Tag Archives: Folkestone Triennial

Folkestone Artworks Collection

Folkestone Artworks MapFolkestone, down on the Kent coast, was the second public art collection on my schedule of summer research visits. This was my second trip to Folkestone – having been down last November to catch the end of the Folkestone Triennial. As a legacy of the Triennial (now running to three editions), Folkestone now advertises itself as a ‘gallery without walls’: home to a collection of contemporary artworks originally commissioned for the Triennial but now retained as permanent public art installations. This collection now runs to 27 works scattered (or inserted) across the town and along its seafront. Like the Triennial itself the collection is managed by the Creative Foundation, the local charitable organization that is the driving force behind the town’s programme of creativity led regeneration.

During my research visit, and in what has become part of the methodology for this element of my fieldwork, I took myself on a mapped out public art walk around the town. My guide for this was the Folkestone Artworks’ printed pocket map produced by the Creative Foundation. In my experience local, on the ground, information on public art is often hard to find but in Folkestone I found the map was widely available – I was able to pick up a copy from a stack in the reception of my hotel.

Folkestone Artworks Map 2

The Folkestone Artworks pocket map.

As this was a follow up visit after coming down to the Triennial last year I was intrigued to see which artworks had been kept for the permanent collection.  I was particularly pleased that one of the major works I didn’t have time to go and see in November is still here – ‘Beach Hut in the Style of Nicholas Hawksmoor’ – very grand alongside the other beach huts along this stretch of the lower promenade. As does Richard Wilson’s set of quirky crazy golf huts a little further along the beach – these ‘collected’ from the 2008 Triennial.

‘Beach Hut in the Style of Nicholas Hawksmoor’, Pablo Bronstein, 2014.

‘Beach Hut in the Style of Nicholas Hawksmoor’, Pablo Bronstein, 2014.

’18 Holes’, Richard Wilson, 2008.

’18 Holes’, Richard Wilson, 2008.

2014 additions to the permanent collection that I caught up with again on this visit also included: Yoko Ono’s ‘Earth Peace’, still flashing out its silent Morse Code message across the Channel (Artwork No. 7 on the map); Sarah Staton’s quayside pavilion ‘Steve’ (Artwork No 11, a work that provided me with much needed shelter from the pouring rain on my previous visit); and Strange Cargo’s ‘The Luckiest Place on Earth’. A set of four bright luck-givers tucked up under a railway bridge this was the first and last work in the Folkestone Artworks collection encountered on my visit (Artwork No 2 on the map). Also interesting to see that two very different public art projects are also labeled as part of the collection: ‘Payers Park’, the playful public infrastructure designed by muf Architecture; and the participatory-conceptual (?) work, ‘Folkestone Digs’, created by German artist Michael Sailstorfer. This generated the Folkestone gold rush that captured much media attention at last year’s Triennial. The site of this work is now marked on the map of the collection and by an on-site plaque, suggesting that there may still be gold to be found….

'Folkestone Digs', Michael Sailstorfer, 2014.

‘Folkestone Digs’, Michael Sailstorfer, 2014.

Overall there’s clearly a strong visual branding dimension to the collection. Unlike the public art collection I visited in Milton Keynes (where, as in Newcastle-Gateshead, the history of contemporary public art commissioning goes back some fifty and more years) Folkestone Artworks is a ‘young’ collection. The earliest works sited here only go back seven years, to 2008, the year of the first Triennial. As a result, the interpretive material (both print and online) and the onsite labeling of the art collection is all very consistent, quite unlike the jumble of historic formats of public art signage and interpretation that I’ve encountered elsewhere.

'The Folkestone Mermaid', Cornelia Parker, 2011.

‘The Folkestone Mermaid’, Cornelia Parker, 2011.

Alongside the Folkestone Artworks map the Creative Foundation has also produced audio guides to ten of the artworks in the collection. (Although I wanted to listen to a selection of these as I toured the artworks the memory capacity of my mobile phone and the limitations of my data allowance let me down here – a good lesson to remember re lived user experience of mobile digital interpretation.) The Foundation also runs an active and varied programme of engagement activities around the public art collection. Designed to take full advantage of the Folkestone landscape these events have included guided public artwork cycle and kayaking tours and even cultural dog walks. For the 2015 launch of the new edition of the Folkestone Artworks collection the Foundation also invited artists and thinkers to submit proposals for a programme of ‘Takeover Tours’ that could offer new perspectives on the artworks or new approaches to the concept of what a public art tour might be. For me these engagement events, the interpretative materials and on-site labelling and mapping are essential elements within the visual architectural envelope of – and the virtual entrances to – this ‘gallery without walls’.


