Festivals

Whitstable Biennale 2016: Festival Director Sue Jones on arts festival that seeks to to discuss the refugee crisis

Video still from Parlor Walls, by Webb-Ellis, showing at the Library Lecture Room, Whitstable, 12:00-17:00 on 4th June 2016. Copyright the artists, courtesy Whitstable Bienniale

Since its inauguration in 2002, Whitstable Biennale has celebrated the region’s finest in contemporary art; providing a platform for practitioners such as Jo Addison, Jananne Al-Ani and Clio Barnard. BJP sat down with the festival’s director and lead curator to look forward to an event that throws its weight behind ‘experimental and ambitious work’.

Sue Jones is brimming with enthusiasm about this year’s Biennale. ‘For me everything is a highlight!’ she offers, when asked the politically charged question of what artworks she is most excited about.

“Our major new commissions are something that we’re really proud of – you can see them all the way through the festival […] We’re interested in the emerging artists making work that’s exciting, at the very cutting edge of what is happening at the moment.’’ 

Jones, who has led the bi-annual arts festival since 2006, heads up a curation team including Emma Leach – a writer and performance artist, and Gareth Evans, who is Adjunct Film Curator at Whitechapel Gallery.

Marcia Farquhar's Rooty Tooty, showing at the Sundae Sundae in Whitstable, 4th-12th June copyright the artist.

Marcia Farquhar’s Rooty Tooty, showing at the Sundae Sundae in Whitstable, 4th-12th June copyright the artist.

The theme for this year’s festival is the Faraway Nearby, a name taken from Rebecca Solnit’s book of the same name. Jones suggests this relates to ‘‘distance and closeness, and how we tell stories and find ways of creating places we belong’.

The work that best represents this theme is perhaps Sarah Wood’s Boat People – a film essay that explores this question of whether homelessness is the ‘destiny of the world’. Wood beat 344 other artists to secure the commission, and the 20-minute film will be projected on loop in the harbour.

Says Jones: Without being heavy handed, this also relates to where we are in Whitstable – on the coast in Kent, closest to the European mainland […] Local authorities are under real pressure with the number of people arriving here and [in particular] the number of children. We wanted to reflect upon that in the programme.’

Whitstable 2016 Biennial takes place in the town of Whitstable, Kent from 3rd to the 12th June. For full programme of events visit here.

2016-06-02T16:05:10+00:00

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