For the fourth time in a row, The Crystal Ship conquers Ostend together with world-famous artists. With the theme The Dictatorship of Art in mind, they make gigantic murals and fantastic art installations during the Easter holidays.
This year’s roster features international artists: Case Maclaim (DE) – Crystal Wagner (USA) – David Walker (UK) – Escif (ES) – Helen Bur (UK) – Jaune (BE) – Leon Keer (NL) – Lonac (HR) – Marina Capdevila (ES) – Miss Van (FR) – Mohamed l’Ghacham (ES) – Paola Delfin (MX) – Tom Herck (BE) – Wasted Rita (PT)
The Crystal Ship’s collection already includes more than 50 permanent artworks and this year the Festival will add ten new murals (the highest is 40 meters!), two gigantic sculptures, a series of smaller interventions, three school projects and an artist in residence that will use the city as her playground (our rebellious Wasted Rita takes on that role!). Make sure to join on Saturday April 13th at Monacoplein, where we will present the new works to the public!
Today we share our interview with the captain of the Crystal Ship Bjørn van Poucke , curator and owner of the Festival, to give you more insight about this years edition.
Julie: You are widely-known for being the curator of the acclaimed The Crystal Ship Festival held in Oostende. Could you tell me more about you and your journey that led you to the creation of the Festival?
Bjørn van Poucke: Art has always been present in my life. In a time long before social media I wrote for a DIY punk zine when I was a teen, a bit later I contributed to various music, photography and street art blogs around the world.
One thing lead to another and I encountered that standing on the sidelines is just not for me, I wanted to actively participate and started organising concerts, club nights and music festivals. Firstly I did all of those things together with my friends and later I got noticed by a booking agency where I started working until my mid-twenties.
What happened is that I slowly started to feel out of place, so I decided to quit my job in music, took my experience with me and started organising my first art projects including the very first street art festival in Belgium back in 2011. Ever since I have continued organising various art projects, exhibitions and an art festival that moved from city to city each year.
J: You are also the author of different publications including Street Art Today, a publication presenting 50 street artists and their works. Could you tell me how the project saw the light?
Bjørn van Poucke : That’s correct, I have published 4 books already, including 3 little booklets about The Crystal Ship and a 192 pages big book entitled Street Art Today where I showcase and talk about the current tendencies in contemporary street art.
I really felt the need to do so since there is a lot of misunderstanding about what street art exactly is and where it comes from. Also there is a big discrepancy between artists that come from contemporary art or from street art. If we want people to take us seriously, maybe we should educate the general public and learn them that street art is not a style, but rather a medium, a technique how you can create art.
Exclusive interviews, illuminating essays and a foreword by Martyn Reed (of Nuart Festival) make this book a must-read for anyone, experts or amateurs, interested in this vibrant art scene.
At this point I’m writing the successor of the book, which will be available in stores worldwide from September 2019.
J: We are now in the 4th edition of The Crystal Ship. How the festival was born and could you tell me more about the choice of the coastal city of Ostend which gives such a unique scenery for the event?
Bjørn van Poucke : This is indeed the 4th edition of The Crystal Ship, although we are organizing the festival since 2011. I remember receiving a phone call from the Ostend city council back in 2014 whilst I was organizing the festival in Roeselare, which was a smaller version of The Crystal Ship.
Apparently we had drawn the attention of the mayor of Ostend, so he invited me to host the festival in his city. Ostend and street art is just a very good match. Both have a rough edge and a lot of rock ‘n roll, that combination works!
J: By the way, how did the name of the Festival ‘The Crystal Ship’ came about?
Bjørn van Poucke : I drew inspiration from a song by The Doors: Oh, tell me where your freedom lies / The streets are fields that never die / Deliver me from reasons why / You’d rather cry, I’d rather fly.
J: There is more to the festival as it offers the public the opportunity to discover outdoor artworks but it also involves many socio-cultural projects. Could you tell me more about it?
Bjørn van Poucke : For us, art is always a social thing. Before we start painting a new work, we always engage with the local community.
This year we collaborate with the pupils of the local school Ensorinstituut to make not one, but three art projects. Inspired by the theme The Dictatorship of Art we did one mural project where we taught the teenagers how to paint walls, did a propaganda poster campaign and took it to the streets with a protest march for more art in our lives.
Next to that we will also launch a limited skateboard deck release with Jaune to support the youth in Banjul, Gambia.
J: The engagement from the people of Ostend is second to none during the Festival. Everyone is out on the hunt for the latest addition. How do you see such a project impacting the city and their people?
Bjørn van Poucke : Not only that, we could never organize the festival without the participation of the local community. They help us finding suitable locations, we get inspired by them and they of course visit The Crystal Ship massively (last year we had over 125.000 visitors). The engagement is such a heartwarming beautiful thing, so thank you to anybody helping us out in one way or another.
J: Could you tell us more about this year’s theme for the Festival?
Bjørn van Poucke : This is the very first year we apply a theme to the program: The Dictatorship of Art.
The theme of the fourth edition of The Crystal Ship, is in fact not meant as a provocative statement. It is, quite simply, manifest. For let us be honest: we have already tried everything else – popes to presidents, communism to capitalism, aristocracy to mediacracy – and the world is still on the brink of a nervous breakdown. And that is why The Crystal Ship is – emphatically, because only then we can make a difference – aligning with the German artist Jonathan Meese, who states that Art is by far the most radical thing you can do with your life. Forget politics, forget religion, forget ‘purchasing power’ or other truisms.
Only Art has the power to truly change the world. Only Art will let you bring something meaningful to the table. So stop what you are doing. Now! Right away! Drop everything, muster all your passion and creativity, fire up all your lust and enthusiasm, and go nuts. Not half-heartedly, not just a bit, but completely nuts. Choose Art. Choose The Dictatorship of Art.
J: Are there any other exciting projects you are working on that you can share with us?
Bjørn van Poucke: 2019 will see the new edition of my book being published, but also various new art projects such as two editions of our mini-festival Kaleidoscope and a series of new works in Belgium.
Furthermore we are working hard to organize yet another gallery show and some other projects I’m not allowed to disclose at this point. Follow us on social media to stay updated on our creative endeavors .