The Orbis Pictus Exhibition or The Gate to the World of Creative Human Imagination

In the light of recent global developments and world-wide crisis, the Orbis Pictus exhibition’s emphasis on the need for human creativity, as well as its message of hope and joy, seem serendipitously timely.  The exhibition is based on the book Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart written in 1623 by J.A. Comenius, and which is often cited as one of the best works of older Czech literature.  Although Comenius is best known as the father of modern education, he is also considered a great spiritual leader of his time.

The project reflects the strength of creative desire for knowledge and is therefore closely tied to J. A. Comenius’s message.  Artist Petr Nikl, who also illustrated the English translation of the book, has re-interpreted the narrative of the journey experienced by the book’s protagonist as a metaphor for life and spiritual discovery, and has materialized it into an imaginary interactive landscape that aims to develop imagination and fantasy by means of large fanciful interactive instrumental objects. This instrumental installation is focused mainly on the phenomenon of play – on the creative understanding of the world and oneself through one’s own senses; both children and adults who participate in playing the instruments are left entranced by the experience. The exhibition’s central piece,  the “Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart”, is an organic musical assembly embedded in an inflated heart-shaped object which, like many other pieces, allows for the common experience and cooperation among visitors that is the soul and purpose of the exhibition:  to create a communication channel across nationalities, social classes and religions. 

To date the exhibition has traveled in Europe, where the success and acclaim from its journey from world premiere in Paris in 2006, presentation in Prague and other Czech cities through to the Italian city of Florence, has inspired Ján Fige, European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, to declare 2009 to be the European Year of Creativity and Innovation, with Orbis Pictus as it’s symbol - in February 2009 the show will be presented at the Czech Centre in Brussels and then at the European Commission’s Madou Tower, where it will be an official accompanying cultural event during the Czech Republic’s term of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Until this time the exhibition will remain at Science World at TELUS World of Science in Vancouver, Canada, where it has been receiving guests since the 5th of October 2008, and where it’s soon expecting its two millionth visitor.  As a gift to the people of British Columbia while celebrating the 150th anniversary of the province’s foundation, the authors of the Orbis Pictus or… Project, Jiri and Radana Wald [see links below] of which the Orbis Pictus exhibition is the central component, have donated one of the exhibitions objects – Citera – to the museum.  At the exhibition’s opening Jiri Wald expressed his admiration for this piece of Nikl’s work:  “…In the spirit of Comenius’s vision of harmony between nations, Citera embodies a symbolic challenge for people to make use of the power of art to foster understanding and communication… Nikl’s object, which constitutes a symbolic representation of art, houses piano strings which sound a sustained resonance in response to voices or other sounds coming from the outside...what a beautiful metaphor for communication between nations through art.”

After it’s second round in Europe, the exhibition will head back to North America for it’s first stop in San Francisco.  It is currently in the process of looking for new exhibition spaces and financial partners in presenting the exhibition to future audiences in the course of the next months, years and decades and in furthering Pampaedia’s goals of international cooperation and the development of imagination, creativity, and the sense of responsibility for one’s own life.  Another interactive exhibition, The Labyrinth of Light, is also in the process of being developed by Nikl and his team.  Due to the Orbis Pictus exhibition’s exceptionally large number of visitors, the project presents a unique opportunity for partners to increase their own visibility as well as the awareness of their products and programs, both at home and abroad.