Follies are often perceived of as useless structures built for no reason. They are of course nothing of the kind; every action has a purpose. Sometimes they were built simply as a statement of wealth, at other times to provide a place for private assignations. On occasions they were used to make a political statement, as with Lord Cobham’s swipe at the government of the time (Stowe Gardens, Buckinghamshire). However, perhaps most frequently, follies are used to provide focal points in the landscape, manipulating the perception of space within an estate’s grounds.
Working in the grounds of Writtle College gave me the opportunity to up date the idea of the folly. A contemporary political twist was given by linking the garden structures to the theme of sustainability through the choice of building materials. As sculptures in a landscape they are an exploration of space, its perception, and its use. However, the use of polythene bin bags and plastic shopping bags in their construction addresses the more political space of consumerism and landfill.
The Writtle follies subvert the accepted understanding of classical structures as being solid, permanent, and worthy. Instead they are hollow, ephemeral, and playful. Being inflated they are perhaps reminiscent of bouncy castles. The humour, however, belies the fact that my work draws upon the vanitas genre which emphasises the transience and fragility of human achievement.