Folkestone Triennial: Halfway to Heaven (2017)
2nd September – 5th November 2017
The Baptist burial ground started in the 1750s, in the garden of a miller. Until 1855, Baptists were buried there, as their ‘radical’ beliefs resulted in discrimination that prevented burial in Anglican ground. Following law reform in the 1850s, the burial ground was no longer required. When the railway arrived in the late 1800s, the slopes of the Pent Valley were cut away to be developed as terraced housing and the burial ground was left stranded as an ‘island’, floating 55 feet in the air. Since, as Folkestone has evolved and time has passed, the burial ground has become overgrown and forgotten by the town.
Emily Peasgood’s interactive sound installation Halfway to Heaven explores this curious situation, with the deceased in their graves, elevated high above our heads, in a forgotten graveyard. Each audio channel will be linked to a specific gravestone and contain musical narratives and references to the history of the burial ground and the people buried there, as an act of remembrance. Halfway to Heaven is ‘created’ by visitors working together to activate it, bringing the burial ground into existence once again.
Ascending a flight of steep steps, you find yourself in a tiny graveyard 20ft above the road at what used, 150 years ago, to be street level. Speakers disguised as urns sit in front of five of the graves —the piece, a beautiful five channel choral work, relates to the individual gravestones— and are activated by a visitor’s presence. You can collaborate if someone else is there, or dash around like a loon to get them all going together. Either way the experience, once they’re all singing away, is magical – The Times, 1/9/17. Full article.
There are 19 new commissions in all, and one of the most memorable is Emily Peasgood’s Halfway to Heaven. It’s a lovely piece, more so since it feels like you’ve entered a secret garden – A-N, 1/9/17. Full article.
To experience this most evocative of sound pieces involves climbing a vertiginous 19th century staircase […] Now, speakers disguised as urns have been discreetly installed in front of five of the graves and are triggered by visitors to unleash a haunting, five-channel choral work which relates to the inscriptions on the gravestones and the occupants they describe […] It is a magical work which brings a neglected fragment of the town’s history and its forgotten inhabitants back into the here and now – The Telegraph, 8/9/17. Full article.
In collaboration with the Folkestone Baptist community, Emily Peasgood got the cemetery unlocked and cleaned up. She then researched some of the people buried there, creating a narrative audio installation around the grave plots to commemorate the long-unattended dead. This work is one of the most popular within the triennial, daily drawing in locals by the dozens who had wondered who may be laid to rest atop the building and the secret past of their own community – The Observer, 23/10/17. Full article.
In its best moments the Triennial draws on these sharp edges of division and potential unification. Artist Emily Peasgood’s standout piece ‘Halfway to Heaven’, is one such work. Bringing this lost community of the dead into the present is a poignant reminder of the shame of religious segregation – Wall Street International, 5/10/17. Full article.
A-N: Q & A with Emily Peasgood by Jillian Knipe, 3/10/17. Full article.
Canterbury Christ Church University: Emily Peasgood Folkestone Triennial 2017 by Sophie Stone, 6/11/17. Full article.
Eye Magazine: Sea Levellers by John L. Walters, 18/9/17. Full article.
Frieze: Folkestone Triennial 2017 by Sarah James, 20/9/17. Full article.
The Cusp Magazine: Halfway to Heaven Review by Jan-Peter Westad, 12/9/17. Full article.
Third Text: Joining the Dots by Philomena Epps, no date. Full article.
This is tomorrow: Folkestone Triennial by Jillian Knipe, 2/10/17. Full article.
Writer in the Garden: Halfway to Heaven in Folkestone by Sarah Salway, 13/9/17. Full article.
Commissioned by The Creative Foundation for Folkestone Triennial 2017, curated by Lewis Biggs.