Duncan Mountford


Eight sculptures, each having an internal video screen visible via a set of mirrors and a lens. The screens were connected in twos to a dvd player, and displayed a single channel video of imagery shot in Tokyo, and with an audio track of ambient sounds from Japan. The dvd players meant that the sounds moved in and out of phase. The electric conduit connecting the sculptures was also part of the work.
The work was installed in an abandoned police station, and dealt with different views of a city, a critique of my Western-specific view of Japan. The lenses and the mirrors are a metaphor for the manner in which the experience of place is bounded by preconceptions and not seeing the wider perspective.
Dimensions are for each sculpture.


Dimensions : 120 cm x 30 cm x 50 cm (Height, Width, Depth)
Year : 2009
Material : Wood, Metal, Video, Glass, Installation
Style : contemporary, poetic, political

Duncan Mountford

There are two broad themes central to my work. The first is a method of work that draws on contemporary theories of installation, museum display, and architecture (both real and imagined). The basic tenet of the concept of installation, that art works always exist in a relationship and dialogue with site and the viewer, is crucial to my practice, and provides the driving force behind the design of the work. I embrace ideas of theatricality and narrative, and see the works as nodal points in a network of ideas. The underlying ideas, the second theme of my working practice, cover a range that includes the philosophies of science and knowledge, memory, the manner in which architecture and objects produce narratives. Multiple sources connect to this main framework, from science-fiction films, tv, and narratives, to contemporary literature, poetry, and music from the medieval to the contemporary. Scientific ideas from many fields are an important resource, and form a context for the work rather than being illustrated or used as documentary material. The work is accessible, open to interpretation, and laced with a degree of humour.

also interesting:

