top of page

Kunstenfestival Watou 2023, Poperinge, Watou (BE), Open Call 1 Jul 2022 - 3 Sept 2023

Arts Festival Watou 2023 takes place from July 1 to September 3. Edith Doove is the visual arts curator and, like last year, Michaël Vandebril is in charge of the poetry section. Koen Vanmechelen continues to inspire Patchwwwork, the experimental preliminary project from which several artists are selected for the festival. He is also invited by Doove as one of the participating artists. This edition is given the baseline /kom.po' Thirty artists and twenty poets "compose" new in situ work. This year's arts festival also presents several new venues, a podcast with Jelle Van Riet and a poetry cycle route with war poems.

Like last year, the poetry will be designed by Michaël Vandebril. This edition, he again goes full steam ahead with the cross-pollination, between place and poets, between visual art and poetry. “The poets create a new poem or text, inspired by the artworks and conversations with the artists. In this way, the interplay between visual art and poetry is ensured.”

Loes Vandromme, alderman for culture city of Poperinge: “After edition 2022, we heard praise for the renewed concept from all sides. The new creations and the link between the village, visual arts and poetry were the trump cards of Watou 2022. For us, a clear signal that we had to continue in that direction.”

To continue the formula for success, a third edition of Patchwork has already been launched. Koen Vanmechelen remains inspirer of the project. “Last summer, several artists camped in Watou for a second time. Inspired by their experiences in the village and during the festival, they worked out new project proposals. From these, a nine-member jury selected about 20 works that will be elaborated and shown at the arts festival this summer.” A new open call to participate in this unique research project was launched in March. And the international jury selected again 20 participants to stay in Watou during the summer.


Watou 2023 is given the theme /kom.po' The concept refers to French sociologist Bruno Latour. "In this specific era, characterised by the consequences of the so-called Anthropocene with an undeniable warming of the climate and a war that is coming very close to our doorstep, according to Latour it is more important than ever to make well-considered choices, to compose,” says Doove. "The choice of Composition as the name for the festival derives from both a full consideration of the principle behind Patchwwwork and the work of the chosen Patchwwwork artists themselves. The idea of careful composition, attentive observation of the local in interaction with the global, collaboration and exchange is always present therein."

Picture, from left to rechts: Curator Poëzie Michaël Vandebril, Inspirator Koen Vanmechelen, Curator Edith Doove

Watou 2023 will feature work by more than 30 artists:

Beatrijs Albers en Reggy Timmermans (BE) - Niels Albers (NL) - Funda Zeynep Ayguler (DE) - Iwert Bernakiewicz (BE) - Sven Boel (BE) - Cloé Decroix (FR) - Alexandra Dementieva (SU) - Niel De Vries (NL) - Griet Dobbels (BE) - Philippe Druez (BE) - Juls Gabs (UK) - Benoît Géhanne (FR) - Marilyne Grimmer (FR) - Marc Hamandjian (FR) - Nathalie Hunter (BE) - Maarten Inghels (BE) - Pierre Mertens (BE) - Charlotte Mumm (DE) - Öznur Özturk (BE) - Alain Platel en Berlinde De Bruyckere (BE) - Jiajia Qi (NL) - Henk Schut (NL) - Robert Ssempijja (UG) - Joris Vermassen (BE) - Koen Vanmechelen (BE) - Louisiana Van Onna (NL) - Wouter Vanderstede en Peter Simon (BE) - Various Artists - Esther Venrooij (NL) - ZONDERWERK (BE)

The Worth of Life The insitu installation is based on one of the artist's performances; The Worth of Life. Vanmechelen has been learning from the chicken through his Cosmopolitan Chicken Project for 20 years, an artistic crossbreeding project that's had to break through many barriers. For this performance the artist joined his chickens in quarantine during the first lockdown in 2020, slowly turning the chicken stable into a tableau vivant. The video of this performance is part of the multimedia installation presented in Watou. Vanmechelen also recreated the chicken coop and created an impressive drawing directly on the walls of the Festivalhuis.

Interplay between poetry, visual art and the village This year too, Watou guarantees to be a place where visual art and poetry merge. Michaël Vandebril remains on board as the curator of poetry and jury member of Patchwwwork. Vandebril has a close relationship with Watou, having co-founded the Huis van de Dichter in Watou, the former residence of Gwij Mandelinck that has been a place of choice for literary creators since 2018. "Poperinge’s continued belief in Watou’s power as an art and poetry village does it honour. The essence of the arts festival? It makes people happier than before," Vandebril said. Vandebril again opts for new creations. "As far as the choice of the poetry is concerned, my artistic proposal to the Arts Festival was not to choose existing poems, which was often done in the past, but to opt for new creations so that the Patchwork format is strengthened. I paired each artist with a poet, and together they entered into dialogue, resulting in a new poem that was inspired by the artwork and that was also integrated on site. In this way, the interwovenness between art, poetry and place received maximum visibility and this was also appreciated by the general public that visited the festival. For Watou 2023 I have been involved from the start, as part of the ´curatorial team´ that selects and accompanies the artists. In this way I am even better positioned to link the artists with the poets so that the match is fruitful and inspiring," says Vandebril.

Watou 2023 will feature new work by more than 20 poets: Alara Adilow (NL) - Anna Broeksma (NL) - Joost Decorte (BE) - Lotte Dodion (BE) - Radna Fabias (NL) - Marie Ginet (FR) - Max Greyson (BE) - Luuk Gruwez (BE) - Ilya Kaminski (US/UKR) - Mustafa Kör (BE) - Caroline Lamarche (BE) - Marije Langelaar (NL) - Delphine Lecompte (BE) - Lisette Lombé (BE) - Gerry Loose (UK) - Nisrine Mbarki (NL) - Tijl Nuyts (BE) - Johanna Pas (BE) - Siel Verhanneman (BE)

Patchwwwork During Patchwwwork, participants together with artist Koen Vanmechelen will explore how Watou as a village and as a community can connect with the artists and vice versa.

Professional artists and final-year art students applied or this project through an open call. An international jury selected the artists who will spend three days in Watou this summer. Based on their experiences, these 'Patchwwworkers' will submit project proposals for new work and thus put themselves forward as candidates for Kunstenfestival Watou 2024.

General info

Watou 2023 takes place from 1 July to 3 September. The arts festival can be visited from Wednesday to Monday, from 10am to 6pm each time. Tuesday is the closing day. Tickets can be bought via the website from mid-May for 20 euros (standard rate). Watou Arts Festival 1/07 — 3/09 2023



bottom of page