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Arlo Mountford

Arlo Mountford 'The Folly' 2007–09

Arlo Mountford | Australia b.1978 | The Folly 2007–09 | Three-channel digital video installation: 9 minutes, digital animation, colour, four-channel stereo, ed. 1/5 | Purchased 2009. The Queensland Government’s Queensland Art Gallery Acquisitions Fund | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

b.1978  England/Australia
Lives and works in Melbourne, Australia

Arlo Mountford makes digital animations that are often filled with art historical references. Habitually peopling his works with stick figures who rummage through the canon of twentieth-century art, he embarked in 2007 on an ambitious project to animate three paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The hunters in the snow 1565, The harvesters 1565 and Landscape with the fall of Icarus c.1558. Mountford set in motion the action implied in each painting, which occurs successively as the soundtrack leads the viewer’s attention from one animation to the next.

Typical of Mountford’s work, The Folly makes many references to art and culture. The title refers to the elaborate but purposeless architectural embellishments, or follies, that were built in aristocratic gardens, often to keep the workforce occupied. In the central image, one of the peasant women addresses the resting harvesters about the virtue of moving ideas around one’s head without the commitment of actually producing something; a passage from Aldous Huxley’s 1936 novel Eyeless in Gaza that Mountford thought resembled his working process.

The title also refers to the fall of Icarus, which Bruegel famously depicted in the middle ground, foregrounding instead the ploughman, shepherd and angler who witnessed the incident in the account by the Classical poet Ovid. In a final comic touch, it is one of Mountford’s stick figures that drops from the sky, as though the artist acknowledges the folly of his own ambitious project.

Exhibitions (solo): ‘The Hacienda Must be Built’, The Art Center, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand, 2009; ‘Arlo Mountford, Universal Language, Alternate Reality’, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, 2005; ‘Museum Divides and Confused Encounters’, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne, 2004. Exhibitions (group): ‘NEW010’, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2010; ‘Contemporary Australia: Optimism’, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2008; ‘2006 Move on Asia’, Clash and Network, Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai, China, 2006; ‘Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: 21st Century Modern’, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 2006.