The Prague Experiment

PRAGUE QUADRIENNAL, june 6th./16th. 2019

THE PRAGUE EXPERIMENT reflects on the boundaries between technology and human communication: presenting itself as a technological tool in the research space of affective computing, it claims within itself the uniqueness of direct communication between human beings.

A reflection on and with technology, defining imagination as the faculty that makes us human, as a reality that can exist only in the relationship between human beings, as an entity that multiplies in the act of reflecting itself, and that cannot be reproduced, but only endlessy re-created .


Starting from the curatorial theme assigned by The Prague Quadriennal, Imagination as the initial moment of the artistic process, the students of Brera’s School of Set Design started in January 2018 a long journey, which gradually led them to give substance to a complex and layered performative project. A broad design gesture, which created an imaginary world as a reflection on the concept of authorship and falsehood.

A scientific institution, the Imaginometric Society, gathers scholars of a new science from all over the world; this imaginary body has designed a new scientific instrument, the Imaginometer, which will be the center of the PRAGUE EXPERIMENT, an experiment capable of recording human imagination.

This impossible task called for a rigororous process of creation and design; reversing the usual set-design path, we deprived ourselves of images, to be able to design an instrument that aims to stimulate images in the visitor’s mind.

It was soon clear that a musical metaphor of our design effort, could only be realized in the context of the soundscape composition, exploiting data sonification techniques usually unrelated to the world of music. We therefore shared our journey with the Electronic Music School of the Milan Conservatory, integrating our different languages ​​more and more closely. The work on space and sonification has been integrated with a performative side, sustained by Brera students. Our Performative Machine is capable of generating a virtually endless series of unique and unrepeatable microperformances; these microperformances will be at the center of our artistic manifesto: imagination exists only through the relationship between human beings.

Our whole process followed the poetic and productive indications of the Ghent Manifest, Milo Rau’s  decalogue. We are therefore particularly proud that the Ghent Theater has created the “Manifesto Stamp” for our project, proving our compliance with the Ghent Manifest.

In these sixteen months of work, we have expanded our field of investigation as much as possible, inviting Andrea Bassi, Professor of the Department of Physics of POLIMI, who held us a lecture about scientific imaging, and Agnese Collino, Scientific Responsible of the communication of the Veronesi Foundation, which introduced us to the mechanisms that regulate the production and circulation of ideas in science.

A significant part of the project will consist of a site that will be the communication channel of the Imaginometric Society; the site  will also allow visitors to access a memory, a sound reconstruction of their experience in the Imaginometer.


The space in which our experiment will take place is an industrial cleanroom; the field of investigation will be the imagination of the visitors, admitted one at a time. The path will start from a measurement of biometric data, which will be sonified and combined with other sound layers by a musical automaton that will create a unique soundscape in real time, which will uniquely distinguish each visitor.

The visitor will perceive this soundscape through a bone conduction headphone. Listening by bone does not hide the normal way of hearing, and the visitor will therefore not be acoustically isolated from the space in which the performance takes place, but will perceive the sound track thanks to the vibrations transmitted through the bones of his head. This feeling of physical perception of sound will accompany him during the timed stay in the heart of our instrument, a performative device capable of generating endless unique and unrepeatable microperformances.

Five performers will interact for two minutes with the visitor, stimulated by an imaginogenic act that will be communicated to them immediately before the performance. The acts will be unknown by the performers, and automatically generated from a list. Visitors and performers will therefore be placed in the same condition, the unexpected: to stimulate imagination in others, it is necessary to generate it in ourselves.

At the end of the experiment, there will be a new measurement of data, and finally a recognition code will be assigned to the visitor. By accessing the site at the end of the Quadrennial, and entering their code, each visitor can recreate a memory of their visit, thanks to a musical automaton that will reproduce the same materials produced during his visit.

The Imaginometer will also produce Observation Sheets and Imaginomic Acts, that will fuel the next steps of our research.


THE PRAGUE EXPERIMENT will be operated by various groups that will alternate, for a total of over 30 students, mostly from Brera’s School of Set Design (but also from Sculpture, New Art Technologies, Photography, Communication of Art) and of the Conservatory (School of Electronic Music).

THE PRAGUE EXPERIMENT will partecipate to the Students Exhibition of the Prague Quadrennial, representing not only Brera and the Conservatory, but also Italy, as the only official presence in the whole event. The Prague Quadrennial (6/16 June 2019), is one of the most important events dedicated to Scenography and Performing Arts in general. The last edition (2015), totaled 180,000 visitors, hosted over 600 performance events, created by students and artists from over 80 countries worldwide.

In November 2019, the project will have a second phase,  transforming itself into THE MILAN EXPERIMENT, hosted by Zone K. We are currently preparing variations and developments of the initial project, which will make THE MILAN EXPERIMENT an experince at the same time similar and quite different from the original one.

Franco Ripa di Meana, Sylviane Sapir, Federico Tesio