- UNESCO Intangible World Cultural Heritage
Experience Carnival of Basel, in Prague
..in Prague, 2023 and 2024
«Beneath the Mask» is a spectacular exhibition project, bringing «Basel Fasnacht» and «Prague Velvet Carnival» together. «Basel Fasnacht» starts with a goose bump moment. On a Monday morning in February or early March at four a.m. all lights in the city are switched off and the only illumination shines from two hundred big and thousands of small lanterns, carried by over 15'000 tambours and piccolo flute players, who simultaneously start their music. It is the beginning of carnival in Basel, the biggest city event, a three day festival of creativity, colors and sounds reuniting 25’000 participants and several hundred thousand visitors. In 2017 UNESCO included this tradition in the list of intangible cultural heritage.
«Basel Fasnacht» consists of four main features: creativity (costumes, masks and movable objects newly created every every year), music (drum, piccolos and brass bands), words (singers satirically commenting what happened through the year) and social integration (in principle everybody can participate). For the city of Basel and its public life the yearly event marks not only the end of winter, but a collective reflection on themes that society has gone through in the past year. It connects its citizens and creates a strong relationship to shared public affairs. Interestingly, Prague Velvet Carnival is a new promising city tradition as well, founded over one decade ago, and partly inspired by Basel Fasnacht.
«Beneath the Mask» will bring an exciting exhibition of images and emotions from Basel to Prague, by which visitors can immerse in the world of this unique art of carnival. They will experience 360 degree videos and the option to change perspectives and become part of the show. It will connect the two carnivals and inspire viewers to experience how traditions can adapt to the future and become a meaningful part of city festivities.
«Beneath the Mask» consists of a spectacular exhibition (communication/experience); a joint parade with Basel groups at the Prague Carnival (participation), a symposium on traditions, city rituals and economy (exchange); and a documentary film (documentation/reflection). The partnership aims at bringing a mutual creative process of inspiration between Basel and Prague with new impulses to both. The parade in Prague is planned to form a long term partnership.
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
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
Fotos: Pino Covino, Jeremy Schmit, Jan Hromádko