Christian Boltanski – Wispers

Creative Foundation and Folkestone Artworks 2014


Fabricated 316 Stainless steel, Solar panels, Battery, Motion sensors, Audio playback device, Electronic Components

Christian Boltanski’s contribution to the Triennial is a sound installation sited at four benches on the Leas. The sound is triggered when visitors sit down. The voices heard are reading letters to
and from servicemen of the First World War. Having passed through Folkestone on their way to the battle-fields in France and Belgium, the town became a poignant site for the soldiers in these personal and intimate reflection on love and separation in the midst of war. The letters have been presented to the Triennial by the people of Folkestone and they are read by the people of Folkestone.

The Whispers, an installation by Christian Boltanski featuring recordings of First World War soldiers’ letters, has returned to Folkestone to commemorate the centenary of the war.

The Whispers was originally created by Boltanski for the 2008 Folkestone Triennial. Inspired by the role Folkestone played as a departure point for hundreds of thousands of soldiers heading to the battlefields of France and Belgium, the poignant work consists of four benches facing across the English Channel towards France.

Each bench has its own own story that plays when visitors take a seat. The first two recount an exchange between a soldier and his fiancee; another features a soldier’s letters to his parents; and the final piece records a soldier’s final days before travelling into combat.

The work was designed and constructed to operate perpetually with solar energy by Cory Burr Fabricators and was installed on Friday 1 August, ready for the centenary memorial events on 4 August. It has been positioned on The Leas on Folkestone’s waterfront, near the Grand Hotel and the Metropole – two buildings that played a key role in the war effort.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: ‘This moving work by a highly acclaimed European artist will greatly enhance Folkestone Artworks’ growing collection. It was well received by both local and national audiences during the 2008 Triennial but will of course have even stronger resonance and poignancy in 2014. We are delighted to have lent our support to this important acquisition.’

The installation was made possible through the support of the Art Fund, as well as the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust. It is the 17th work of art in the Folkestone Artworks collection, joining Mark Wallinger’s memorial sculpture Folk Stones – a piece featuring 19,240 individually numbered stones, one for each British soldier killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Folkestone Triennial
Tales of Time and Space
Edited by Andrea Schlieker
ISBN 9780954699963

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