Ghost Library
At the back of the gallery space, atop a 200cm high wall, is an empty library. Occasionally the lights behind the doors flicker on, as if someone is passing unseen in unknown corridors. The only light aside from this comes from the two fire exit signs, that cast a grenn glow over the abandoned space. There is no access to this library, its knowledge is forgotten.
Duncan Mountford, Installation, Mixed Media
The Office of Arcana
An installation of six corridors, at the end of each corridor can be seen a further space visible through the window of a closed door. These further spaces are interiors of abandonment, littered with the ruins of activities. (Dimensions given below are for each individual model interior, as the layout of the corridors depends on exhibition space. This work is being developed with further interiors relating to the overall themes) The model interiors are based on a specific series of themes that tie the rooms together into an interrelating series of concepts. These concepts relate to speculative histories of the contemporary connections between the magical occult and the development of autonomous fighting vehicles (drones for example). Initially these seemingly unrelated épistemes were chosen for lecture that dealt with producing false knowledge, but research has uncovered connections, especially with regard to the cultural (in the widest sense) meanings of weapons (the tank as a demonstration of power) and the nature in which such machines are regarded as operating away from human agency. It is the intention that images of the model interiors, associated drawings, texts, etc., will form the basis for an artist’s publication at a later juncture. A second set of ideas reference (UK) science-fiction television programmes, and science-fiction films, of the 1960’s and 1970’s (the artist’s formative years). The main theme is that of hauntology, the ruins of a future that did not take place. Overlaid over this are indications that industrial/financial philosophy that once seemed central to globalization also contained the seeds of its own destruction. Formally these model interiors also refer to museum dioramas, puppet theatres, (and to narrative sculptures to be found in European sacred spaces). There is equally the influence of the numerous abandoned industrial and military buildings to found in Taiwan, spaces that exert a fascination as fragments of unknown narratives. The model interiors thus map elements of autobiography, with memories of the UK interweaving with current experiences of Taiwan.
Duncan Mountford, Installation, Light
Embassy comprised two structures, each with a flag, brass sign, lights, and sound; based on official buildings (Embassies). Each ‘building’ had four floodlights producing an area of illumination, and a speaker broadcasting a montage of speech and sound. A further flag and brass sign was affixed to an abandoned coastal machine gun emplacement, the third ‘embassy’ The brass signs name places that existed 175 million years ago: empires and politics are fleeting compared to geological time. The work was a satire on the ambitions of humankind, a reflection on the global threats that make ideas of empires ridiculous. There is also a joke at China’s view of Taiwan. The Embassies are in Taiwan, and not in China; therefore China does not exist. Dimensions are for each structure. The drawings are for the various versions of the proposed idea.
Duncan Mountford, Installation, Wood
Space Station (Station 3)
An installation of corridors, doorways, flashing lights and sound - a low rumble and a voice intoning a series of numbers. There are numerous ideas, both visual and conceptual, that form the basis for this particular work, with the dialogue between the initial ideas and the changing construction of the work producing further elements within the overall structure, and initiating further ideas to follow. The work can be seen to mirror its own creation, taking on a life of its own. As if it was not an act of construction, but the result of the uncovering of a pre-existing site. The starting point was science-fiction, not the bright shiny science fiction of the contemporary media, but the science-fiction of television programmes of 1960’s UK, where the black and white images allowed room for imagination. As a child the imagery of these programmes affected my view of the city of my birth, where all strange corridors and abandoned buildings became infused with the possibilities of something unexpected, and a small room could be the entrance to another world. My love of science-fiction writing was engendered at this time, especially of those works that take as their subject the psychological effects of the Anthropocene. A further idea referenced in the installation is the idea (rather than the actuality) of the space-station, and speculation on how anyone could cope with an existence forever contained within an endless interior. Maybe memory would begin to take over, and the ghosts of the past would materialise in the corridors. Such contained interiors are spaces that become divorced from connection to anything except what is within, and there is here a connection to Earth bound contained interiors. A specific film is referenced here, but I will leave you to guess which one… The installation, by the fact that it is a space of corridors, proposes an unstated series of narratives. Installations are in this way akin to theatrical events. However, in the case of the installation, the audience become the actors in narratives of their own imagining. The installation was first exhibited at SeeArt Taipei, and then extended for the Formosa Sculpture Biennial in Kaohsiung Taiwan.
Duncan Mountford, Wood, Mixed Media
The Embassy of Doggerland
The installation comprised 8 architectural models on tables of 100 x 100 x 100cm, with each table lit by a single work light with a daylight LED bulb. The entrance into the space was through a structure based on official buildings, and drawing on the previous project Embassy. The Embassy of Doggerland was a metaphor for the fragility of settlement, for the point where humanity went from hunter/gatherers to settled farmers, a symbol for contemporary capitalism and the resulting heating world. The models are of concrete buildings that exist between military infrastructure and industrial ruin, structures designed with a purpose that is no longer discernible. The architecture reflects memories of edge-lands; in the UK around the River Mersey towards the industrial centre of Widnes; and in Taiwan the coast around Taoyuan Airport. These sites are unfixed in time, seemingly as if ghosts from a future catastrophe. Dimensions are for each model/table
Duncan Mountford, Wood, Mixed Media
The Chamber of Uncanny Objects
A site-specific work in National Taiwan University that used the discarded objects from the University (ranging from technical equipment to cabinets from the Japanese colonial era) to produce a 'museum'. The aim was to open up a dialogue over what survives as historically important trace and what is discarded, and to play with ideas of presentation that indicates the value of an object. Extra details from the original proposal: The collected object The nature of a collection is predicated on pre-existing conditions that lay out the parameters of he collection. For this project there are a number of conditions that govern the collection. Primary is the status of the objects to be collected as ‘singular’, that is that they provoke a reaction of questioning (the concept of curiosity is central here). This status of the objects as ‘singular’ is in opposition to the objects in a museum collection, as these are typical – that is that they are of an order that enables the object to stand for all the others of its class (hence museums are educational tools in that they contain things that are examples or reference a specific history). The objects to be collected can also be ‘quotidian’, everyday objects that in the context of their normal function excite little interest. Divorced from this context and placed in the context of the cabinet, such objects will obtain the status of the singular. In addition the objects will be provided with ‘labels’ that