Folkestone Triennial: what to see and do
PUBLISHED: 17:11 10 August 2014 | UPDATED: 17:11 10 August 2014
The third in the series, which runs from 30 August to 2 November 2014, has as its theme ‘Lookout.’ Curator Lewis Biggs and Fringe organiser Diane Dever explain more
This year’s Folkestone Triennial, the third in the series, is being described as a sculpture show, so I remind Lewis Biggs, the Triennial curator and ex-Liverpool Biennial curator, of a particularly pertinent quote made by Anish Kapoor.
The renowned sculptor commented that the boundaries between sculpture and architecture are “increasingly confusing and, correctly, disputed” – referring to the hybrid nature of his Orbit for the Olympics.
“That’s a very good place to start”, says Lewis. “I enjoy architecture and the experience of architecture as much as I love art, and I wanted to do both.”
Folkestone architecture may not be totally inspiring but, Lewis adds: “It has its present form because of certain historical factors and this is what the artists work with.
“Artists find their art in a very internal space and don’t necessarily react in one way to one fashion. The artworks have something to say about Folkestone itself, but also about the whole world.”
Artists are tricky to tie down as they wish to appeal to the widest audience possible. There are already rumblings about the art of Gabriel Lester, placed in the harbour, made of bamboo and challenging the Remembrance Line Association. However, it could be argued that this is precisely what art must do, bring a new perspective and I am told that the piece is appreciated by many in the harbour area.
As Lewis says: “Folkestone has some very strong stories to tell: stories are the foundation for everything. Here war, commerce, tourism, class exploitation, leisure, migrations and entrepreneurialism all intertwine.
“Folkestone is in a transitional moment, but uncertainty leads to great creativity,” he adds. Indeed, the bamboo of Gabriel Lester’s installation references the bamboo he saw in Asia used as scaffolding and carries a real sense of that continent.
The Triennial reflects the true cross-disciplinary nature of contemporary art and installation with works not easily pigeonholed: installation being a broad and eclectic category. “One of the pleasures of working outside the museum is that the category of ‘art’ has less currency and people can be open,” says Lewis.
“So if people are looking for art, they may be disappointed, but if you come with an open mind and start by enjoying or questioning, there will be plenty to see.”
The exhibition is one of public art, and the defining character is that the public should talk about the art they are viewing.
Lewis has not tried to cover all forms of art. The essential curatorial brief is that the exhibition is outdoors because there is no museum where it could be based and also because the idea is that the works should enter the collection and therefore have to be durable and outdoors.
So what are the benefits for Folkestone, I ask Lewis? “There are different kinds. We can quantify the strategic benefits, in that we add to the art collection and give the idea that the town is home to contemporary art,” he says.
I return to the idea of architecture, as the Triennial’s overall theme ‘Lookout’ has a definite architectural element to it.
“I wanted to include in the experience a way for people to look at architecture. I do like the fact that a lookout is a structure, but it is also a person. So I was hoping to reach both the person and the sense of being placed somewhere,” says Lewis.
“It is important for people to think with all their senses, rather than the Triennial being just an exhibition about an idea. It’s a physical manifestation that can be felt with the whole body.”
Lewis pays tribute to former exhibition curator, Andrea Schlieke, who got him really thinking about Folkestone. “It has such wonderfully diverse kinds of urban landscapes: the Leas is wonderful, but bits of the old town need love and attention. The irony is that Folkestone grew from the old town which was knocked down to build the gasworks.”
Lewis spent the first year thinking about Folkestone, its energy, history and geography. Then he looked at key sites and at artists who could address those sites.
In most proposals he managed to match the practice with the site. He is particularly enthusiastic about the River Pent, which will feature in an artwork by Folkestone artists Diane Dever and Jonathan Wright.
Once again, an impressive array of artistic talent from around the world will grace Folkestone, including Yoko Ono and Andy Goldsworthy. As an instance of public collaboration, the artist Alex Hartley will be asking individuals if they wish to perform the function of ‘lookout’ at the top of the Burstin, with a blog being created.
The arts company Strange Cargo, based in Folkestone, will be creating a piece with members of the public called ‘The Luckiest Place on Earth.’ It has been created for a significant local architectural structure, the Central Station Bridge, which goes over the road next to the station. About 700 people have contributed to the artwork.
And all artists have been asked to create a video, which will be available online.
As well as the Triennial curated by Lewis Biggs, there is also a lively Triennial Fringe, organised by Diane Dever, who tells me: “The relationship between the Fringe and the Triennial has changed and the Fringe is now seen as intrinsic to the success of an event that aims to engage the public.”
The Fringe includes an art bootfair and performance art, with more than 40 other pieces. People will come to the Fringe more, says Diane, as there is an interest in art and architecture, but also sound and performance, as well as a ‘trickle down’ effect from the Triennial.
The dates of the Triennial give you the chance of several visits, so make sure you put Folkestone in your 2014 itinerary. n