Folkestone Triennial 2017

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The Folkestone Triennial returns to the Kentish coast on the 2nd of September for a two month run of free art and related festivities. Just returned from my tour of 2017 exhibition spread across the seaside town of Folkestone, I’m happy to share some of its highlights with you.

Entering its fourth iteration, this year’s citywide and mostly outdoor exhibition carries with it a theme of double edge.

A list of participant artists includes Alex Hartley, Amalia Pica, Antony Gormley, Bill Woodrow, Bob and Roberta Smith, David Shrigley, Diane Dever and The Decorators, Emily Peasgood, Gary Woodley, Hoy Cheong Wong, Jonathan Wright, Lubaina Himid, Marc Schmitz and Dolgor Ser-Od, Michael Craig-Martin, Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas, Richard Woods, Rigo 23, Sinta Tantra, Sol Calero, and Studio Ben Allen.

Each of these 20 artists brings new site-specific works to the town that are responsive to its physical and conceptual context, while building on the “sense of place” that guided the theme of 2014 Triennial, Lookout and exploring the 2017 theme of “double edges” and how it resonates with cultural, economic and political realities experienced as part of everyday lives in Folkestone and across the globe.

Mouthful? For sure. But I wouldn’t get too hung up on it. Most of the art on view speaks for itself on whatever level you wish and some of it might even leave you speechless.

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For me, those pieces were as follows:

  • HoyCheong Wong’s Minaret at the Islamic Cultural Centre, a temporary façade made of a skeletal frame of visible scaffolding with sheer nylon shaped to form minarets and arches illuminated at night: The piece comments on the Muslim community’s there/not there presence in the minds of many locals, despite the centre being in Folkestone for nearly thirty years and its members playing key roles in the town’s economic and social wellbeing;
  • Halfway to Heaven by composer and sound artist Emily Peasgood at the Baptist Burial Ground: Odd as it may sound the Baptist Burial Ground is accessed atop a narrow and steep set of stairs 20 feet about the street. Peasgood’s installation adds the setting’s eerie serenity with movement activated audio for a rich and relevant soundscape;
  • Well worth the trek to the far side of town (from Folkestone Central Station anyway) is Alex Hartley’s Wall: perched precariously on a cliff, the white cage-like structure filled with querns (Iron Age millstones found at the site) sets a provocative tone inviting the viewer to ponder the shifting coastline and cliff while referencing the fences of “The Jungle” refugee and migrant camp in Calais (made of the same material as Hartley’s structure) hardly more than 20 miles across the Channel in France.

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Less ponderous and more whimsical pieces that especially “did it” for me were …

  • Rigo 23’s Earth’s Oldest Satellite mural at the Glassworks Sixth Form Centre;
  • Richard Woods’s series of six vibrantly coloured Holiday Homes scattered across town in the most unlikely of places;
  • Marc Schmitz and Dolgor Ser-Od’s Siren, a giant cartoonish cliffside megaphone; and
  • Bob and Roberta Smith almost ubiquitous graphic mantra of “Folkestone is an Art School!” declared across a variety of surfaces and banners throughout Folkestone.

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As with past exhibitions, some of the art from double edge will remain on view and be added to the city’s expanding Folkestone Artworks collection of public art.

The Folkestone Triennial opens Sunday 2 September and runs until 5 November 2017. For details and event listings go to folkestonetriennial.org.uk.

About tikichris

London-Based Writer/Photographer
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