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The Worth of Life, /kom.po’, Kunstenfestival Watou 2023, 1 Jul - 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.

Patchwwwork at the basis

The starting point for the arts festival was the launch of an open call in spring 2022. 170 artists from home and abroad applied for Patchwwwork last year. An interdisciplinary and international jury selected 30 artists who camped in the village during the summer of 2022. They interacted with the inhabitants, felt the landscape and immersed themselves in the festival that took place that summer. Based on their experiences, they worked out project proposals for new installations. From these proposals, the jury selected 19 projects that are currently being realised and will be on view at Arts Festival Watou 2023.

Watou 2023 also has a new visual arts curator; Dutch curator, writer and researcher Edith Doove. Doove is part of Patchwwwork’s jury for the second time this year. For the 2023 edition, she is also the curator of the arts festival. “Two-thirds of the festival programme was therefore collectively proposed. While I did have a voice in this, I am thus not the sole author. I find that a very important and also fairly unique fact, which led me to accept the curatorship with particular pleasure. While it is true that I can direct, shape or supplement an entire exhibition or festival, in so doing I always seek a continuous exchange with others.”


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."

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)


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



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