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2021: The Plot

Rana Begum   Photo by Tom Bishop

The fifth edition of Creative Folkestone Triennial will run from Thursday 22 July – Tuesday 2 November 2021, presenting around 27 newly commissioned site-specific artworks by internationally acclaimed artists, inviting you to explore the town and its urban tales.

Curated for the third time by Lewis Biggs, the 2020 Triennial, entitled The Plot, invites visitors to consider urban myths and their relation to verifiable realities: the gap between the story and the actuality.

The Plot uses three historic Folkestone narratives as a point of departure: St Eanswythe’s watercourse; the physician William Harvey’s discovery of the circulation of the blood; and Folkestone’s industrial road ‘The Milky Way’. Referring to passages of movement - the movement of water, blood and goods - the exhibition will present artworks in public spaces across the town, along the various routes associated with these stories. By borrowing from, or lending to, existing narratives, the exhibition, though set in Folkestone, raises questions around the universal need to distinguish reality from myth; encouraging viewers to question the gap between fact and fiction, and what ‘place-making’ really means:

‘‘Although set in Folkestone, the exhibition’s theme is a universal one, prompting us to consider the relation between stories and material realities everywhere in the world. Everyone becomes aware at some point of the gap between our lived experience and what is narrated about it. Sometimes this gap is so extreme that we assume it is the result of malice – it’s a plot. With conspiracy theories becoming ever more popular, it’s never been more urgent to think about the gap between the talk and the action, between our stories and our realities…” Lewis Biggs, Curator of Creative Folkestone Triennial

The title The Plot suggests multiple meanings. Conceptually, a ‘plot’ can be a narrative or conspiracy; from a material point of view, it can also mean a plot of land, or to plot a course or graph – things that are mathematically verifiable. Observing the gap between personally verified experience and what is otherwise told or narrated, the Triennial urges viewers to consider the voids left behind by ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truths’.

"The gap between narrative and reality, promise and execution, will often attract our attention (whether amazement, hilarity, criticism or anger). But it’s this same gap that enables art to change people, and so also change the world. It’s the promise of the symbolic world that brings people together and motivates us to act. The artist’s imagination enables us to look at the material world, to imagine how it could be, and realise that it does not have to be the way it is. Great art can lead us to work together to change our surroundings." Lewis Biggs, Curator of Creative Folkestone Triennial

Artists selected for The Plot, are:

Assemble (Founded 2010) the Turner Prize-Winning multi-disciplinary collective are collaborating with local skateboarders to develop some Skating Situations at an iconic location –  the Harbour Arm. These sculptural interventions look forward to the opening, in autumn, of Folkestone’s Olympic standard indoor skate park, F51.

Atta Kwami (b. 1956, Ghana) presents two three dimensional artworks that incorporate his signature use of colour and abstract painting style.  An imposing but joyful archway titled Atsiaƒu ƒe agbo nu" (Gateways of the Sea) will stand at the junction of 4 pathways in the centre of the Harbour Arm. And a very different group of sculptures called ”Dusiadu” (EveryTown) and derived from traditional West African street vending kiosks will be grouped on Castle Hill Avenue near to the Civic Centre

Climate change, and its effect on people who are at the edge of that change, has been a preoccupation of Bill Woodrow’s for many years. The Ledge, 2017 is a crystalline modernist architectural composition, that echoes the white cliffs and supports figures of an Inuit and a seal, while sitting on a black puddle shape. Sited by the shore, the strong horizontals suggest the rising water level resulting from the disappearing polar ice caps, an iceberg melting into a pool of oil.

Bob and Roberta Smith (AKA Patrick Brill b. England 1963) is well known as a campaigner on art school education. For the 2017 Triennial, he was invited to research the provision of art education in Folkestone: there used to be an art school in the town – why is there not one now? After his research, the artist realised that all the skills and knowledge required by an art school are already there – they just needed to be recognised and appreciated differently. FOLKESTONE IS AN ART SCHOOL, 2017 is an artwork, not an art school: it points at the art school.

Christopher Houghton Budd (b. 1948, England) proposes a new town centre in Forgiving Light. The artist took his cue from the traffic signs on the outskirts of Folkestone that indicate the ‘town centre’, observing that because of the recent development of the town, in reality no-one knows where the ‘town centre’ is located. Houghton Budd’s conceptual intervention is manifested through a circle of light, marking the historically indisputable centre of the town (the point where The Old High Street crossed the Pent River on a bridge to the fishing village) and renaming it The Plaza.