reinforce this ‘singularity’, allowing the production of multiple poetic narratives that spiral out from the object. A second parameter that will govern the objects is the practical one of dimensions. There will be maximum dimensions for the objects (which will aid in the status of the objects as fragments), with the flexibility of the design of the cabinet (or of the cabinets that will contain the objects within the overall cabinet framework) enabling objects of different dimensions to be accommodated. Maximum size of objects will be approximately 100cm (height) by 75cm by 75cm. A third parameter for the objects will be based on sourcing them from different disciplines (knowledge areas) in the University, so that the collection retains the concept of curiosity as central (in distinction to attempting an overview of one area of knowledge). The objects will come from various sources, with one emphasis being on things that are disregarded or are now stored (due to technological changes; changes in how knowledge is discovered; changes in the means used to disseminate knowledge), another being on elevating the everyday to the status of the object of wonder. The students will therefore play a crucial part in the making of the work, being collaborators whose input will be important. They will explore the University, negotiate with staff to explore normally locked storage areas, recognise in objects the poetic possibilities. They will map the University as a series of connections that result from these processes. A central component of this part of the project will be the laying out of the ideas to the students, via a series of illustrated talks. The talks will focus on topics central to the overall project – the history of cabinets of curiosities, museums, and the connections of these forms to art practice and theory (with reference ranging from Surrealism to the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Museum of Jurassic Technology for example), various ways in which collections can be utilised in contemporary art, and the relationships between art and science. The methods used to display the objects in the cabinets will reinforce the concepts of singularity, and will reference a variety of means and methods of presentation. This will range from the use of magnifying lenses to direct the focus onto one part of an object (and fragment the overall affect); the placing of disparate objects in the space of the same cabinet (playing on the accidental poetry of such encounters – ‘as beautiful as the chance encounter of an umbrella and a sewing machine on a dissecting table’ ); the use of lights within the cabinets to emphasise the reliquary references; the use of materials such as linen in the interior of the cabinets. The objects will therefore not be displayed in a ‘museum-like manner’, but in contexts that add other readings/narratives. This will also be take place in the individual cabinets, with multiples of objects producing narratives. The total cabinet structure itself is also an artwork, and not solely a means of display. It will be designed and constructed as an artwork, with the enclosed central space producing an area of multiple lights and reflections on the windows of the multiple interior cabinets. The “books of utopias” are an integral part of the project, for, if the objects in the cabinet produce a dream-like series of connections (in the best surrealist sense), then these utopias are the dreams of what might be. All of the elements relate to the wider questing that lies at the heart of the ideal of the University (whether a specific university or in general). The project is therefore site-specific, in that it could take place in any other type of venue. Only a university produces such connections of different knowledge areas, and only this University will produce this network of connections (objects, utopias) from this very specific set of people.
Duncan Mountford, Wood, Mixed Media
Solomon's House
This installation, exhibited in the National Taiwan University of Arts Museum as part of a group show, used a text from Francis Bacon's New Atlantis as the starting point. Also reflected in the work were a number of other concepts, from the idea of a space station (a research institute) to memories of long corridors down which lay danger (science-fiction television being responsible for this). At the end of the corridor a lens allowed a glimpse of - another world? There were three entrances to the installation, and in each of the corridors could be heard a voice reading a paragraph form Robert Burton's Tha Anatomy of Melancholy. This dealt with the miseries of scholars, and was therefore perhaps a humourous reflection on the status of universities in general. The image at the end of the main corridor was achieved with a hand-constructed slide projector showing an image of a 19th century grave ornament in the form of a glass globe with interior ceramic symbols.
Duncan Mountford, Wood, Mixed Media
Drawings for The Office of Arcana
Drawings are a necessary part of the ongoing project The Office of Arcana, both as plans for small sculptures and as exhibited works within the overall installation. All drawings are A3, and a mix of pencil, ink, watercolour on 140gsm acid-free catridge paper
Duncan Mountford, Paper, Mixed Media
Site-specific installation
Duncan Mountford, Metal, Light
23 August 1994
Site-specific installation constructed from office furniture found abandoned in the site, and with lights added to produce a memorial to those who worked in the office. The page on the desk was from the obituary section of the local newspaper
Duncan Mountford, Installation, Light
ordinary facts arranged within time
A three-quarter circular structure, the outside roughly finished and with the structures and cabling for the interior elements visible. The inside wall was faced with red linen, and with six cabinets inset in the wall. Each cabinet contained a constructed slide projector (light, metal tube, 35mm slide, mirror), and these threw the image of a single letter into the opposite side of the cabinet. Each letter was from the word 'museum'. The interiors of the cabinets were faced with black linen.
Duncan Mountford, Wood, Textile
Pocket Museum
Everyone can be an artist, so they say...with the Pocket Museum everyone can be a curator. Just slip it into your pocket and when you see something you like, deply the museum and collect and display your findings!
Duncan Mountford, Wood, Textile
Lost Found
This work began with the collection of single gloves found abandoned on walks through the city of Liverpool with Janet Farahar. When the total of found gloves reached 200 we decided to produce a work from the dicoveries, and, as what had drawn us to the gloves in the first place was their connection to a missing owner as seen by their size, decoration etc., we wished to play on the idea of the gloves being the traces of a tragic event. The gloves were displayed as if being examined (in an odd way), and the installation was in an enclosed glass sided room with no access to the public. Dimensions are for the room, and are approximate.
Duncan Mountford, Glass, Installation
Untitled (landscape)
Small work as part of the continuing Office of Arcana series. A memory of a landscape.
Duncan Mountford, Wood, Paper
The Archive of Lost Knowledge
Site-specific installation in a building of the Natural History Museum at Wollaton Hall, Nottingham. The work replicated the manner in which museums are monumental structures that control the navigation of the interior spaces, and thereby control the narrative of their holdings. Thw work also referenced ideas of ruined museums, especially the ruins encountered in the HG Wells Story "The Time Machine"
Duncan Mountford, Wood, Mixed Media
Bunker 1
Research sculpture for unrealised proposal
Duncan Mountford, Wood
Bunker 2
Model for an unrealised project
Duncan Mountford, Plaster, Light
Untitled (Museum)
Small box/sculpture as study for ongoing "The Office of Arcana" project, and idea fro a possible installation. This work is based on threats to culture.
Duncan Mountford, Wood, Paper
Untitled study
Design for new sculpture/box
Duncan Mountford, Paper
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