A Playdate With Marvelous Toys

PLAY is open until June 30th @ Galerie Malostranská Beseda

The attic of Galerie Malostranská Beseda has been transformed into a play space of every child’s dreams. With something different to see, hear and touch at every turn, the exhibit entitled PLAY is its own world within the city. It is an interactive exhibition full of contraptions that gives both children and adults a chance to leave the real world behind for a moment and simply play.

The exhibit, created by Petr Nikl, is a collection of works from 2006-2017 made by Nikl and various other Czech artists. Filled with over twenty works, sculptures and installations, the gallery has become a living, breathing creature. At the entrance, an object resembling BB-8 from the newest Star Wars greets visitors with its metal arms and antenna waiting to be plunked and spun. Nearby, the sounds of out-of-tune strings and a wooden xylophone mix with the murmur of a futuristic Theremin and the echoes of voices reverberating inside a kayak even give this creature a voice. As visitors of all ages move through the exhibit, spinning bicycle wheels and zeotropes, the creature moves. At last the wonder and fascination extracted from everyone in the gallery gives the creature a soul and seemingly brings it to life.

While the exhibit can be described as this magical creature, each ambiguously designed object is best described through the lyrics of the Peter, Paul, & Mary song, “The Marvelous Toy.” “It went ‘Zip’ when it moved / And ‘Bop’ when it stopped / And ‘Whirr” when it stood still / I never knew just what it was and I guess I never will.”

In such an environment of marvelous toys, the gallery is meant to be explored. Dark corners reveal surprises for those willing to search beyond the obvious and wooden steps lead to different platforms above the main area, each with a different object to investigate. The steepest set of stairs leads into the rafters where thick, metal springs and steering wheels hang from the ceiling, ready to be banged like noisy percussion instruments, and Malá Strana Square can be seen far below through a small window.

Time seems to stop while exploring PLAY, as every person’s childlike sense of wonder takes full attention. It’s possible to spend hours in the exhibit and not even realize it. Whether composing a song on the xylophone or gathering metal scraps with a magnet on Ondřej Smeykal’s “Magnetický stůl,” all concentration is placed on the task at hand and the world around slips away.

This hands-on exhibit lets children do what they do best: play. Just as importantly, it lets adults revisit their younger selves and brings back the innocent joy and wonder that tends to get lost over the years. PLAY is open until June 30th.

The exhibit is open daily from 10:00-6:00 pm.
Tickets are 130 CZK or 75 CZK for students and 325 CZK for families.

More information about the exhibit can be found at www.magickevikyre.cz (CZ)

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