Mis-Design

Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, and multiple off-site venues

24 Aug 2011 to 06 Nov 2011

Curator: Grace McQuilten

Mis-Design was an expansive, multi-layered project with exhibitions occupying the Ian Potter Museum of Art as well as off site venues such as the McDonald’s car park, Collingwood and Alphaville clothing store on Brunswick Street. Curated by Grace McQuilten, Mis-Design ‘maps the potential for critical artistic practice in an environment marked by the design of commodities…and examines the relationship between art and design within the context of the commodification of art’[1] With projects such as Shelter by the Slow Art Collective (Tony Adams, Chaco Kato, Ash Keating and Dylan Martorell), Adam Kalkin’s Tennis Academy and Andrea Zittel’s Smockshop Archive – a slow fashion affront to notions of trend and choice within the fashion industry – Mis-design was reclamation of both conceptual and visual spaces reinforcing art’s ability to confound and critique rather than being slowly ensconced within systems of commerce.

Shelter was embedded within the Collingwood McDonald’s car park – a space that, like many car parks, is foreboding, dark and dank. As built environments, they are constructed purely for the encasement and storage of the tools we utilise to move from point A to point B. And the bland, pre-fabricated concrete panels that frame this site lack any sense of monumentality. It is pure function over form, built to service the fast food consumer culture that permeates our society.

Rupturing this banal environment with its day-glow brightness, appropriated detritus and DIY aesthetic, Shelter read as an affront to its surroundings, its visual punch provoked a reaction in the spectator that was both unexpected and unnerving. The installation was situated in the bowels of the car park – underneath street level – on the central island of the in use drive thru lane. As a visitor, it felt like you had stumbled across a private domestic space made public. Documented and streamed live to the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne, Shelter explored built spaces in their most rudimentary form, created out of necessity rather than want. Bright milk and bread crates, tin cans and reclaimed advertising placards were appropriated, emptied out of their original use value and haphazardly fashioned into a temporary shelter.

Visual nods to food brands littered the space, from familiar packaging to bright logos – branded accoutrements to our food consumption laid bare. As part of the embedded criticism of the mistreatment and societal disregard for the homeless in the work, the Slow Art Collective empathetically attempted to create a space with a sense of homeliness. A ragged mannequin lay in bed within a roomed off section of the installation, with books on guerrilla gardening and the environment haphazardly strewn about. On opposite ends of the work, totem pole fountains referenced symbols of suburbia and festive fairy lit clusters of bamboo were awkwardly positioned in front of a faux table setting made up of empty bottles and servings of wheatgrass. As the soundtrack of drive thru orders echoed in the background, what became evident was that Shelter was a subversive insertion into the very site that fuelled its existence. It was a valuable and timely critique of contemporary consumption culture and the stratification and social disparities that it creates.

The intermingling of art with commerce was also a conceptual layer in Adam Kalkin’s wonderfully interactive work Adam Kalkin’s Tennis Academy (AKTA). Where Shelter was a subversive insertion, Kalkin’s work was about the act of creating moments of internal reflection through physical acts. Resplendent with tennis paraphernalia, sports branding and fake turf, an artificial tennis sports-scape was set up in the Ian Potter, allowing participants to explore their own physicality within the museum.

The academy was run by the amazingly intense (but lovely) ex-tennis professional Art Lockwood. As I warmed up with Art around the running track, he proceeded to tell me stories from his professional career. What emerged was a remarkable personal narrative, which framed the seismic shift of sport from an ultimate expression of the physical to a pursuit that is tainted by commercial interests. The participant’s experience of the work ultimately rested on the relationship that was formed with Art, however his ability to become entirely focussed on the physical act was infectious. Tennis drills – which ranged from hitting balls into a wall emblazoned with the word GOD, to tiring volleying – were juxtaposed with a cacophony of primal drumbeats and guttural bellows, effectively rendering the act of tennis as conduit for the exploration of self. This convergence of physicality with the primal, along with Art’s intriguing personal history, created a work which proved to be an emphatic counterpoint to the heavily designed capitalist symbols that emblazoned the walls of this faux tennis stadium. Like Shelter, what AKTA resoundingly achieved was an undermining of commerce’s incessant ability to entrench itself within our private and public spaces.


