Even if you live in the UK you might be forgiven for drawing a blank at the mention of Folkestone, a small town on the south coast of Kent about 90 minutes by train from London - once a departure point for trips to the continent but now plunged into obscurity by the Eurostar.
That quaint unfamiliarity, along with a stunning view of the French coast across the English Channel, serve as fitting backdrops to the eclectic creations of artists like Tracey Emin, Nathan Coley, Mark Wallinger, and Langlands & Bell, assembled as part of the inaugural Folkestone Triennial art festival.
Click here to see more from the Triennial.
The unexpected highlight for us was Emin’s sculpture series (‘Baby Things’), seven tiny bronze castings of found baby clothing randomly scattered across the town, her reference to the high proportion of teenage pregnancy in the area.
The textured, neatly crafted figures – a floppy shoe, an old teddy bear, a single stray mitten – might have underwhelmed as a straight gallery exhibit, but as bits of lost childhood floating about the forgotten corners of tranquil Folkestone were quietly poignant and thoroughly sweet. Discovering them gradually, and sometimes by accident, was half the point (and half the fun).
Other bits of visual wonder include David Batchelor’s brightly coloured sunglasses, crafted into neon spheres and suspended, slowly rotating, from the ceiling of a grand ballroom, like cheap plastic ghosts dancing a slow, silent waltz. Mark Dion’s intriguingly titled Mobile Gull Appreciation Unit is worthwhile for the spectacle alone – a giant model seagull on wheels enthusiastically promoting the under-loved species.
The collection of work – some 50 projects in all ranging from photography and film to sculpture, construction, and performance – was notably introspective, thematically steeped in all things Folkestone. The experience, in turn, risked feeling a touch parochial, redeemed in part by the breadth and depth of talent on show.
Other noteworthy attractions if you do drop by: Adam Chodzko’s fictional documentary ‘Pyramid’, based on eerie town legend, Langlands & Bell’s richly contrasting observational film study of Folkestone and the old connecting French port of Boulogne, and Christian Boltanski’s whispering stones, which play soft recordings of old soldiers’ love letters to bench-sitters on the main promenade. Sentimental, perhaps, but charming still.