Composition for farmer, three dogs and 120 sheep (2006)
four channel video + sound
Alex Monteith’s Composition for farmer, three dogs and 120 sheep (2006) tweaks an archetype of agrarian New Zealand, a nation, as we get so weary of hearing, of 60 million sheep and 4 million people. The once-primetime television staple of sheepdog trialing, where farmers and their dogs compete to usher an unruly mob of sheep into a pen in record time, is rendered into a pattern of animal and human bodies. There is nostalgia for an imagined rustic innocence, contradicted by the muddy specificity and the fantastic pointlessness of this choreography. This work is in a way a satire of nationalist, multi-screen hymns to beautiful New Zealand like This is New Zealand, which screened at the 1970 World’s Fair in Osaka.
Alex Monteith is a new media artist and academic based in Auckland. Her work incorporates sound, performance, photography, film, video, kinetic and network components. Monteith’s practice explores the politics, freedoms and limits the camera allows. Her large-scale works involve collaboration with specialists from outside the artworld including car enthusiasts, sheep-dog triallists and top racing motorcyclists.
Monteith has been described as one of New Zealand’s most prolific experimental filmmakers. Her technically sophisticated installations have been shown in galleries throughout New Zealand, including the Auckland Art Gallery, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, Te Papa and the Christchurch Art Gallery. Her screen-based works have been programmed into new media shows, touring programmes and international film festivals including: Recontres Internationales, Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Raindance film festival, London, and Multimedia Art Asia Pacific in Brisbane. Her work was included in Scratching the Surface: Experiments in New Zealand Animation after Len Lye, which toured venues including the Anthology Film Archives, New York, and Los Angeles Film Forum. Her work The Definitive Quantifier won a silver award for experimental animation at the Worldfest Houston 2000 and in 2004 Pause the Rising Tide won the overall festival prize at the International Surrealist Film Festival in Connecticut, New York.
Monteith lectures at the Elam School of Fine Arts at Auckland University.