[1] Grace McQuilton, Mis-Design: Art in a Consumer Landscape, Ashgate publishing, Surrey England, 2011, p. 3.

 

Copyright Leon Goh & Un Magazine 2012

A Chat With Brian Wu from Incu

We chat to Incu co-founder Brian Wu about their new women’s focused retail space in QV.

The team at Incu are renowned for their ability to select on-the-mark labels from Australia and abroad. After establishing their presence on the Melbourne landscape with their Flinders Lane store, they’re about to open their first women’s focussed retail space in QV. Featuring the first Topshop range available in Melbourne – which will share rack space with labels like Alexander Wang, Henrik Vibskob and Acne – this store is very much a combination of high and low, fast fashion versus slow design. We chatted with Brian Wu, who founded Incu in 2002 with his brother Vincent.

LG: You guys have been busy with the opening of your online store last year and now the first women’s focussed Incu store in Melbourne about to open in July. Can you tell me a little more about this and what your plans are here?

BW: So Incu women’s store is opening in mid-July in QV where we will be bringing 90 per cent of our women’s lines from Sydney over. There will be small differences between our first fully-fledged women’s store in Melbourne and our Sydney equivalent, but I think it will still exhibit a similar environment and store experience.

For me, Incu have always curated a great selection of labels whilst also fostering local brands such as Lover, Romance was Born and Rittenhouse. Will your team be taking a similar product strategy at the QV women’s store? And if so, what can the Melbourne customer expect?

I think one of the things we try to push is a balance of product. Effectively, you’ve got product that’s a bit more accessible, for example brands like Something Else, mixed with brands that are more exclusive to us like Rag and Bone, Marc by Marc Jacobs and APC. So ultimately I think we like to have customers walk into our store and have them walk out with something, not making them feel that our spaces are monuments to high end and unattainable items. One of our approaches is to always be inclusive instead of exclusive. Rather than enclosing Incu to a particular niche we try to be quite open.

So as you were saying about this accessibility on multiple levels, this is also something that is quite rare in the fashion retail market in Australia. Given that Melbourne fashion historically has inherently been tied to the colour black, and perhaps has quite a distinct identity compared to Sydney, where do you think a store like Incu sits against this?

I think it will be refreshing. I know what you mean about this link to the colour black and I think its slowly changing – we’ve witnessed this in the men’s store. We’ve also really noticed a shift to people dressing a bit more casually and not wanting to dress up all the time. Having said that though, there ultimately will be a balance in our store where, on the one hand, we can satisfy the customer who comes in and just buys black, whilst also offering garments that have a lot more colour. For me, I think it’s about finding the right balance between offering garments that are whimsical and colourful, which also have visible design detail and taste. At Incu we like to really focus on brands that have a strong design sensibility and brands that have interesting stories. While Melbourne and Sydney are inherently different markets, we feel that Incu can stand out and offer something that’s unique.

Have you noticed a difference between your Sydney customer and your Melbourne customer?

Definitely, because of the weather and the climate Melbourne is a lot more dressier and that comes out more in particular items that we sell in our men’s store, like jackets and suiting. I also find that the Melbourne customer walks in and takes more of an interest in what we are selling – they want to find out the stories behind the designers and the garment. We’ve been in Sydney for so long that perhaps our Sydney customers have a level of trust in us, and I guess because of this history they may purchase a brand that is perhaps a little edgier. In Melbourne, however, and because we are still developing and trying to grow and earn people’s trust, we’ve witnessed our male customers in particular buying a little safer and focussing more classic silhouettes, design details and tailoring. We know that women are a lot more knowledgeable in their fashion choices so it will be very interesting to see what happens.

Incu Womens QV will open in mid July.

