Visiting Folkestone Triennial

13 November 2014

Introduction by Skinder Hundal, NAE CEO

Folkstone Triennial is art in the public realm, sponsored and funded by philanthropist Sir Roger Die Haan and Arts Council England respectively. The third iteration was curated by Lewis Biggs, ex Director for Liverpool Biennial. His approach has provided a sensitive and considered approach with 21 artists creating site specific interventions across the picturesque town of Folkstone.

'The curators brief for Folkstone Triennial is to commission artists to make great new artworks; to place the artworks around the town as if this were a gallery; and to ensure that some of those artworks can remain on site, joining the Folkstone Artworks collection.' Lewis Biggs writing in the Triennial Guide 2014.

The New Art Exchange team visited over the period of the Triennial and I finally got there on the final weekend with creative residents on the European Voluntary Service (EVS) programme from Italy and Egypt. The early start and three hour train journey from Nottinghamto Folkstone via St Pancras was well worth the effort for the art day trip.

So on arrival what happened ?As we arrive we were greeted by a member of the Triennial team who explained the best way to tackle the Art trail. I thought this was a good move making us feel welcome and at ease with regards to our options. The route map is a useful navigation tool. As soon as we exit the station we are greeted by Yoko Ono's Earth Peace poster. This sets a strong philosophical tone – i.e. the need for black and white boldness in creating a sustainable future planet, delivered with peace. The trail will eventually complete in the sunset of the Grand Hotel with another Yoko Ono installation – a bright light installation sitting on the roof of the hotel sending out morse code messages into the vastness of the ocean air. The art work pays homage to all the soldiers souls who had died in previous years with a special coded message.

On route we have the pleasure to meet with Lewis Biggs the curator in a large car park facing the white cliffs of Dover. Art can be so dramatic! Lewis is very generous with his time, in spite of being in demand by a conference taking place across the way by the harbour. His insightful experience and enthusiasm offer us behind the scenes knowledge about the challenges and his curatorial approach. My team ask him challenging questions and Lewis glides through with poignant answers. This is a man with experience and poise. Needless to say my team are inspired and satisfied with the exchange.

There were many highlights for me: Jyll Bradley's Green/Light (fo M.R.); The Wind Lift by Marjetica Potrc and Ooze (Eva Pfannes and Sylvain Hartenberg); Something and Son by Andrew Merritt and Paul Smyth, Gabriel Lester's The Electrified Line; Tim Etchells's Is Why the Place, to name a few.


Below are highlights from some of the NAE creative team:


Sooree Pillay, Creative Producer at NAE and Director of YARD Theatre:


Abandoned spaces, chinks of light resonating through delicate bamboo, and the pathway leading us gently to each artistic intervention. Lookout takes us on a journey, the height of the wind powered lift and Yoko Ono's Earth Peace provocation, guiding us to the horizontal landscape, pulling our gaze to the depths of the sea. Looking through cracked windows, drinking from clay glasses, I pass a seat embedded in the road as I look up to the rooster, pointing the way to penthouses dotted here and there. This place has everything one associates with a seaside resort, now punctuated with architectural structures as well as the speaking garden and the fish & chip lab which ignites the fire of playfulness soon to be realised in the activity park situated alongside (a previous Triennial installation).

As we wander the streets, map in hand, lost and found, stumbling across disused train tracks, paths leading to nowhere, the future of which we are asked to ponder. The artwork here "fits " snugly with its location, and from this warm place, the invitation is difficult to refuse... now happy in our travels, basking in an impossibly bright late-October sunset, and salt-water smiles tempting us to reflect on the pieces we have seen so far... but we cannot rest!
The imposing, yet perfectly balanced bell, which sits on the beach, is a call to search further. Its sheer size and the height at which it is placed, reminds us that there is more to discover here, and we wind our way up the zig zag path, not before being arrested in our path by a beach hut one might imagine to emanate from an autocratic landlord. Now darkened is the day, seems to be drawing to a close, and we encounter, among the greenery, a colourful house, built into the rock, and so imagine the sensation if it were to be one's home, emerging to see the deep aqua, lit only by a half-moon, grinning regally from a distance. Onward, upward we walk through what seems to be a Chinese gateway, a hint, in the shadows, of the drama yet to unfold.