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Folkestone Triennial 2014 and ‘The Sculpture Question

Will Kwan, 'Apparatus #9', Folkestone Triennial 2014

Will Kwan, ‘Apparatus #9’, Folkestone Triennial 2014

A week ago I was down in Folkestone to catch the last weekend of the Folkestone Triennial 2014.

This was the third edition of the Folkestone Triennial. While it’s primarily promoted as a temporary public realm programme within a sculpture festival type framework this triennial is an interesting case study for my own research as it sites new temporary commissions alongside legacy works from previous Triennial years. Presenting this work under the banner of Folkestone Artworks it’s a rare UK example of public art engagement with the concept of ‘collection’. So far the Folkestone collection numbers sixteen permanent artworks maintained for the town from the two previous Triennial events (2008, 2011). Up to eight works are likely to be added to the collection from this year’s edition. I wonder which works will be chosen to stay in the town and on what basis this selection will be made? Practicalities, like material robustness and site ownership and probably contractual and planning issues too are likely to play a major part in this. How might this be balanced with the popularity of certain works with Triennial visitors and local audiences? (Gabriel Lester’s The Electrified Line and Jyll Bradley’s Green/Light in particular seemed to be attracting lots of attention while I was there.) It was too early really to explore these issues on this visit but these are questions that I’d like to return to again early next year, hopefully in conversation with the curators at Folkestone Artworks/The Creative Foundation.

Gabriel Lester, 'The Electrified Line', Folkestone Triennial 2014

Gabriel Lester, ‘The Electrified Line’, Folkestone Triennial 2014

Jyll Bradley, 'Green/Light (for M.R.), Folkestone Triennial 2014

Jyll Bradley, ‘Green/Light (for M.R.), Folkestone Triennial 2014










My second reason for going to Folkestone was to attend ‘The Sculpture Question’, a conference organised by the Creative Foundation and the University for the Creative Arts, Canterbury. Although part of the Triennial programme ‘The Sculpture Question’ conference had a rather wider remit, seeking to explore the future of sculpture in its expanding ‘expanded field’. The conference set itself two key questions: The first was concerned with the teaching of sculpture within a ‘trans-disciplinary’ framework, where it is increasingly positioned in relation to installation, architecture and performance; The second with the broader issue of the agency of sculpture within the institutionalised and formal public realm. The conference set out to address these questions in three sessions, labelled broadly as: Terms; Frameworks; and Encounters. For me it was this third grouping which was the major attraction and interest. The conference programme promised a stimulating debate that linked with my own current investigations into public art audiencing and interpretation:

In the final part of the conference, we look at the experience of sculpture. How does the public confront works in the public realm? And what is the value of signposting ‘art’, or allowing for unexpected encounters? How much contextual information should one offer to the viewer and how might sculpture be seen as a starting point, or a reference, for a multi- layered response by a viewer – one that takes into account the frameworks discussed above, as well as personal experience?

The speakers for this session, of whom the keynote was the French curator and art theorist Nicolas Bourriaud, addressed these issues in sometimes oblique and sometimes direct ways in their presentations. Here are some of my edited notes that highlight, for me some of the more interesting and pertinent points made during the session and in the follow-on panel discussion:

  •  Sculpture is defined in terms of temporal and spatial ‘contingency’ and ‘social gathering’ as oppose to the distance and ‘flatness’ of the image.
  •  It’s important to recognize that sculptures sited in the public realm can be both an ‘attraction and a repellant’.
  •  Sculptures/artworks need to be active ‘generators’ i.e. producers of ‘something else’. It’s important to keep the story of the artwork ‘spinning’.
  •  Public space and public activity is now more ‘atomised’ and ‘polarised’ – this means we can no longer talk of ‘a public’. Instead we need to think in terms of a ‘fragmented multitude’.

 (Nicolas Bourriaud)

  •  What do we do when sculptures/artworks fail? i.e. when they fail to ‘gather’ in this sense, when they remain ‘flat’.
  •  Shifting from the visual to the linguistic and back again: ‘The Art World is in denial about how much text it uses.’

 (Gilda Williams)

  •  Public realm sculpture = something you ‘bump into’ either as a ‘surprise’ or as an object ‘that gets in the way’. May be a ‘distracting’ or ‘disturbing’ thing’, friendly or unfriendly, but also a ‘non-thing’ for some people.
  •  What do people do with things that they don’t want to see?
  •  Objects look back at us: they are ‘doing something to you’ or ‘demanding something of you’.

 (Anouchka Grose)

The Sculpture Question

The Sculpture Question: Anouchka Grose

NOTE: Although developed over a much shorter timescale Folkestone Artworks approach is similar to the model pioneered by Sculpture Projects Münster in Germany. The fifth edition of Sculpture Projects Münster is due to take place in 2017.

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