Copyright Leon Goh & Broadsheet 2011

Laksa King
6-12 Pin-Oak Crescent
Flemington
It’s safe to say that there’s been a recent love affair with Laksa in Melbourne. Heading into the depths of a Melbourne winter, its heady mixture of spices, coconut milk based broth, noodles and vegetables makes it the perfect dish to warm the heart along with the belly. Laksa King has been a key protagonist in this revolution, serving Laksa alongside other Malaysian favourites like Nasi Lemak and Hainanese chicken rice from its humble shopping centre arcade locale for 12 years now. Recently making the decision to move around the corner to Pin Oak Crescent, this Flemington stalwart has received a new lease on life with the help of Indonesian architect Vian Rosanto and local studio MNE architects.

Now made up of large timber communal tables, pendants which hang languidly from the ceiling, along with some nice industrial touches like exposed brick and steel, it’s a kind of bustling south east Asian restaurant that acts as both favourite local and Melbourne institution. Featuring prominently on the menu is of course Laksa. Serving various incarnations, from the coconut milk based Curry Laksa (which also has a fish head and seafood option) to the distinctly fishy and tamarind based broth of Assam Laksa, it’s an eatery that is well adept at reinterpreting hawker classics. Sticky Pork Belly that combines beautifully tender slithers of belly and a star anise tinged sticky sauce, Char Kway Teow a flat rice fried noodle dish that represents all that is great about Asian street food and Sambal Kang Kong, a tangy chilli paste stir fried with water spinach are all standouts from a large and diverse menu.

Laksa King also represents great value with its rice and noodle dishes rarely exceeding $15.

Copyright Leon Goh & Broadsheet 2011

Dying In Spite of the Miraculous

8th October – 6th November 2010

Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces

200 Gertrude St

Fitzroy, VIC 3065

Dying In Spite of the Miraculous is a group exhibition which explores the various psychological states we inhabit and experience as our lives play out in their very own choreographed moments. It is an investigation of the real and the unknown, it seeks to elucidate how sites play an indelible role in informing our ways of being whilst also exploring the grey conceptual spaces that often emerge between the artist’s concept and the finished work. Curated by Emily Cormack, Alexie Glass-Kantor, Simon Maidment and Brett Sheehy and presented as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival, this exhibition features the work of artists such as Ulla Von Brandenburg, Jeremy Blake and Meg O’Callaghan.

As you enter Gertrude Contemporary, the front space is shrouded behind a wall of languid fabric draped elegantly from the ceiling. You make your way through this shroud, meandering precariously through visible pathways before stumbling upon the viewing space. It’s an unnerving experience that is mirrored in Ulla Von Brandenburg’s work Singspiel (2009). This video work – shot in black and white and displayed directly onto fabric – documents a selection of staged arbitrary human interactions and intimate moments within the surrounds of Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoy. The camera moves slowly and gracefully, using the hallways and rooms of the Villa Savoy as a character in its own right, informing and eavesdropping on each scene from the background. As spectator, you are drawn into these private moments, into scenes of supposed serenity, into realms of the personal which are exposed for all to see – you become aware that these misc en scenes are entirely choreographed with actors playing out pre-empted characters. Overlayed with haunting music which appears to be mimed by the characters in a stream of consciousness loop, this work is entirely unnerving – the vignettes appear to be woven into an elaborate reality, functioning on a plane between the real and allegory.

From blurred realms between performance and the everyday to narratives of fictional fantasy juxtaposed against a backdrop of strange biomorphic hospital interiors, Saskia Olde Wolbers work Interloper (2003) continues this exhibition’s exploration of internal psychological states. Here Wolbers appropriates a narrative which details a doomed relationship between a doctor and a mistress. It is a tale that is haunting and ultimately about the lust for someone against better judgement, as the protagonist spirals further and further out of control. This tale – told by a hypnotic and mesmeric voice – is overlayed against imagery of a sterile white hospital. The interior landscape appears to melt away into the ether no longer resembling the sterile lifeless spaces that we are accustomed to. It is a beguiling backdrop, as glossy white blobs float off hard surfaces morphing into something new and entirely different. These surreal landscapes invite the viewer to peer into their own private worlds, questioning and interrogating the reality that surrounds them.