Emerging now, the Grand hotel emits a welcoming glow, we have arrived, we are here! And as I sit, on a bench, contemplating Yoko Ono's fierce morse message, begging me to consider the words Earth and Peace once again, the sound of the Folkestone Futures Choir an echo reminiscent of our own journeys, I could swear I sense a swift, urgent, yet perfectly placed kiss from the Channel breeze on my cheek.

Antonio Guerrieri, EVS Creative Resident at NAE and Architect:


In una cittadina di mare è facile capire quanto l'acqua sia importante, ed è altrettanto facile dimenticarsene.

Folkestone, dalle bianche scogliere del Kent si affaccia sul continente europeo, separato da esso dallo stretto della manica, una sottile striscia di mare che penseresti quasi di poter attraversare a nuoto, un corridoio d'acqua su cui si spalancano le porte dell'oceano Atlantico e del Mare del Nord, le cui forze qui si incontrano e scontrano.

La comprensione di questi elementi naturali e della loro ricchezza corrisponde al saperli controllare: lo sviluppo del piccolo porto prima e la costruzione della linea ferroviaria Londra-Dover poi, agli inizi del XIX sec. hanno notevolmente accelerato lo sviluppo della cittadina, così come, oggi, la dismissione della linea ferroviaria e la conseguente riduzione del porto a parcheggio , hanno sbarrato le porte alla crescita economica, creando una barriera verso il mare.

Focalizzare l'attenzione su questa situazione è un compito fondamentale per una manifestazione di arte urbana in questo luogo: l'acqua è infatti il Logos Democriteo che permea tutta la Triennale di Folkestone. L'esperienza estetica di ogni installazione raggiunge il momento di maggior pathos nella contemplazione di questo elemento; Dall'alto del The Wind Lift di M.Potrc e Ooze si scorge il mare; Something & Son, nel loro progetto Amusefood realizzano un Sistema di coltivazione idroponica eco-friendly per pesci, piante di piselli e menta (ingredienti del tradizionale Fish & Chips); il messaggio di pace di Y. Ono che, quasi banalmente dal muro della stazione, accoglie nero su bianco il viaggiatore, raggiunge il suo climax nella luce di un codice morse che si perde nella mare di notte dall'alto del suo Skyladder 2014; Michael Sailstorfer addirittura nella sua performance Folkestone Dig disperde sottoterra nel porto delle barrette di oro, materializzando la perdita dell'eredita' storico-economica del mare. Diane Dever e Jonathan Wright, invece in Penthouses espongono il concetto di ricchezza legata all'acqua riportando idealmente in luce il corso del sotterraneo fiume Pent con una serie di ben poco affascinanti cisterne sparse per la città, caricando vuoti urbani di una ricchezza spaziale dimenticata e svelando una consapevolezza di significato altrimenti nascosta. Arrampicarsi nella cisterna di legno posizionata in un lotto edificabile fra le case del porto, e accedere allo spazio cilindrico illuminato da un oculo circolare ci riporta ad una dimensione spaziale sacra, in cui però sono custoditi bicchieri opacizzati dal tempo e secchi di latta vuoti, modesti cimeli di una ricchezza passata, ricordo di una piccola comunità di persone, di un luogo di socialità mancante. Sacralità definitivamente sancita poco piu' in la' da una campana sospesa sull'orizzonte marino da A. K. Dolven, opera reduce dell'edizione 2011.

Queste sono solo alcune delle opere che costellano la cittadina delineando un piacevole percorso tra luoghi e persone, queste ultime sempre molto disponibili nell'aiutare il visitatore con spiegazioni e informazioni. Complimenti al direttore Lewis Biggs che anche quest'anno, ha magistralmente curato ogni singola installazione e la triennale nel complesso. Una triennale che celebra con Arte la storia dei luoghi situandosi in quello stretto lembo di mare che separa Arte e Architettura, in cui le acque si mescolano e le correnti si agitano fino a quando, per citare lo stesso Biggs "can't see any difference between Art and Architecture".

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