Sunday, June 19, 2022

Whitstable Biennale

 It was great to get back to this event after six years, but the date I chose was the hottest day of the year, so my memories are slightly blurred by heat exhaustion. Beautiful sea and sky and absolute crowds on the beach made getting inside to exhibits quite the feat. 

First up was old reliable Horsebridge Arts Centre which had two exhibits. Downstairs was Savinder Bual's Fade + High and Low, two water-powered works requiring topping up by human beings, which I thought was novel, if labour intensive. 

Upstairs was a viewing room to see two films by Sonya Dyer. I caught The Betsey Drake Equation, which juxtaposed two white male scientists discussing cosmology with a black female dancer interrupting the discourse. I am told cosmology is quite in right now. 

Jennet Thomas's The Great Curdling was a baffling, bonkers film screened in The Old Bank which had me guffawing out loud. A bit sci-fi, a bit high school musical, it featured characters in the future lamenting the loss of the sea through recitals and songs and dodging low fi special effects. I missed the accompanying live performance. 

This film and several exhibits had to be moved from The Cockle Shed owing to a fire and I never found the new location for Sarah Craske's An Eco-Hauntology, which I was looking forward to seeing.  

I did stumble on Chromatic Agency's Ephemeral Evidence while wandering down a side street. Two versions of the film play out on a screen while a giant lump of clay is available to mark. The film details Southern Water's release of raw sewage into the sea and asks who speaks for the sea? 

My final visit was a long trek to the library to view Alicia Radage's installation MOTHER BENT, which took up a whole room upstairs in the lecture hall. The floor was covered in dirt which had screens and sculptures of body parts pointing upward. Sounds came through speakers while headphones offered additional sounds. I spent quite a lot of time here and allowed myself to really get immersed. I did not see the additional works in the adjacent library. 

What was surprising this year was the lack of a Biennale HQ to offer a gathering place for visitors. Venues did not seem to know about events at other spaces. It would have been good to feel more of a connection with other visitors to the festival. But a day out in Whitstable offers its own connections, to the sea and shore and of course the gorgeous sky. 

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