For the 2017 Triennial, Folkestone based artist Diane Dever (b. 1974, Ireland) worked with The Decorators to initiate an Urban Room in the remains of the former Customs House. After the Triennial, the operations of Urban Room Folkestone found a new home in the former Tourist Information pavilion in the Tram Road Car Park, along with some of the furniture designed by The Decorators for the Customs House.

Taking inspiration from the Rotunda amusement arcades that formerly drew crowds to the beach until the 1990s, genuinefake (Rachel Stella Jenkins, b. 1983, Mozambique) proposes a pavilion exploring Folkestone's 'fortunes' past, present and potential future. Inside, themed arcade games and crazy golf will address significant contemporary topics (e.g. spatial contestations & opportunities) that affect local residents (old & new) as well as shifting global norms.

Aiming to engage and amuse, as a manifestation of genuinefake's engagement with architecture as necessarily a process of constant dialogue, Fortune Here is conceived as a contribution to the ongoing programme of Urban Room Folkestone URF (commissioned for Creative Folkestone Triennial 2017). The URF programme provides an opportunity to rethink & promote alternatives to current models of urban production and co-operation.

A series of programmed events and encounters will be accommodated in the space to prompt collaborative and inclusive dialogue around aligning the town's built environment and its development to the aspirations & needs of individuals and their communities, initiating the kinds of conversations Urban Room Folkestone (commissioned for Creative Folkestone Triennial 2017), will continue beyond the Triennial. More fundamentally, however, these encounters aim to raise the idea of people being active influencers of their own: FORTUNE HERE.

For Creative Folkestone Triennial 2021, celebrated artists Gilbert & George (established 1967) will contribute a selection of their powerful and ever-topical pictures to be exhibited on billboards and poster sites around the town. 

In 2017, HoyCheong Wong (b. 1960, Malaysia) contributed two strikingly beautiful (temporary) minarets to the façade of the Islamic Cultural Centre on Foord Road South. His relationship with the organising committee of the Centre has continued to develop, and now he, with artist Simon Davenport (b. 1984, England) and architect Shahed Saleem / Makespace, are contributing a new artwork for the Triennial, titled Nūr, evolved through design workshops with the Islamic community and Madrasa, as well as producing an exhibition that envisages a possible future development of the mosque building.

After researching the Ship Street Gasworks site, Jacqueline Donachie (b. 1969, Scotland) was inspired by the social club that remained on the derelict site long after it ceased production. Titled Beautiful Sunday, Donachie’s contribution to the Triennial will be a sculpture that celebrates the dance floors of Folkestone; as well as a film documenting a line dance indigenous to Glasgow called The Slosh.

Jacqueline Poncelet (b. 1947, Belgium) will create Looking Ahead. Piercing the retaining wall of the old Ship Street Gasworks site, she will insert a variety of lenses including those which mimic bee-eyes and mechanically operated kaleidoscopes. Passers-by will be invited to peer into the site and beyond – towards the railway viaduct, the hills, and the future. 

She has also designed striking patterns composed of shimmer discs to decorate the gable ends of three new buildings in Mill Bay. Her designs, titled Shimmera, capture the energy of this new connection between Payers Park and Tontine Street, beckoning to the green park in one direction and to the blue sea in the other.

Best known for his digital drawings produced on an iPad, Jason Wilsher-Mills (b. 1969, England) also creates 3D figurative sculptures about the world that he experiences as an artist with disabilities (his disability is caused by a disease of the blood cells). Produced by Shape Arts as part of the Adam Reynolds Award, Wilsher-Mills has created a contemporary monumental figure I Am Argonaut that will be placed in conversation with the monumental statue of William Harvey, son of the Mayor of Folkestone, Royal Physician and discoverer of the circulation of the blood.

For Folkestone Triennial 2014, Jyll Bradley presented a sculptural light installation created for the former Gasworks site on the junction of Ship Street and Foord Road North. Green/Light (For M.R.) is an attempt to ‘square the circle’. The outer square grid is built as a traditional hop garden, an enclosure that represents her childhood in Kent. The inner circle of aluminium poles that shimmer with colour and light occupies the footprint of one of the original gasometers on the site, and stands for the energy and insight of her adult life.

Mariko Hori (b. 1985, Japan) was inspired by Folkestone’s zig-zag path, built in the 1920s from Pulhamite to appear as natural rocks and grottoes. Pulhamite is a fake rock surface encasing inorganic slag, which, after a century of maritime weather, is wearing thin and beginning to expose the rubbish within. In her work, Mellowing the Corners, Hori will create Pulhamite ‘boulders’ on three different sites, which will contain objects donated by residents instead of rubbish. The boulders will act as a time capsule as the objects gradually become exposed in the future. 

