Doug Fishbone’s Adventureland Golf

JournalArt & Culture

Doug Fishbone’s Adventureland Golf

Artist designed crazy golf looks set to be a 'stroke' of genius...

Regular readers will remember that, last month, we introduced the fascinating new arts, culture and music gathering – Nova Festival of Arts and Music – and that, earlier this week, we brought you an exclusive video mix of the festival’s key music acts; via digital meddlers Hexstatic. Well, flipping the coin from music to, the festival’s other key constituent, art; we tracked down artist Doug Fishbone (famous for filling Trafalgar Square with 30,000 bananas) to talk to him about one of Nova’s major coups, Doug Fishbone and Friends’ Adventureland Golf. With the likes of Jake Chapman, Pete Fowler and David Shrigley getting involved, Fishbone is putting together a crazy golf course cum art installation; with each of its holes being designed by a decidedly noteworthy artist.

A particularly madcap concept it may well be, but the finished article has the potential to be one of the most twistedly brilliant pieces of tongue-in-cheek art we’ve seen, and those getting a chance to play it are in for something seriously special. We were keen to find out more, so did…

Doug Fishbone's Adventureland Golf

30,000 Bananas, 2004
Doug Fishbone

So, where did the whole idea come from – another long night in the pub?

There is a bit of a pub element to the idea, though I have always been a crazy golf fan myself, and thought it would be a great way to bring together a group of artists. Mini golf has amazing artistic potential – after all it is based around sculptures and installations that people play in and around.

There have been a few artist-designed crazy golf courses here and there, but nothing terribly interesting as far as I have seen. I wanted to get together a great team of artists who could deliver something unique – conceptually interesting while remaining engaging.

Golfing, the real version of course, is a very conservative sport, played – on the whole – by some very conservative people. Contemporary art on the other hand… I guess we shouldn’t be expecting a particularly conformist version here?

Traditional golf is very conservative, of course, and crazy golf is quite conservative too, at least aesthetically speaking. It tends to rely on a vocabulary of very familiar forms and gestures like windmills, a pirate or Tiki vibe, and so on. Regular golf conservativism is a whole other thing altogether, which I find quite strange.

I prefer crazy golf to real golf, though not necessarily on class grounds – it just seems like more fun. In any case, I have encouraged the artists involved to do whatever they wanted and be completely free with their designs. I thought if we push the envelope a little bit concept conceptually and stylistically we’d be on to something quite special – something fun and challenging, which re-configures what a crazy golf course can be.

Doug Fishbone's Adventureland Golf

Installation view of ‘I’m Dead’ by David Shrigley, 2010
at the Hayward Gallery
Taxidermy Puppy with Wooden Sign and Acrylic Paint
Image © The Artist and Courtesy of the Artist
Image by Linda Nylind

You’ve assembled an eclectic and illustrious gaggle of art’s finest, is there a concurrent theme for the holes?

I did not want there to be a theme linking the course, since I wanted the artists to feel free to do what they liked. I wanted to work with artists who have a feel for sculpture, and a sense of humour as well, who would be up for a laugh but could deliver something that could work well in the round as a playable sculptural course. I think with artists like Jake Chapman and David Shrigley in the mix, there is the potential for an anarchic humour that will be a very refreshing angle on the game.

What sort of scale are we talking, how many holes? Sounds like this could be quite epic…

The course is a full 9 holes, and as we are currently in the midst of the design, I do not have exact size yet. But I can assure you it will be epic indeed!

Doug Fishbone's Adventureland Golf

© All rights reserved by Pete Fowler Monsterism

Can you reveal secrets about any of the works yet?

There are all kinds of ideas brewing, and it is going to be a great mix. My design hinges around a sculpture of Saddam Hussein that tilts over while you try to putt, referencing the statue that was ripped down from its pedestal in the well-known incident in Baghdad. As far as I know, it is the world’s first Saddam Hussein crazy golf hole. I don’t want to spill the beans on anyone else’s designs as they may get angry with me, but it is going to be a wild course.

Will you be staying for the duration?

I will be at the Festival early to set-up and will come for a bit as well, as the festival sounds like it is going to be good fun. I have a little daughter, who is 8 months old, so it depends a bit on her. Maybe we can convince her to hang out in a tent for a while…

Doug Fishbone's Adventureland Golf

Auto Doner – Kebab Man, 2002
Doug Fishbone

If you could offer one piece of advice for those attending, what would it be?

Have a great time, eat, enjoy and relax! And do play a bit of golf. It is going to be fun and all proceeds from the course go to Action Aid, to help out their initiatives in Haiti. So it is a good cause.

You can add one act, living or deceased, to the bill, who would it be?

I saw Rush last year at the O2 playing one of their classic albums from 1981 and would love to see them again, especially if they let me sit in on the drums. One of my favorite bands of all time. And the comedian George Carlin would be great as a spoken-word act.

Doug Fishbone's Adventureland Golf

Elmina, 2010
Doug Fishbone

Any plans to hijack other sports, in the name of art?

In my last film project, I acted the lead in a Ghanaian melodrama alongside a cast of Ghanaian celebrities, so I suppose there was an element of hijacking in that. No more sports on the horizon, but I am planning a project that invades a museum collection using counterfeit paintings from China.

What’s next for Doug Fishbone?

I am currently working on a new project that plays with the conventions of TV sketch comedy. Cyclopses, maniacs, drunkards – you name it, they’ll all be in there. Fun for the whole family…

Doug Fishbone's Adventureland Golf

Installation view of ‘Currents 105’, 2011,
Saint Louis Art Museum.
© Ian Monrow