Fantastical landscapes also featured prominently in O’Callaghan’s work To the End (2007), though this time on an immense scale. Windswept, desolate and harsh, the landscape is situated front and centre in this work as it dwarfs and eventually consumes the lonely male protagonist. Employing filmic techniques to illustrate his futile struggle to find identity in an exiled world, there is a sense of hopelessness that pervades in this video. Appearing as a spaceman in a barren landscape, O’Callaghan’s lonely explorer perilously teeters on the edge of being engulfed by the world that surrounds him – in one sequence he literally sinks into a bubbling bog – which can be read as a metaphor of nature’s predilection to both provide and take away life. Exploring human will and its unwavering search for meaning, O’Callaghan’s work is as much about the articulation of profound loss as it is a visual record of the poetics of place.

More human in scale but nevertheless extending thematically on notions of loss, premonitions of failure and distress, Bas Jan Ader’s work I’m too sad to tell you (1971) adopts a first person perspective in displaying his own emotional journeys extremely close to the surface. In this work – which engenders a more intimate and personal experience for the viewer – Ader appears emotionally vulnerable as he becomes resigned to the anguish he faces. It is sadness that emanates slowly from within and it is an internal grief that that we can empathise with as he cries. As Cindy Loehr argued – when reviewing a retrospective of his work held at the UCR Sweeney gallery in California – Ader remained aware of his ultimate inability to express the sadness he found in the sublime. This failure, which may have deterred him, instead became the focus of his work.[1]

At its core, Dying in Spite of the Miraculous is an exhibition which beautifully navigated the grey spaces between the illusory and reality, between existence and the metaphysical as well as exploring the various psychological states that accompany loss and hopelessness. Also featuring Joachim Koester’s work Morning of the Magicians (2006) which displayed garden imagery in black and white silhouettes slowly morphing into a hallucinatory enveloping darkness and Jeremy Blake’s painterly digital animations which explored Sara Winchester’s gothic mansion ingeniously renovated to ward off the spirits of the people that were killed by Winchester firearms, this exhibition successfully brought to the surface the multitude of internal moments that are repressed in the human condition. As I stepped back onto the footpath on Gertrude St, my surroundings seemed to melt away into the ether as I became preoccupied with thoughts of my own existence – a moment of internal retrospection sparked by this profound exhibition.


[1] Cindy Loehr, “Bas Jan Ader”, New Art Examiner, vol 27, no.6, March (2000)

Copyright Leon Goh & Eyeline Magazine 2011

Gingerboy

27-29 Crossley St

Melbourne, VIC 3000

+61 3 9662 4200

Gingerboy has been a beacon for palates afflicted by yellow fever for nearly five years now.  Established by Teage Ezard as a sister restaurant to the flagship Ezard at Adelphi, Gingerboy has been dishing out refined but not too over worked South East Asian hawker style food since it opened in late 2006.  With an identity created in collaboration with Studio Round and fit out by Elenberg Fraser, the space is one part chic and one part Shanghai opium den. Large red threaded chandeliers dominate dining room flowing languidly to disperse the ambient light, imbuing the space with a sense of the unknown. Juxtaposing Kartell/Starck Louis Ghost chairs with dark black tables and cladding the ceiling with a series of tactile bamboo poles provides it with a sleek but tactile edge.

 

With a menu broken down into small plates and larger shared dishes, it’s immediately obvious that Gingerboy’s raison d’etre is framed around serving food that is packed full of flavour. The famous son in law eggs – a delectable mélange of textural elements and a dish that ultimately has its roots in Malay and Thai street food – is best eaten whole and in one mouthful. The smashed green papaya salad is a well handled balance of tangyness and heat and the crispy chilli salt cuttlefish is a dish of perfectly cooked morsels of what could best described as grown up snack food. Larger share plates include a vibrant red duck curry flecked with accents of Thai basil, a wonderfully pungent char grilled lemongrass chicken accompanied with a peanut and tamarind caramel and fried whole baby snapper with a fresh mango and lychee salad. These offerings definitely exhibit an approach to food that tends more towards the traditional infused with contemporary touches rather than being overly technical.

