Angus Watt’s Festival Flags

By Scott Mainwaring

Angus Watt at Taranaki WOMAD in 2010.  Photo by Cameron Burnell, Taranaki Daily News.
Angus Watt at Taranaki WOMAD in 2010. Photo by Cameron Burnell, Taranaki Daily News.

Since 1994 British visual artist Angus Watt has been making elaborate flag displays for the annual international music and arts festival WOMAD (World of Music, Arts, and Dance).   His work has since spread to other festivals around the world, including Mysteryland and the New Zealand Arts Festival.

Examples of Watt's flags, from his website, anguswatt.net
Examples of Watt’s flags, from his website, anguswatt.net

Often we think of flag design in the context of a social or political group desiring an enduring symbol to represent it.  The single design is meant to be replicated many times, often to be mass produced and mass marketed. Watt’s festival flags are created in an entirely different context:  that of a festival or other arts patron wanting to create a unique, one-time-only, aesthetic experience at a grand scale.  For Watt this involves making, by hand, dozens to hundreds of silk flags per project.  He estimates he’s made 17,000 flags since 1994.  No two flags are alike, though for each project he typically works around a unifying, project-specific theme.

"I usually look at the programme, the music and try to complement it with the flags."  Photograph from anguswatt.net
“I usually look at the programme, the music and try to complement it with the flags.” Photograph from anguswatt.net

This short film by Emma Plunkett provides a sense of Watt’s flag art:


“I really like the music of James Brown. It has so many different facets, it is so sophisticated. And it’s the same with flags — they work on you in a mysterious way."  Flags at the Gastonbury festival, from anguswatt.net
“I really like the music of James Brown. It has so many different facets, it is so sophisticated. And it’s the same with flags — they work on you in a mysterious way.” Flags at the Gastonbury festival, from anguswatt.net

"These large flags are called “Living Standards”. They were originally commissioned by the Cornish Tate Gallery to celebrate the solar eclipse of 1999. Working in conjunction with the St Ives International organization and the local councils. The flags were designed to work with the exceptional winds coming off the Atlantic. Using a subtle blend of pastel shades, they were conceived to be a roaming program, appearing at three locations over three weeks in West Penwith, Cornwall. Subsequently, the flags went on to New Zealand, again roaming three locations. The final outing for the “Living Standards” flags, was on the island of Terscelling in the Netherlands, as part of the Oerol Festival." From anguswatt.net
“These large flags are called “Living Standards”. They were originally commissioned by the Cornish Tate Gallery to celebrate the solar eclipse of 1999. Working in conjunction with the St Ives International organization and the local councils. The flags were designed to work with the exceptional winds coming off the Atlantic. Using a subtle blend of pastel shades, they were conceived to be a roaming program, appearing at three locations over three weeks in West Penwith, Cornwall. Subsequently, the flags went on to New Zealand, again roaming three locations. The final outing for the “Living Standards” flags, was on the island of Terscelling in the Netherlands, as part of the Oerol Festival.” From anguswatt.net

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Author: SDM

Ethnography * Technology * Design

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