European City of Culture 2020: Pula Lights Up Its Case

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Residents of Pula create the largest Tetris screen in the world in their Pula2020 European Capital of Culture bid.

The Croatian city of Pula put on a memorable show on March 12, 2016 in order to push their candidature for the 2020 European capital of culture. They organised the most unusual lighting performance in the history of the city entitled The Switch (Prekidač). In this performance, residents of the building in the city area of Veruda created a unique light installation by turning the lights in the building on an off, starting by writing Pula+2020 across the right side of the building and then creating the largest active Tetris game screen in the world.

This technically challenging lighting performance was created with the help of the world renowned Visualia festival and the Visualia Lab /EduSplash platform. The aim of the project was to involve the residents of Pula in the Pula 2020 project and to inform them that their city has made it to the finals. Several thousand residents of Pula gathered in front of the light installation building in order to show their support for the Pula 2020 project. As we already reported on several occasions, Pula has entered the European tender with a project entitled „Demilitarisation! From the fort to the forum“, and the Croatian city that will carry the title of the European culture capital 2020 will be announced on March 24, 2016.

Even though the lighting installation was only performed across one half of the building (due to the fact that the rest of the building is not occupied), it is interesting to note that the entire installation was done without the use of modern technology and computer software. All that was used was the actual lighting system within the building and the residents were asked to turn their light switches on and off in order to create a choreographed pattern. The Switch was therefore a completely analogue project, and in order to thank the residents for their participation, organisers gave all of them 2 long lasting LED light bulbs, and all 3 building entrances that participated will receive a framed photo of the event as a token of their participation and a reminder of their artistic achievement.

PREKIDAČ is an art installation created by Marko Bolković, and artist from Pula and the director of Visualia festival whose production and organisation is signed by the VisuaLab/EduSplash multimedia platform. The project was supported by the Tourist Board of Pula, Istrian Archaeological Museum and the Pula Association of technical culture.

(Dean Skira’s Lighting Giants, the illuminating of the famous cranes from Uljanik shipyard in Pula, which put the festival on the map and went a long way to establishing Pula as the ‘City of Light’.)

“The SWITCH is completely analog and it was realized simply by pressing the switch in kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms, unlike other light installations that include the use of new technologies and modern computer softwares”, said Marko Bolković, the director of the Visualia festival.


Bolković and his Visualia team have been a key element in Pula’s intelligent and successful use of heritage and technology to promote this ancient city of culture for the modern tourist. Their Visualia festival is slowly establishing Pula as the European ‘City of Light’, and the lighting of the iconic cranes of the Uljanic shipyard, a project by award-winning designer Dean Skira, was a stroke of genius, which TCN covered at the time for Google News



Last year’s Visualia festival included a successful attempt to get into the Guinness Book of Records for the largest light postcard (see video above and link here), and while Bolković’s genius has Pula light years (please excuse the pun) ahead of any other destination in Croatia regarding its innovative use of technology to promote tourism, it is part of a concerted strategy to blend the heritage treasures of the past with the needs of the modern tourist to Pula. Pula Mayor Boris Miletić whose mandate has seen Pula’s iconic Pula Arena (the sixth largest Roman Ampitheatre in the world) been put to innovative use. Where once Christians were fed to the lions, in recent years, Pula visitors have been able to watch ice hockey, music concerts featuring the likes of Leonard Cohen and Joe Cocker, while a short distance from Pula, the annual Outlook Festival has transformed an abandoned military fortress into one of the hottest musical festivals in Croatia – Outlook. 


All this was achieved in a country not known for its new ideas or innovative use of its culture. Should Pula be chosen as the European Capital of Culture for 2020, the sky is quite literally the limit, and Bolković and his Visualia team will make sure it is VERY well illuminated.



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