 

For those more inclined towards sweeter things, Gingerboy also serves a delightful dessert share plate which perfectly references the sweet, salty and creamy offerings that could so easily be eaten on a roadside in Thailand.

Copyright Leon Goh & Broadsheet 2011

Northside Wheelers

2/155 Greville Street
Prahran VIC 3181

10-5 Tuesday–Friday / 11-5 Saturday

Northside Wheelers is a small but amazingly curated space that sticks out like a beacon amongst a bike store wasteland, drawing people from Melbourne’s vibrant cycling community and discerning customers who are searching for products that speak to them on multiple levels. Actually located on Izzett St Prahran, unlike your glitzy local bike shop more focused on selling you day-glo lycra worn by so many along Beach road, Northside Wheelers is a purveyor of fine cycling wares. It’s a store where you’ll come across that lovely vintage Italian De Rosa steel frame sitting proudly in the window or that classic Ciocc bike that you yearned for when you first pedaled a contraption with two wheels.    

Owned by Malachi Moxon who divides his time between being a part-time, full-time cyclist and part-time retail raconteur, Northside Wheelers provides Melbourne with a refreshingly design-focused space to peruse products that reference cycling’s rich history.

The only retailer in Melbourne to stock Rapha cycling wear, its new range of skincare (or embrocation to those who like their cycling with a European bent), along with a rack of beautiful vintage jerseys, caps and tables adorned with some of the finest cycling texts available, Northside Wheelers shuns established notions of what it means to be a bike shop and seeks to establish a tradition of its own.

www.northsidewheelers.blogspot.com

RAPHA

For stylishly discerning riders in your weekend bunch ride on Beach road to the rakish looking commuter that rolls past you at the traffic lights, Rapha cycling wear is carving out a sizeable niche amongst Melbourne’s cycling community.


Rapha cycling wear was created in 2004 by Simon Mottram, ex accountant and branding consultant and Luke Scheybeler, designer who worked for prestigious London design firms like Rufus Leonard, Rapha is currently riding a wave of popularity with their products being adopted by both radonneurs and commuter cyclists.

Rapha’s attention to detail and amazingly curated selection of goods that range from tailored city riding jackets in collaboration with the bespoke London tailor Timothy Everest, to the highest quality performance wear makes all other cycling brands seem antiquated and naive in their approach to product design.

All too often cyclists are presented with product offerings that appear overly technical, with an overt sense of day glow sports styling that is out of place on the rider with a design eye. Rapha’s referencing of cycling’s rich visual heritage and vintage aesthetics from the 50’s to 60’s – for example horizontal colour banding on their basic jersey & subtle logo application on the sleeves – combined with the use of amazing high end merino wool makes it the perfect choice for cyclists who yearn for something more.

Recently releasing a collaborative range with Paul Smith featuring caps, a reinterpretation of Rapha’s soft shell jacket, beautifully detailed leather gloves and jerseys, cycling no longer needs to be all about the technology and can be now be more about the aesthetic.

Rapha is available at Northside Wheelers on Greville St. Prahran, and on the website:

www.rapha.cc


Russell & George are creating some flash interiors for some of our favourite restaurants and retail spaces around Melbourne. Broadsheet talks to director Ryan Russell about their multidisciplinary studio with no ‘house-style’.

Russell & George is a design studio based in Windsor. Producing innovative work across various fields from architecture to graphic design and interiors for some of our favourite retail and restaurant spaces including Aesop, St Jude’s Cellars, Huxtable, Boire and currently Attica. Broadsheet speaks to director Ryan Russell about the studio’s projects, aesthetic and approach to design.

