Limitless Cinema in Broken English

May 25, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — celinejulie @ 9:02 pm

I copied the information below from an e-mail I got from Art Center Chulalongkorn University:


This is the last week that you can view “The Hacienda Must be Built”, the first international solo show by Australian artist Arlo Mountford.

Many of you who have visited the exhibition might have a lot of questions in mind in terms of what the artist wants to say with his video and animation works. And for some of you who met me (Yo – the PR guy) at The Art Center, we have probably talked about some interesting points about the show.

Anyway, after reading your comments, I thought I should write a newsletter to further discuss some ideas. But I’ll try not to say too much.

The title of this exhibition, The Hacienda Must be Built, Arlo borrowed this sentence from an essay the Situationist International wrote, which suggested that architecture has an influence on society and its development. The SI was formed in the late 50s and operated until the early 70s. They dealt with art and politics and suggested what art is, can be, should be and how it should function. Arlo borrowed this sentence to suggest how art can create something, but doesn’t pinpoint what that thing is.

The earliest work among the three in this show is Return to Point (2006). First, it’s necessary to say that Arlo’s work has always been about the art history. The artist thinks that studying art history is a burden for artists. However, it’s important to know what has been done before so that artists won’t end up creating works with the same idea. At the same, it doesn’t allow artists to do whatever they want and artists are expected to add to the art history. The animation Return to Point makes references to famous artworks in the 20th century, but not in a chronological order. Arlo wants to suggest if new ideas and interpretations can emerge from the juxtaposition of these works. Of course, those who don’t have an art history background won’t be able to appreciate the work the way the artist wanted. Nonetheless, they get to see his humour in the way he animates other artists’ works and uses sound to accompany the visuals.

Stand Up was created in 2008. It features numerous one-line manifestos which state what art is and should be. The animated big black circle with a mouth speaks these lines to a laugh track as if this was a stand-up comedy routine. Obviously, these manifestos sound ridiculous for the artist.

The most recent work is Return to Form: NDINAVIA, made in 2009 and premiered here at The Art Center. The video consists of two parts. First is a drunk converstation in Venice between the artist and his friend video-recorded by the artist’s girlfriend. The second part is a converstation between three costume characters: Deer, Polar Bear and The Wanderer, which is based on the drunk conversation where the artist proposed an idea for an artwork after seeing the word NDINAVIA. (It actually comes from SCANDINAVIA, an illuminated sign in front of a building near the bar in Venice. But the lights of the first three letters did not work.) In the second part, the three characters talk about the “process” of art making, saying that “the initial idea” is “the work”. By starting with this point, it contradicts the fact that Return to Form: NDINAVIA was based on the initial idea that Arlo can’t remember himself. It was only when he later found the footage of the conversation that he decided to create this work out of a conversation and the idea he couldn’t remember having. The conversation goes on to say that “the initial idea” is “the work” and “the work” exists regardless of “the audience”, raising the question why the work is created then. The given answer is “responsibility”. Artists have a responsibility to realise their work according to the initial idea. Another question comes up: Can an artwork fail? The answer: Yes, if it’s not true to its inception. However, in reality, there are so many factors which determine if an artwork comes out the way it was first imagined. One factor is the money. So, if artists don’t get enough funding, their works rarely come out like how they have their initial idea. There are other topics. So if you haven’t seen the work, drop by. The exhibition runs until May 30.

Also, I do a TV show called Art de Siam on TAN Network. I’ve interviewed the artist and made a DVD copy of two episodes featuring The Hacienda Must be Built. Please take some time to watch the interview as well to find out more about the artist’s work and concepts. I have an excerpt here to get your attention.

Yo: How has your work developed over the years?

A: Ah, ok. Well, I moved much more into video and animation. That was my first animation. Hmm… And… I’m kind of… At some point, there was a change where I shifted from focusing on sculpture and the video as a secondary element to focusing on the video. And the installational or sculptural element became less important, more of a support for the video. Hmm… And this work, Return to Form: NDINAVIA was my first actual kind of film work in a sense that I hired actors and I had sound people and I had, well, I filmed, but I had a crew and we went out and we shot this film. So, I think that’s where I’m headed at the moment.

Yo: But what about the subject that you talk about in your work?

A: Ah, I think that… ah… the work becomes less… hmm… less insecure about… where I see my own work and more about what I see the role of art as being in…

Y: What do you mean by that?

A: Well, more about… hmm… more about how, what, why art is important and what art can do…
Y: You mean you question yourself as an artist and art in general.

A: Yes.

Y: Why is that?

A: Coz I don’t like the idea that I know better than anyone else about what art should be or what art is. So, I think it’s important that, so I think it’s important that artists constantly reassess what they’re doing and what art is and why they produce work.

Y: Who do you create your work for?

A: Oh, usually, an audience, to be honest, it’s usually an art audience. Hmm… a… and other artists.

Y: Why?

A: Coz that’s the kind of conversation I like to have, I think.

Y: But isn’t that the conversation you would probably have anyway?

A: Yeah, maybe, yeah. But I think I’m…

Y: I guess, I mean, you have all these questions that you’re curious about and you like to discuss with other people and find out what they think about.

A: And then discover other artists and other ideas. There are a lot of in jokes that you need to be aware of art to understand in my work. I understand that can be a problem if you don’t, but that’s not my problem. (laugh) So, yeah…


The Art Center7th Floor,
Center of Academic Resources (Central Library)
Chulalongkorn University
Phyathai Pathumwan Bangkok 10330
Tel: 0-2218-2965, Fax: 0-2218-2907
Monday-Friday: 9.00-19.00 น. Saturday: 9.00-16.00 น.
Closed on Sunday and public holidays


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