Yinka Shonibare and John Akomfrah Among Artists Designing Holes for Doug Fishbone’s Venice Biennale Mini Golf

A good opportunity to practice your swing. And it's art, too.

Doug Fishbone’s Leisure Land Golf (2015)
Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Feeling stressed about your hectic Venice Biennale agenda? Do you want to practice your swing? Artist Doug Fishbone has come up with the perfect relaxing activity, while keeping things arty and critical (see Artist Hides Forgery in Major London Museum and Take an Arty Booze Cruise on the Thames).

Produced by the organization EM15, Doug Fishbone’s Leisure Land Golf is a fully-operational mini golf course for which nine artists—John Akomfrah, Yara El-Sherbini, Ellie Harrison, Candice Jacobs, Hetain Patel, Lindsay Seers, Yinka Shonibare, Eyal Weizman, and Fishbone himself—have been commissioned to design a hole.

“Growing up in the US, I have always been struck by mini golfs as these incredibly interesting, underrated sculptural forms,” the London-based artist told artnet News. “I always thought that if you could invite a group of artists to raise the bar and do work within that platform, you could create something that manages to be a fun interactive artwork that could deal with serious content in an engaging way,” he explained.

The artists have been asked by Fishbone to respond to “The Leisure Principle” (whereby consumer satisfaction is prioritized above anything else), and have approached the brief from varied perspectives. But, despite the humorous and light-hearted setting, they all seem preoccupied with rather serious political questions.

Akomfrah’s hole, for example, examines the mediated images of death, namely those of unarmed African Americans shot by police in the United States in recent years, turning the hoodie into a motif.

Seers’s revisits the mercantile and maritime history of Venice, El-Sherbini’s replicates various aspects of daily life in territories under occupation, and Jacobs’s questions whether human behavior can be influenced by television programming and the Internet, and make us vulnerable to exploitation by global markets and governments.

Meanwhile, Fishbone’s hole tackles the West’s reliance on China for cheap products, which has turned the nation into “the next superpower bound for imperial domination.”

“I think games can be a very satirical and critical device to explore geo-political issues,” Fishbone told artnet News. “I have the feeling that many world leaders are making some very important decisions as if they were games, so I thought it would be interesting to mirror and criticize that too.”

This is not the first time Fishbone turns his artistic endeavors towards mini golf. In 2013, the artist installed one at the Arnolfini, in Bristol, with contributions by Jake and Dinos Chapman and David Shrigley among others.

Doug Fishbone’s Leisure Land Golf will be open from May 6 to July 26 at 40 Castello, Venice.

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