 

LG: Can you tell us about your studio, Russell & George, and the projects the studio is currently working on that excite you?

RR: Russell & George was formed in April this year after much debate between Byron George and myself. It was formed based on the fact that Byron and I were effectively sharing a studio together, collaborating on projects but also in direct competition with one another.

Currently we have between 80-90 active projects all in various stages, ranging across the fields of industrial design, interiors, architecture, set design, branding and also graphic design. I guess the projects that we are most excited about are the architectural ones in North Fitzroy and Yarraville as well as our continued working relationship with Aesop, Thurley and the rebranding of Review. We also do some work with the National Trust and their Mulberry Hill property, which is a really intriguing heritage project that has allowed us to create new contemporary insertions.

 

You talk about your studio’s multidisciplinary work – do you take a fundamentally similar approach to designing across these fields or is it quite disparate?

The multidisciplinary side of the business was something that we wanted from the beginning and we feel that our work is intertwined with no in-house style.

I think the design approach across fields is cross-pollinating and we tend to think rather abstractly towards it – we don’t tend to look to other architects for inspiration but rather outside the field. We’ve been criticised quite a bit, especially in the retail design sector, because we try quite earnestly never to follow a trend. As a studio we don’t believe in trends. As far as a design is concerned it’s a unique set of circumstances for a unique client, designed by a unique individual and from that you can create something beautiful if there’s focus and design clarity from the outset.

 

In terms of Russell & George’s retail interiors, your work on the Aesop Doncaster store – which you won an IDEA award for – exhibits a sense of elegance and high-end design detail. Aesthetically are there certain visual markers in your work?

It’s really governed by a number of factors that are completely separate to the design – budgets, timelines – which are also inherently required to achieve a design outcome.

A design idea needs to be robust enough to a) communicate what the client wants to achieve and b) stand up against the gamut of circumstances put up for it not to succeed. When I was with Cox and Woods Bagot, I learnt that if the design idea can last the entire construction process and the occupation process you generally end up with a good outcome. If it doesn’t, it becomes watered down through the process itself and will shift into something that is often quite problematic.

 

Your studio has also worked on a number of restaurant interiors – St Jude’s Cellar, Huxtable, Boire and currently a refurbishment of Attica? Is there a confluence of ideas when working with food interiors against retail and architecture?

Our food clients have mostly come through personal contacts and long friendships that we’ve had with people passionate about food and wine.

Byron worked with some of the top Melbourne-based chefs, sommeliers and front of house staff while he was studying, which allowed him to generate his own ideas towards experiential dining. He has an inherent knowledge about the industry – the way a kitchen operates and how people want to feel in a dining space. We have a saying that wherever possible there is never to be an abandoned table; abandoned meaning a table that sits in a middle of a space with circulation paths on all four sides. These tables are not comfortable places to eat.

russellandgeorge.com

Copyright Leon Goh, Broadsheet & Russell & George 2010

Arlo Mountford

Shepparton Art Gallery

We always want something more

Arlo Mountford loves to peel away the intertwined layers of art history, exploring, parodying, and subverting it in often humourous and outlandish ways. Born in the UK and currently practising in Melbourne, Mountford’s visual language which includes animated video works and interactive installations, references imagery of iconic artworks and popular culture such as Pac man, JFK, and You tube videos. We are all familiar with this imagery – works of art that we came across when we were in high school, pop culture icons that we encounter in the media as we go through our daily rituals and artworks that culturally inform how we perceive the world around us. It is this sense of familiarity that is picked apart and broken down as Mountford skilfully engages with and re-interprets these famous artworks to understand their context and indeed their subject matter within his own artworks.

Embracing the post-modern strategy of appropriation – the notion of taking references from established tropes and histories in order to re-configure them – Mountford’s work The Pioneer Meets the Wanderer (2006) is an animated homage to Australian art history. Here we encounter the rudimentary stick figure style figures which feature so prominently in his practice. Perhaps these black dot-matrix style figures are representations of Mountford himself, exploring and understanding the constructed world that envelops them – a kind of digital doppelganger? In The Pioneer Meets the Wanderer however, Mountford cleverly leaves this unanswered, as we encounter two figures lying aimlessly on a visually flat computer rendered beach as vivid blue waves lap onto the shoreline.

