So, that's my story

Folkestone Triennial artist, from London, involved during production and the whole summer, Art, Regeneration, Politics
Folkestone Triennial artist, from London, involved during production and the whole summer, Art, Regeneration, Politics

FOLKESTONOMY: a pilot project

FOLKESTONOMY is a pilot project in development and why it could and should be continue beyond the first Folkestone Triennial.

FOLKESTONOMY isn t a public art project for the summer season, but would like to become an integral tool and methodology of Folkestones further culturally led regeneration.
FOLKESTONOMY has the intention and capacity to trace and show cultural spaces, production and networks locally and trans-locally, which are and should be an important fact and force in regards to thinking development and change.

The Folkestone Triennial (FT) and culture led regeneration

Generating Space and Regeneration

The FT will become key producer of cultural space for Folkestone. FT acts from within the place, aiming for site and context specific art projects that enrich the existing one. Therefore it is extremely interesting to analyse and state what FT as a socio-spatial structure and event means in relation to the ongoing regeneration of Folkestone.

The FT is not at all the traditional sculpture trail. Instead it follows a very sophisticated curatorial understanding of what sculpture today might mean and how it acts site-specifically. Projects will vary in medium, scale, intention and meaning, and reflect a current status of art making that can be anything from pure process to ready made.

Each artistic proposal will be embedded in a spatial and social network to do with Folkestone, whether this happens through research, production, participation or the actual installation on site. Each art project will have its own route and space and become part of a growing cultural space.
FTS not only generates space for artists to develop and produce, it also generates space for exchange between the town and the visiting artists, it will generate space for cooperation and collaboration and create a new public space for visitors to the exhibition.
How does the ambition and intention of FT relate to a culturally lead regeneration? How do the art commissions sit next to creative industry initiatives? How to differentiate between creative industries and a critical art practice, without reproducing stereotypes of High and Low art, but maybe differentiating in regards to intention and outcome?

Artists from all over the world are invited to produce new work for the FT, and link back to a history of artist visitors to Folkestone, like Marcel Duchamp, who will be the focal point of Jeremy Millar’s exhibition at the Metropole Gallery this autumn. Are artists seen as interesting visitors to raise the attraction and cultural credibility of the place, or can they be understood as (co-) producers of cultural life and space?

Is the FT meant to be educational and recreational, or can it be more political by stating the art projects as “alternative” approaches and appropriations of issues that are relevant to the regeneration process, such as dealing with history, immigration, master-planning, civic participation, etc.

On the one hand its safe for the art to stay within the field of education and recreation, and to act out its preconceived role as a creative and challenging profession, which means to remain in its autonomous status and avoid the danger of getting functionalised. However, the FT is functionalised in a very positive and constructive way within Folkestone’s Regeneration. The FT will e.g. link the town to a wider national and international network, help raising the cultural profile, attract visitors and leave permanent projects in the town.
“ To work alongside and support the regeneration of the town” is stated clearly in the FT Artists’ Brief. The culturally led regeneration plans for Folkestone are ambitious. The aim is not to duplicate other models but to create a new prototype for cultural regeneration.

Due to of the fact that FT is already an integral part of the regeneration, we suggest a
(re?)positioning of the FT, from being the producer of a cultural event within the regeneration plans, to become a propositional and analytical tool for innovative cultural and urban planning and implementation.

The FOLKESTONOMY proposal in context

The Folkestone Triennial (FT) describes itself as an ambitious and innovative art project, and encourages invited artists to engage with the fabric of the city in order to produce temporary and permanent art projects. Amongst other aims, the FT wants to engage residents and visitors and to enrich the existing reality through new context related art projects.

FT is sited/commissioned within the wider context of Folkestone’s current regeneration plans and process. It is stated very clearly that the regeneration plans have creativity and the arts at its heard, and the arts are declared a key strategic instrument. Aims are to improve the public realm, to raise of educational attainment, to support employment growth and economic development, to tackle cause of social deprivation and to develop community identity.
The ethos of the culture lead regeneration is “to build from ground level” (Roger de Haan) and to be different from other culturally lead regeneration projects, which too often drive the arts out of regenerated areas, or sideline them once the large scale building projects move in.

The Making of Space:
Urban regeneration deals with a variety of spaces and spatial aspects, which is already well reflected in Folkestone’s current situation. On the one end of the spectrum is e.g. the new masterplan for the seafront by Foster and Partners that deals with the large scale context and the massing of spaces and programmes; on the other end are medium and small scale initiatives that re-generate existing spaces through cultural programmes, e.g. the Creative Foundation with its Creative Quarter initiative, or Strange Cargo who have produced numerous participatory public art projects for the town. The FT as a medium and possible long-term initiative will become a new producer of cultural, and probably physical space for Folkestone.

All those spaces and spatial proposals need to be acknowledged in their coexistence, and as a current debate within Urban Planning suggests, formal Masterplanning and Everyday Urbanism need to be considered equally when it comes to the making and shaping of new spaces. Transformation takes place long-term and large-scale, but it also happens on an everyday basis in conversations, small actions and changing perceptions.

We’re particularly interested in the social, cultural and physical space that is generated by cultural initiatives such as the FT and the meaning of this space within a regeneration context and the hierarchy of space.

How to connect ephemeral cultural space to urban design and masterplanning?

Current master plan proposals

…. and the images produced alongside.

Roger de Haan, current owner of Folkestone harbour, has commissioned Foster and Partners to produce a masterplan for the harbour area.

The masterplan is produced and represented within the very conventions of its profession,
with images and models of a better looking and better working future environment.
We all know that masterplans of that scale don't get implemented necessarily, and they're often
used as a political tool to kick start a discussion about change and.

The images produced are strong in the sense that they propose a possible reality by almost erasing the existent. The images and documents don't show a process of change and they certainly don't show possibilities for a collective and participatory transformation of Folkestone that starts with the existent. The images focus on future real estate and physical development as a main objective.

FOLKESTONOMY is an attempt to produce new images based on the existing, which show different social and spatial aspects of Folkestone, and to counterpose and complement the master plan images.

Extracts from our proposal:

The images produced as part of a regeneration process are key to how visions are shaped and expectations answered. There is a real need to produce pictures in order to illustrate ideas and objectives, but there is also an understanding amongst the professionals involved, that images often have a provisional role and meaning and will change throughout the process. However the general public often reads first illustrations of visions as “the design”, and due to a lack of understanding a highly complex commission/design/implementation process, are disappointed if final outcomes are not delivered as suggested in the masterplan.

Regeneration is fluid, it deals with changing relationships, politics and opportunities. The spaces involved in, and addressed by regeneration don’t change overnight, but evolve slowly, as does the image that goes with those spaces.
If regeneration is bottom-up, the making of the new starts from within the existing, and is a slow transformative process, rather than an abrupt replacement of the present by the new.
Process and slow transformation are much more difficult to represent than a visionary image, but are equally important in regards to understanding the process, and the potential of various forces and elements within it.

a public works project. site design and build by dorian