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Arlo Mountford

The Folly  2008-2009

multi-channel digital video, colour, sound, framed print

9min 59sec; 22 × 31cm

Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds donated by the Coe & Mordant Families, 2009


About the Artwork

The Folly is a panoramic work of three video projections, each of which is a version of a Pieter Bruegel the Elder painting, re-drawn and animated on a computer by Arlo Mountford. The three works, The Harvesters (1565), The Hunters in the Snow (1565) and Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (c.1558), are seasonal genre paintings of pre-industrial peasant life, showing northern European village communities hunting, reaping and sowing. Using a computer mouse, Mountford has laboriously drawn and animated the paintings in the computer program Flash, so that figures skate on ice, fire billows, scythes slice through grain and hunters stride through snow. The jerky 2D animation of these scenes is set to a realistic soundtrack (designed by Robert Stewart) of baying dogs, tolling bells, neighing horses and grinding cart wheels. Mountford’s re-imagining brings movement and sound to Bruegel’s static scenes, quietly revealing the slow rhythms of peasant life in an agrarian society.

Mountford updates the works to contemporary concerns through the inclusion of a peasant woman’s voice reciting from Aldous Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza (1936), a novel which interweaves past and present to narrate the disillusionment and loss of idealism between the wars. Her muffled voice is barely audible, yet her recitation drags the scene from the pastoral rhythms of medieval life to the disenchantment of post-industrial society in the twentieth-century. Mountford’s revision of art and history in The Folly indulges nostalgia for pre-industrial society and probes the role of the artist in depicting contemporary life. His practice is in part concerned with redefining and refiguring images from art history. At times his approach is satirical, critically interrogating the idea of the artistic canon and the museum’s role in its promotion. In The Folly, Mountford pays quiet homage to the mythology of Europe he grew up seeing on the biscuit tins and calendars of his Australian childhood.

Art will be the culmination of its pasts.

Arlo Mountford, n.d.

Arlo Mountford

– About the artist

Born 1978, United Kingdom. Lives and works Melbourne, Victoria.

Arlo Mountford produces large interactive installations incorporating sound, video and animation, often redefining and refiguring images from art history.

Mountford has been exhibiting since 2003. Recent group exhibitions include Design and Play, RMIT Design Hub, Melbourne (2016), Four Escapes, SUB12, Melbourne (2014); Walking the Line, Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2013); The Social Life of Things, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne (2012); Forever Young: 30 years of the Heide Collection, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2012); Unguided Tours: Anne Landa Award for Video and New Media Arts, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2011); NEW010, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2010); Contemporary Australia: Optimism, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (2008); and Loop: New Australian Video Art, touring exhibition, Victoria (2007).

Solo exhibitions include 100 Years, Sutton Gallery (2016)The Copse Parts 2 and 3, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne (2015); Ode, Bus Projects, Melbourne (2015); Galaxy Express, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne (2014); The Copse, part 1, Sutton Project Space, Melbourne (2013); The Folly: Arlo Mountford, Dubbo Regional Gallery, NSW (2012); The Vanishing Point of History, La Trobe University Museum of Art, Melbourne (2011); The Hacienda Must Be Built, The Art Centre, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok (2009); and The Flux of the Matter, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne (2007).

Mountford’s work is held in collections including ABN AMRO, Sydney; Dubbo Regional Gallery, NSW; Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne; Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne; Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane; and Australian private collections.

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