Asymptote, Douglas Edric Stanley

Asymptote has been showing since yeasterday at the Enter Multimediale in the dungeons caves of the Prague Castle. It’s a pretty amazing location. It’s been a pretty difficult setup down there though. It’s very damp and I’ve had to work at all hours and nights in the dark. As a result, I was sick all day after some food poisoning (a deadly sandwich), as well as from trying to fix the installation which was damaged while in transit. Everyone has been wonderful here though, and we’ve finally worked everything out. The opening went well, and the public’s reaction was good. I feel much better about the piece than I did in Tokyo, where I still had some bugs to work out with the motors.

I hadn’t been to Prague since the early 1990’s, when I travelled here just after the Berlin wall collapsed. Things were a bit surreal back then: amongst other oddities I had to ride in a train car with a gun smuggler who tried to buy my silence by giving me one of his guns. Things seem to have settled a little since then, but the atmosphere is still thick despite the optimism. There are still historical traces everywhere. I’ve also been accompagnying LOEIL, as we have a huge robotics installation for the festival. We’re set up in a giant russian monument at the top of one of the Prague hillsides looking over the city. We took a group photo this morning in one of the opulent back rooms where you could almost smell the cigars of the Russian power-set.

I also spoke to some Prague cultural television programme. The interview lasted for about a half an hour. No one seems to be able (as is always the case) to tell me how I can get a cassette. As I was showing off our robots, I got all the typical stupid questions about man being replaced by machines. I tried to explain that things were a bit more complex than that. I jokingly tried making reference to Karl Čapek’s “Robot”, but she’d never heard of him. If you have to explain a joke, especially a bad one…

It’s also been strange having an installation just a few floors beneath the President’s office (I’m speaking of Vaclav Havel of course). For some strange reason — I have no idea why — we had to get a key from his secretary. I was asking for something or another, and the organiser said, oh we have to go ask the Preseident’s office for that, wanna come? What are you kidding? Nope. A few armed guards later and there we were. His secretary was a little sec, of course. I was well dressed, but a bit smelly from all the heavy lifting, probably.

I should add before leaving off that just next to my installation is one of the most beautiful works I’ve seen in years, Tamàs Waliczky’s Landscape. I also had the chance to spend the evening of the opening with Tamàs and his wife who were both quite charming.