Harold Offeh:
Pinatopia and Mount Folly, Temple Newsam House

Did you ever think you would bear witness to a troop of pineapples dancing in formation?

On a cloudy but bright evening in Leeds an expectant if slightly perplexed crowd encountered such a vision.

The exuberant revelry of Harold Offeh’s Pinatopia and Mount Folly not only embraced and enacted the history and grandeur of the pineapple, but also sought to connect and place it within the Temple Newsam landscape, designed by Capability Brown in the 1790s. The travels of the procession from the amphitheater to the hot houses demonstrated the journey of the tropical fruit from Brazil to the cold climates of Britain.

Pineapples, often described as ‘the king of fruit’, were grown in Temple Newsam in the 18th century. Large quantities of fuel and constant labor were required to attend the firewalls that enabled the pineapples to grow. The fact that these fruits were so exotic and difficult to grow meant that they were a symbol of wealth and power. This is a symbol no longer recognised, the pineapples presented to the spectators during the performance consciously left with their £1 price labels still attached.

The hedonistic finale of Harold’s Mount Folly directly responded to the site of Brown’s temple folly, which was not only a vantage point to view the house, but a space of decadence, debauchery and transgression. This use has been copied down the centuries, evident in the contemporary mistreatment of the folly which is graffiti covered, dilapidated and fenced off.

Harold’s Pinatopia and Mount Folly were produced by The Follies of Youth, a group of young producers, set up by visual arts commissioning organisation Pavilion, to research the heritage of Temple Newsam and run creative activity to engage youth groups and local people in East Leeds. The Follies of Youth chose to collaborate with Harold who had previously intervened in the 17th century gardens at Ham House, creating an installation and performance-based exhibition, which activated the history into a live, walking, talking spectacle.

There were two crucial points in The Follies of Youth’s research; first being the visit to the hot houses, which implemented an ongoing debate and discussion due to the notion of labor costs, class divides, colonialism and the exaggerated displays of wealth that stately homes imposed on others; second being Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975) recommended by Patrick Eyres of The New Arcadian Journal. We invited Patrick to watch the film with us, and upon meeting him he gave such a wonderful and evocative introduction to the film that we all became enamoured, subsequently asking him back to kindly give a reading at Mount Folly. Patrick’s reading revealed how spectacle and theatre were built into the 18th century garden; war, heritage, performance, parties, hunting, sport and frivolity all took place within it.

To read more on The Follies of Youth visit pavilionypp.tumblr.com

Abi Mitchell is an artist and curator based in Leeds

Published 09.04.2013 by Alexander Taber in Reviews

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