive exhibition is meant to inspire visitors and give them a pre-taste of carnival, which is hardly describable. The parade offers the opportunity to jointly develop and implement creative ideas and to carry them out with the combined efforts and participation from Prague and Basel and a direct participation of the Prague public. The symposium provides for the in-depth discussion of the impact of rituals and traditions for an urban modern society, its identity and cohesion, and finally the film documents the event in a long-term and sustainable way.
There is something archaic about the need to let go of one’s own character and slip into a role of one›s choosing, and it can be a great liberation and satisfaction especially in difficult times. This feeling connects us Baslers with all the other people around the world who follow their own tradition of carnival, masquerade or Fasnacht. To show these emotions in an exhibition will be the great challenge and opportunity at the same time.Claudio Vogt
In Basel we always say: you can’t explain carnival, you have to experience it yourself. Our exhibition is therefore more of an experience, less of an explanation. An audiovisual trip: sensual, inspiring, immersive.Benedikt Wyss
An active participant in the Basel Fasnacht since childhood, with a flair for its wild and creative moments, I was immediately enraptured by the liveliness and freshness of the Prague Fasnacht. I am particularly interested in its artistic qualities, which could also be a source of inspiration for Basel.Marc Wey
The exhibition aims to convey a fascinating sensual experience of the phenomenon „Fasnacht“. With the help of modern technology, visitors will be taken on a journey through carnival. They will experience colors and shapes, the omnipresent musical tapestry, artistic representations of themes, walking back and forth through the city in a mask, meeting groups and the change of light and darkness in the process.
The carnival procession in Prague will be joined by a number of guests, cliques and other groups from Basel and will become a major event for the whole city. In the run-up to the parade, it is planned that groups from both cities will undertake joint preparations, work out subjects or exchange ideas. It will be exciting to observe how the two cities deal with themes, where they set their priorities, and how they implement them. Artists and young people will also be involved in the activities.
The Prague carnival has had up to 600 participants in the past years; in Basel, around 25,000 people actively take part in the carnival. Given this difference in size, it is foreseen that viewers in Prague will be encouraged to join the procession right away and thus switch to the side of the active carnival participants. Simple masks (larvae) are distributed for this purpose. Furthermore, the procession will with a special attraction in the exhibition.
An interdisciplinary academic collaboration between the Universities of Prague and Basel, led by the departments of religious studies, is planned, with various topics such as: masks and their significance, sociological or economic aspects, impacts of traditions on an urban society. The academic event will be wrapped up in a scientific publication to record the observations.
The documentary film will first of all describe the main features of the current forms of carnival; following this, it will provide a deeper insight into the tradition and make the phenomenon more tangible. Certain film elements will also be used for the exhibition.
The exhibition will take place in the centre of Prague near Wenceslas Square in an old riding hall (https://runoperun.com). This great location is suitable for the staging and particularly interesting for visitors since the place is unknown even to Prague residents. People will access through a partially playable shop passage, or via a dead-end street that ends opposite the Mucha Museum.
The project "Beneath the mask" extends over two years.
A joint carnival procession of Prague and Basel carnival associations (cliques) will take place on 16 and 17 November 2023. Also in autumn/winter, a scientific symposium will be held with the universities of Basel and Prague.
The immersive exhibition will begin with the Prague carnival in November 2024 and end around the Basel carnival in February 2025. Likewise, the documentary film on the Basel Fasnacht will be produced in the coming year.
Despite their differences, the large Basel Fasnacht which has been established for centuries and the small, still unstructured and experimental Fasnacht in Prague have a lot in common. This offers the chance to absorb each other’s ideas and new forms.Dominique Mollet
From the point of view of the “Documentation of Basel Carnival” project, I am interested in observing what is understood, abstracted and, if anything, received in Prague from a living tradition that is fundamentally bound to its sponsorship, performance and location [Basel] and is shaped by socio-cultural codes.Alain Grimm
It is fascinating to learn that such a living ritual exists in the middle of Europe, even in Switzerland of all places. Fasnacht is a geyser of creativity and also of reflection on current issues, it connects artists and people from all walks of life. That’s why eleven years ago we decided: we want something like that in our city, too.Olga Cieslarová
The project is jointly managed by Prague and Basel and consists of the following persons:
- Olga Cieslarová (Animation, Community, Staging Procession)
- Dominique Mollet (Management)
- Benedikt Wyss (Curator)
- Lucie Králová (Multimedia)
- Alain Grimm (Operations and Finance)
- Claudio Vogt (Communication)
A patronage committee will be formed with personalities and organisations from both cities, as well as a sounding board of experts.
Olga Cieslarová: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dominique Mollet: email@example.com
Fotos: Pino Covino, Jeremy Schmit, Jan Hromádko