Folkestone Triennial - Art at the Seaside

22 Sep 2017

Words and Images by Annette Rotz

The Folkestone Triennial is a city-wide art exhibit showcasing nineteen site-specific installations by internationally recognised artists through 5 November 2017. We went down to have a look.

This colourful seaside town is only an hour’s train ride from London, and having installations from the past three triennials still on display (including from Yoko Ono!) – the whole town continues to be transformed into an art school itself.

Curator Lewis Biggs chose meaningful sites troughout the city, and commissioned specific artists to create pieces around this year’s theme, double-edge. This title is based on the two axes of which Folkestone has developed as a town historically and geographically. The axis formed by the Pent Stream from east to west, and the seashore’s edge from north to south is used to explore universal ‘edge’ issues – migration, border control, wealth inequality, sustainability, a challenging urban environment, and climate change, to name a few.

 Richard Woods, Holiday Home, 2017

Promoting a place as ‘good to live’ is often left to developers and estate agents advertising holiday homes. While the media constantly suggests a housing crises, the booming market in second homes represents not a crisis of housing supply but of economic inequality.

Richard Woods placed six cartoon-coloured homes, all one-third the size of a typical home, in unlikely places throughout the town. Imagine what might happen once real estate becomes unavailable – no site will be too small, too unlikely, or too inconvenient for a holiday home.

Amalia Pica, Souvenir, 2017

While wandering around, keep an eye out for decorative shells on display in shops, homes and out on the street. Created in a tradition reminiscent of holiday souvenirs, the artist Amalia Pica invites us to take another look at what’s normally given the status of ‘art’ with Souvenir.

Jonathan Wright, Fleet on Foot, 2017

Jonathan Wright, Fleet on Foot, 2017

Jonathan Wright’s multi-part installation Fleet on Foot is made up of seven 3D printed and gilded replica boats mounted to poles along Tontine Street. Folkestone developed as a fishing village here on what was once an ancient waterway, the Pent Stream.

Walking through the city, you’ll also come across permanent works on display from the past three past triennials.

Jyll Bradley’s Green/Light (for M.R) commissioned for Folkestone Triennial 2014

Nathan Coley's illuminated text sculpture, Heaven is a Place Where Nothing Ever Happens from the 2014 Folkestone Triennial.

HoyCheong Wong’s temporary façade, Minaret, draws attention to the Islamic Cultural Centre, which has been housed in a nondescript industrial building for the past twenty-eight years, unknown to many Folkestone residents.

 Sinta Tantra, 1947, 2017

The Cube is an arts education centre for adults, located in the Creative Quarter. Artist Sinta Tantra re-painted the building, inspired by colours from advertisements from 1947 that promoted train travel to Folkestone.

See also one of five headless chicken weather vanes from 2014’s triennial, created by Detroit studio Rootoftwo. The chickens spin around and change colour in response to fear levels on the internet rather than climate.

Emily Peasgood, Halfway to Heaven, 2017

One of my favourite pieces was Emily Peasgood’s audio installation Halfway to Heaven. Climb above street level to a ‘lost’ Baptist burial ground, which was kept intact when land was cut away for housing and roads.

Emily Peasgood, Halfway to Heaven, 2017

Peasgood researched the people buried here, all non-conformists not allowed Anglican burials at the time. Peasgood created five audio channels that relate to specific gravestones and play only when someone is standing nearby. Her composition draws on hymns, creating polyrhythmic harmonies, melodies that stand alone as independent voices or combine to form a beautiful complex whole once five or more people are present. It’s the presence of living people that bring this forgotten group back into the community, one hundred and fifty years later.

Sol Calero, Casa Anacaona, 2017

In a 2010 exhibition in Liverpool, Lubaina Himid placed thirty Victorian jelly moulds from her collection out as if they were architectural models. This paid tribute to the Black community, making a connection to slave trade and sugar plantations. For the Triennial, one has been scaled-up to life-size in Jelly Mould Pavilion and sits looking out to sea.

Lubaina Himid, Jelly Mould Pavilion, 2017

This small section of Folkestone’s historical customs house survived the town’s bombing a hundred years ago during WWI. Dever and The Decorators's Customs House: Urban Room is dedicated to remembering the history of the town as well as encouraging debate about its future. 

Dever and The Decorators, Customs House: Urban Room Folkestone, 2017

Folkestone’s Harbour Arm has several small food and drink stalls and an incredible view. Pick up artisanal Italian ice cream on the way to see one of Antony Gormley’s Another Time sculptures.

Another Time is a series of one hundred solid cast-iron figures placed all around the world ‘within the flow of lived time’ – in the sea or up high on buildings, all are placed apart from the shelter and protection of architecture. Three are on loan for the Folkestone Triennial, two in Folkestone and one in collaboration with Turner Contemporary in Margate.

 Antony Gormley, Another Time XVIII 2013 (Loading Bay), 2017 

Walk through a beautiful set of arches near Sunny Sands Beach to see the second sculpture. These artworks cannot be viewed for approximately one hour each side of high tide.

Antony Gormley, Another Time XXI 2013 (Coronation Parade), 2017

Rigo 23's Through the Glassworks Earth's Oldest Satellite Me and You, Some in the Fewture provides a reminder that earth’s closest neighbour may be beneath our feet as often as it’s above our heads.

Rigo23's Through the Glassworks Earth's Oldest Satellite Me and You, Some in the Fewture, 2017

Inspired by the writings and drawings of Alexander von Humboldt, Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas created the Folke Stone Power Plant, a stone containing within it one organic battery made of mushrooms. This type of battery will be capable of lighting the nearby lamp-post. While still in development with a network of scientists, it’ll be twice as powerful as commercial lithium batteries.

Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas, Folke Stone Power Plant, 2017

David Shrigley invited Camille Biddell, an artist from Edinburgh, to visit and memorise in just 40 seconds the decorative lamp-posts along The Leas. Biddell then created a replica from memory which now stands among the others in A Lamp Post (as remembered).

 David Shrigley, Lamp Post (as remembered), 2017

With art around every corner and integrated into everyday life, Folkestone Is An Art School free of walls and open to everyone. Beautifully advertised across town by Bob and Roberta Smith.

The fourth edition of The Folkestone Triennial, double-edge, is on from 2 September – 5 November 2017.

Bob and Roberta Smith, Folkestone is an Art School, 2017

The Folkestone Triennial
2 September - 5 November 2017, 10am-5pm daily

Annette Rotz
 is London-based art director, writer, artist and photographer. Follow Annette on Instagram / Tumblr or visit her website

Folkestone on the Map