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Watou Arts Festival 2024: Landscape of imagination

The city of Poperinge, inspirator Koen Vanmechelen and curators James Putnam and Michaël Vandebril present the 2024 edition of Watou Arts Festival. 'Landscape of the Imagination' will take place from July 6 to September 1. Artists and poets will showcase the power of the imagination, in dialogue with each other and with several unique locations in and around the village and castle De Lovie. 

Imagination as an engine of change  

Imagination as an engine of change  The new edition of the Watou Arts Festival focuses on the power of the imagination. After two successful editions, Koen Vanmechelen and Michaël Vandebril assume their role, for the third consecutive time, as respectively inspirer and curator of poetry. James Putnam, who has previously (in 2022) assumed the role of visual arts curator, completes the three-member curatorial team.  Many of the artists developed their works in dialogue with Watou's locality. In the spring of 2023, a record number of 200 artists registered for the open call ‘Patchwwwork’. An international jury - chaired by Koen Vanmechelen and consisting of Dirk Draulans, Jo Coucke, Marjan Doom, James Putnam, Edith Doove, Michaël Vandebril, Sabiha Keyif and Loes Vandromme - selected the participants for the summer camp. Their ideas ‘flow’ from the landscape, which resulted in some twenty new realizations. As a result, the artworks are sometimes playful, but at the same time thought-provoking. 

We are in need of new landscapes. Places of experimentation, refuges and spaces where a new humanity can be born

— Koen Vanmechelen, inspirator

The creative imagination blurs the boundary between dreaming and waking life and is often in tune with the collective consciousness and memory. Art can be the vehicle to open our imagination and we become aware of its power to transform and make a difference. It can be a vehicle for ideas and feelings explored by artists on a personal level that may also have a deeper, more universal significance

James Putnam, curator contemporary art

Poetry in dialogue with art

The interconnectedness between the village, the landscape, the poets and the artists is what makes this festival so unique. Curator Michaël Vandebril once again opts for new creations by twenty poets, who enter into conversation with the work of the visual artists and with the village.  

With a new bike route, "Swimming Lessons for Later," will feature thirteen climate poets and the poetry podcast "House of the Poet" returns for a second season. Literary journalist Jelle Van Riet and audio-maker Pauline Augustyn are creating a new series of six episodes from the writer's residence Huis van de Dichter in Watou, which will be presented on the podcast platform of De Standaard and during the Arts Festival.  

Poetry creates inner landscapes in which to wander, just like in a village. New poems enter into dialogue with the works of art. They invite a journey in head and heart. Watou is the destination, but for everyone the journey is different. The landscape of art and poetry changes with every glance. The poems are integrated in many ways: typographic, auditory or through video. Jelle Jespers will be responsible for the design aspect

Michaël Vandebril, curator of poetry

During ‘Landscape of the Imagination’, artists and poets approach the concept of "imagination" as an inner psychological landscape that exists between people and the physical spaces around them. Through words and images, they aim to make us aware of the power imagination possesses to transform and make a difference. Their work will be on display in several locations in and around the village. Castle De Lovie in Poperinge once again plays an important role. Artist Mikes Poppe, who impressed in 2022 with his durational performance is planning a new long-term performance. Where "And the farmer, he ploughed on" had a field as its canvas, he will venture onto water as the second part of his diptych for Watou. "The scope of the Watou Arts Festival Watou reaches beyond the village. It creates a creative landscape that embraces the entire region. In a world yearning for new perspectives, Watou is a gateway to a shared world of imagination where art has the power to enrich and transform", says Loes Vandromme, Alderman for Culture. 

Open Call 

If grass smells like concrete, a village will lose the authenticity needed to survive. The balance will shift — Koen Vanmechelen

For the next edition of the art festival, we aim for a Watou shaped by collectives and collabs, celebrating the diversity and strength of collaborative creation. The theme of this year’s open call, "The Smell of Grass is Changing", represents the adaptation, transformation and renewal we seek in the arts, inviting reflection on our changing world and its impact on our creative process and interactions. With this adage, internationally acclaimed artist Koen Vanmechelen, the inspirator behind Patchwwwork, the experimental precursor to the Watou Art Festival, invites artists to engage in a new unique creative journey.


Since 2021, Vanmechelen has initiated Patchwwwork as a research project, organising an in situ ‘artist’ encampment as an immersive experiment and learning process, culminating in this new call. For the next edition, we seek collectives and collabs eager to contribute to Watou's evolution and transformation, engaging in a journey stimulating both senses and mind. Registration is open from March 15 to May 31, 2024. Selected collectives and collabs will be invited to submit a proposal for a next edition of Watou Arts Festival.

Watou Live

This summer the Arts Festival once again brings an exciting program of events. During 'Watou Live' you will discover numerous performances, concerts and fascinating encounters. The line-up consists of established names, but especially a lot of up-and-coming talent. The line up includes already Roufaida - Ciggy Sunday – Oerhert - Floris Francis Arthur - Ivy Falls - Johannes is zijn naam - Arend Delabie - Rosa Butsi -  2Systems - Johan Bruyneel -  Eve Beuvens - Dorian Dumont - Susato Trio -  Hand Electric.  

A selection of participating artists*:  

Pato Bosich (CL) – Cecile Broekaert (BE) – Monique Broekman (NL) – Linde Carrijn & Dijf Sanders  (BE) – Mat Collishaw (GB) – Matthijs De Block (BE) – Lieze De Middeleir (BE) – Werner de Valk (NL) – Joost Elschot (NL) – Karolina Halatek (PL) – Mariko Hori (JP) – John Isaacs (GB) – Lafleur & Bogaert (HT & BE) – Ilya Kabakov (RU) – Carel Lanters & Lee Eun Young (NL & KR) – Mashid Mohadjerin & Jan De Vroede (IR & BE) – Daan Navarrete-van der Pluijm (NL) – Alice Obee (BE) – Mikes Poppe (BE) – Roundhouse Platform (US) – Marina Resende Santos (BR) – Anila Rubiku (AL) – Sanne van Balen (NL) – Lieke van der Meer (NL) – Lie van der Werff (NL) – Laura Vandewynckel (BE) *more to be announced 

A selection of participating poets*:  

Benno Barnard (NL) – Moya De Feyter (BE) – Dominique De Groen (BE) – Paul Demets (BE) – Al Galidi (NL) – Ingmar Heytze (NL) – Doina Ioanid (RO) – Frank Keizer (NL) – collectief Letterzetter (Imane Karroumi - Loeke Vanhoutteghem - Veronica Schmalz - Alice Boudry - Maite Vanthournout) (BE) –Jens Meijen (BE) –  Carl Norac (BE) – Maria van Daalen (NL) – Marjolijn van Heemstra (NL) –  Anke Verschueren (BE) – Billie Vos (BE) – Daniëlle Zawadi (NL) – Emma Zuiderveld (NL) *more to be announced  

General info 

Watou Arts Festival - Landscape of the Imagination

Saturday July 6 - Sunday September 1, 2024

Early booking campaign from May 1


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