Watou Arts Festival highlights climate change and the power of imagination

The Watou Arts Festival kicks off this weekend, presenting a wide range of works by artists and poets on the theme Landscape of the Imagination. The festival run from 6 July to 1 September in the village of Watou in West Flanders, on the border with France.

Many of the artists developed their works in dialogue with the surroundings of Watou. For example, Mariko Hori asked several residents to stop trimming their hedges to show how humans impose artificial limits on nature. Daan Navarrete-van der Pluijm erected telephone poles to encourage communication between residents, and Sanne van Balen's lampposts feature the voices of Watou residents.

The castle estate of De Lovie plays an important role, with several locations occupied by artists and poets. A new "durational performance" by Mike Poppe can be seen on the pond in the castle park. The artist will sit in an apparently calm pond for two months, until a huge burst of water occurs.

Climate poetry

Poets are also concerned with the environment. Thirteen climate poets will be presenting their work during the Swimming Lessons for Later cycle tour. "At the end of last year, the Westhoek and Watou were under water. It is clear that the climate is changing. Are we going to watch it happen or do something about it?" asks poetry curator Michaël Vandebril.

The festival dates back to 1980, when it began as a poetry festival organised by local poet Gwy Mandelinck. The festival this year pays tribute to Mandelinck, who died in April.


#FlandersNewsService | An installation at the 2018 edition of the Watou Arts Festival © PHOTO HANS VAN DEN BOGAARD/HOLLANDSE HOOGTE

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