When arriving at Folkestone Central station for the seaside town’s 2014 triennial, it might be easy to walk past the first installation without acknowledging its status as an artwork. Yoko Ono’s ‘Earth Peace’ billboard sits unassumingly aside an advert for cross channel ferries, but for those in the know, its bold black-and-white text demands particular attention.

This sense of discovery – of uncovering treasure amongst the scenery of the town – is key to the triennial’s playfulness and charm. The title of this year’s exhibition, Lookout serves as a reminder to keep alert to the unfamiliar and examine public space with new eyes.

The unofficial theme given to participating artists, including Jyll Bradley, Emma Hart, Andy Goldsworthy, Michael Sailstorfer, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Krijn de Koning and Tim Etchells, was the “hope and fear provoked by our responsibility for what is around us”. One of the works embodying this statement most excitingly is Cèzanne Charles and John Marshall’s, known collectively as roofoftwo, installation of Withervanes (or headless rotating cockerel-shaped weathervanes) that reflect, and in some ways, instigate public vigilance and fear. Responding to trending news on global unrest, the five sculptures will turn away from the source of panic at differing speeds and in different colours that relate to the intensity of the digital distress. The residents of Folkestone can affect the motion of the cockerels by tweeting #keepcalm or #skyfalling, in many ways mimicking the way that social media can perpetuate unrest.

Fittingly, many of the works take Folkestone (and its history as a bustling seaside town) as a starting point to consider its inhabitants’ sense of themselves and the state of place they live. Michael Sailstorfer’s work Folkestone Digs invites residents to participate in collective myth-making in relation to the town’s key feature: the beach. Burying 30 pieces of gold in the sand and inviting Folkestone’s inhabitants to come and search for them, Sailstorfer reinvigorates a fantasy and imagination connected with childhood and holidaying. As the rumour spreads, the treasure hunt becomes a scene for observation: who is participating? Is there corroboration or competition? The hope is that the work, and the search, will live on as a magical story that contributes to the sense of the town as a whole.

Taking a different approach to the triennial’s title, Emma Hart’s work Giving It All That was instead deeply introspective, fuelled by anxieties surrounding the inability to prohibit the physically internal bleeding out into the external world. Hart gave the example of sweating, in response to pressure or observation, as one of those moments that can render embarrassment and shame. As such, her fragile ceramics occupy a semi-derelict terraced house in the center of Folkestone, playing with the idea of hiding away in a domestic space that, ironically, can too impose this pressure on its inhabitants.

Curator Lewis Biggs, who held the position of Director at Liverpool’s Biennial for 11 years, said in relation to the event: “whatever the artist provides, it remains incomplete unless and until we enter into dialogue with it”. If those picking lucky pennies from Strange Cargo’s The Luckiest Place on Earth; peeking through telescopes to see Ian Hamilton Finlay’s lighthouse inscription; rising into the air on The Wind Lift; or digging for gold on Folkestone beach, are anything to go by, then the triennial has triumphantly facilitated the completion of such works, and that should be prized.

30 August – 2 November 2014, open daily 10am-5pm