The relative calm of this scene is punctured as a unicycle unnervingly appears from the depths of the water. Seemingly random and out of context, it takes a few moments to realise that this is a reference to Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel (1913)[1] – a key European modernist artwork which formed part of a series of artworks termed the ‘readymade’[2]. As the scene pans across, we become swept up in Mountford’s game of show and tell, as references from Frederick McCubbins’ The Pioneer (1904) and the film Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) begin to emerge thick and fast. After rocking out to a punk soundtrack juxtaposed with familiar sound grabs from the film, Mountford’s two art renegades negotiate an awkward encounter with two new figures. As they descend down a flight of stairs you notice that one of the new figures appears without a circular head, but featuring instead a series of interchanging motifs from iconic Australian artworks by John Brack, Sidney Nolan and Albert Tucker – a visual slideshow of the Australian modernist movement. Not leaving any chance to re-contextualise art history, Mountford irreverently shows this figure being decapitated, concurrently dissecting and subverting the iconic imagery that came to represent a new modern Australian aesthetic.

Traipsing through the annals of Australian art history makes way for a self consciously ironic tribute to the artworks that framed the Abstract Expressionist period in America during the mid twentieth century in Return to Point (2006). There is a sense of playfulness and discovery that permeates throughout this video work which sometimes belies the serious nature of the social and cultural upheaval that inherently characterised this period of American art history. It’s hard not to at the same time, explore these social events as artists like Robert Rauschenberg, William de Kooning and Jackson Pollock created works that not only displayed a sense of brashness and bravado, but also exhibited a kind of new modern visual language that actively sort to subvert established art aesthetics. In Return to Point, Mountford skilfully renders and reinterprets these moments into flat two-dimensional representations – from Pollock’s vibrant movement as he haphazardly throws down paint onto a canvas to Rauschenberg’s appropriation of found materials to create strange sculptural works. Juxtaposing these flat representations against montages of the Kennedy assassination and a soundtrack which includes HAL[3]-like narration, Mountford provides the viewer not only with an artwork that explores social context and its role in the informing art history but he also carefully negotiates multiple conceptual layers – from representation versus the original work to the post modern strategy of parody. Aesthetically, the naive flatness of the animation positions the original images that they are based on, as somehow lifeless, detached from their original context. Describing this combination of the original and its digital copy in a recent work The Folly (2009), Mountford characterises this as a kind of conflict:

‘There is a conflict of sorts between the original images and my animation of them. When the redrawn images are static they are beautiful but when they move they become crude and simple because they are limited by their two dimensionality. The audience is reminded of the author and the work becomes about my concept and intentions.’[4]

It is this reminder of the original work and its author that ultimately promotes a visual double take from the viewer as they move between the moment of recognition and interpretation. In Return to Point, Mountford skilfully reconfigures these images, concurrently employing a strategy of wry social commentary whilst also investigating their place in art history.

Applying the same amount of cheekiness and wit when exploring the world around him whilst also critiquing our current media over saturation, We Wanted Something More (2007) is a work that expands on Mountford’s deconstruction of barriers between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture. In this video work his trademark black figures reappear once again, sitting down to a game of chess. Making one carefully strategised move after the other, the relative stillness of the scene is fractured repeatedly by crass and often humorous YouTube video clips which document the everyday in its purest form. These mini scenes depict everything from acts of stupidity to the parading of hungry animals in front of a raucous audience – an act that could only result in grievous bodily harm. By animating and layering these banal and decidedly lowbrow YouTube videos – videos that gain popularity in an arbitrary nature purely fed by the internet – over a slow and mesmeric game of chess, Mountford positions the game of chess as an insignificant sideshow fading into the background. Mountford places these videos of slapstick stupidity front and centre, cleverly inverting established cultural hierarchies in one fell swoop.