Mike Stubbs (b.1961, England) presents Climate Emergency Services, a memorably customised vehicle that dramatises the role of fossil fuels in climate change and plays with the value hierarchies of the motor industry. Concealed within this conflicted hot rod is a cool laboratory containing plants and the latest technologies for sensing air quality and other pollution, creating a roving observatory that will visit festivals, schools and events.

Morag Myerscough (b. 1963, England) is designing a gateway or ‘welcome pavilion’ for the former gasworks site at Ship Street, from where visitors will be able to view the entire site and imagine how it might be developed in future. A dominant theme in her work is the ‘sense of belonging’ and her ambition is to ‘make happy those who are near and those who are far will come’. She is working to develop her designs with local residents, who have been excluded from the neighbouring gasworks site for two generations.

Patrick Corillon’s (b. 1988, Chile) series of five sculptural relic-boxes have been inspired by his dialogue with a group of local residents. Located on the course of St Eanswythe’s waterway, On the Track of St. Eanswythe’s Waterway refers to children’s games and to St. Eanswythe herself - the patron saint of Folkestone who is said to have made water run uphill. This work is co-commissioned under the Nouveaux Commanditaires programme of the Fondation de France, and curated by Artconnexion (Lille).

Co-commissioned by England’s Creative Coast, a landmark partnership project connecting the landscape and arts organisations across the South East coast, artist Pilar Quinteros (b.1988, Chile) presents Janus’ Fortress: Folkestone - a monumental sculptural head sited on a cliff top that looks both outwards at Europe and inward to England, contemplating the mixed fortunes of what connects us but also divides us.

Rana Begum (b. 1977, Bangladesh), has designed a special colour scheme to enliven more than one hundred new and refurbished beach huts on Lower Saxon Way. Rising brilliantly to the challenge of encompassing more than a kilometre of promenade in her scheme, Begum’s No 1054 Arpeggio extends her studio practice – concerned with geometry, colour and light – to create a magnificent, trenchant and joyful artwork that must be among the largest in the country.

Richard Deacon’s (b. 1949, Wales) Benchmark nos 1-5 is a result of his ongoing preoccupation with plinths and the crucial role they have played in the development of sculpture. In researching his contribution to the Triennial, he discovered five existing platforms in the scenic Kingsnorth Gardens. The welcome of these empty platforms inspired him to create five new sculptures in different colours of granite.

Sam Belinfante (b. 1983, England) will create a mobile sculptural performance called after William Harvey’s key work of 1648 - On the Circulation of the Blood. The artwork will move between several key sites around the urban landscape of Folkestone, animating the town for the duration of the exhibition. Performers will sing duets, whilst carrying netting from one place to another, referencing many of the unusual physical interconnections across the town.

Shezad Dawood (b. 1974, England) presents The Terrarium, a major new virtual reality artwork that highlights the implications of climate change on our marine ecosystems, and the consequences of rising sea levels on all forms of life. This work is curated and commissioned by UP Projects and includes AnthropoPangea, an immersive digital map that allows audiences to learn about some of the planet's strangest sea inhabitants, using Folkestone as its departure point and which forms part of UP Projects' digital commissioning strand This is Public Space. The project is supported by CUPIDO, a project co-funded by the European Union, Arts Council England and Talinn Culture Department.

Stephenie Bergman (b. 1946, England) is recognised internationally for her ceramic sculptures whose forms are grounded in everyday functionality. For the Triennial, she is contributing sculptures that play on the forms we associate with medicine – from pills to organs, veins and arteries. Some of her sculptures will adorn the Dover Road Health Centre and others will be strategically placed on the overlooked ancient stepped pathways around the town.

Tina Gverović (b.1975, Croatia) works with many different media, often to create immersive, disorientating installations on the theme of space, territory and identity. Her new artwork for the Triennial, Surface Flows, will be located on the roll-on roll-off ferry ramp, which for a period of forty years in the last century was the heartbeat of Folkestone, the epicentre of the town’s economy and connectedness to continental Europe.

The German artist duo Wolfgang Winter and Berthold Hörbelt, Winter/Hörbelt (established 1992) contribute a striking sculptural intervention to the Shellons Street crossing, a key location in the urban landscape. During planning of the artwork, the tree at the crossing died and was removed by the Council. Now they introduce a tree-fountain in its place, St. Eanswythe’s Return, to memorialise the saint’s waterway. In creating a sense of excitement, and even confrontation, the artwork imaginatively suggests both the historic and the future significance of the crossing.

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