Art institutions that play an integral part in maintaining these cultural hierarchies feature prominently in Mountford’s video work Murder in the Museum (2005). New York’s Guggenheim, Museum of Modern Art and the Tate Modern in London all act as backdrops in this animation that self-consciously parodies slasher films such as Friday the 13th (1980). In the first scene of this animated triptych, we witness a wheelchair bound protagonist aimlessly calling out ‘Becky, is that you?’ before he is ruthlessly stabbed in the head by a kitchen knife – the famous architectural spiral viewing platform of this building is then transformed by Mountford into a nightmarish spiral into death. In a deserted Museum of Modern Art, lovers caught in a moment of coital embrace in front of Barnett Newman’s sculpture Broken Obelisk (1963) are stabbed by an Indian hunting spear. Finally, a female protagonist is dismembered whereupon the killer cheekily pokes his tongue out and writes ‘DOM’ on the screen in digital droplets of blood. It’s hard not to have a wry smile on your face when you watch these mini narratives which act as humourous parodies of the movie genre but also morph into a critique of the reverence in which we hold art institutions. Mountford’s pop culture slasher/murderer is as much as subversive tool, as he is a character delightfully embedded with loads of black humour.

Always surprising, unnerving and humorous, you never know what lies around the corner in Mountford’s animations or what interesting situations his cheeky black figures will find themselves in as they playfully move from one scene to the next exploring the digital world around them.


[1] Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel (1913) also features in Mountford’s work Return to Point (2006)

[2] The Readymades (1914-1923) by Marcel Duchamp was a series of artworks where an ordinary object such as a toilet bowl and bicycle wheel was appropriated and by manipulating this object, it became art. This represented a dramatic shift in how art was perceived – Duchamp’s series showed that you could create artworks from the everyday.

[3] HAL 9000, (1968) 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick.

[4] Cass, N. (2009). Artist as Higher Lifer, Flash magazine, Issue 2. Retrieved July 26, 2010 from: http://www.ccp.org.au/flash/author/naomi-cass-interviews-arlo-mountford/.

Copyright Leon Goh 2010 & Shepparton Art Gallery

Cibi

45 Keele st

Collingwood VIC 3066

Opening Hours  (winter):

Mon – Fri: 8.00am to 5.30pm

Sat: 9.00am to 5pm

A visit to Cibi was not without expectation. This café, gift store and gallery space has received a series of rave reviews for its honest and delicate approach to food and its restrained but ultimately stylish interior – no doubt due to the owner Zenta Tanaka’s previous occupation as an architect. Clever little design touches and objects such as an old Apple Mac used as a doorstop and vintage road bike accent an interior that is more about the sum of its eclectic parts rather than a heavily stylised fit-out.

With multiple seating options from large communal tables to vintage bench seats there are many ways to whittle away the hours with a cup of Romcaffe coffee in hand. Unsurprisingly Cibi has built up a reputation for its Japanese breakfast which is served only on Saturdays and for $14.50 appears excellent value. Made up of a homemade hearty miso soup with root vegetables, tofu and seaweed, followed by a delicately presented offering of rice, shiozake (salt cured grilled salmon), with sides of potato salad, mini slivers of cucumber and perfectly formed ovals of tamago (egg roll) it’s a great way to start the day. The vegetarian version comes with wonderfully warming simmered pumpkin nimono which satisfies due to its balance of saltiness and inherent sweetness.

The other food on offer is also similarly light, with a beautiful soba noodle salad accented with cherry tomatoes and finely diced green olives bathed in a dashi and soy dressing, sourdough toast with a wonderfully mustardy potato and egg salad and a tofu burger topped with shiso leaf. The Japanese breakfast is based off Meg Tanaka’s grandmother’s recipe which makes Cibi a little slice of Tokyo in the quiet back streets of Collingwood.

Copyright Leon Goh & Broadsheet.com.au 2010