13 April 2016
Nottingham Evening Post

Ten leading artists have created a crazy gold course with a difference at Hyson Green’s New Art Exchange – it’s art you can play on. Art reviewer Mark Patterson went down to have a putt.

My first ball was struck with too much force and clattered out of the course and onto the pavements of Hyson Green.

This wasn’t a promising start, especially as the news this day made prominent mention of Yorkshire bloke Danny Willett’s golf triumph in the Masters in Augusta, Georgia. Still: Doug Fishbone’s Leisure Land Golf, which can now be seen and played at New Art Exchange, isn’t really about one’s skills with a little ball and metal pole.

It’s art, deeply ironic contemporary art, which is designed to ‘highlight’ various un-ironic real world issues and themes such as migration, police racism, climate change and the capitalist evils of luxury leisure cruising. For two pounds sterling you are given a red golf ball, golf club, score card and pencil and then asked to make your way round ten small themed mini-golf courses, all designed by ten artists, most of them from Nottingham or with Nottingham connections.

In terms of difficulty the courses are mostly well below those experienced in normal seaside mini-golf. Two of the courses require you to give the ball a hefty and accurate belt with the putter. One of these comes from the ex-Nottinghamian (now Glasgow-based) Ellie Harrison whose large map of Britain, the target for your golf ball, was originally located in water when Leisure Land Golf was first shown at the Venice Biennale last year.

Another course, Eyal and Ines Weizman’s recreation of the bridges of Konigsberg, which is basically a maths puzzle, demands some careful dribbling of the ball which basically gets you nowhere. Judged on a non-golfing level, some of the courses here aren’t as clever as their creators perhaps like to think they are.

The overt and implied political and social commentary also lies within predictable parameters: racism is bad, climate change is a threat etc. That said, there are moments when the issues and the uniquely kitsch experience of mini-golf come together very well and one of these is Yara El-Sherbini’s obstacle-laden course designed to illustrate the hazards faced by migrants and asylum seekers. Here you first steer the ball through two high concrete walls; then you knock it through a tunnel under another wall; then you putt it into another hole from where, after an ominous rumbling, the ball is catapulted over a barbed wire fence to safety.

A few small plastic border guards at the fence would have completed the scene; and perhaps a passport control building with red and green lights to show whether asylum had been granted or not. Doug Fishbone’s own contribution is a course where one steers the ball around a large model of the capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship.

Fishbone has fashioned this disaster into a metaphor for irresponsible, leaderless capitalism, all paid for by us, the lotus-eaters blindly seeking pleasure in Leisure Land. By contrast, Hetain Patel’s course seems stubbornly unaligned to political issues. Here, you hit your ball towards a squatting Indian man and wind it up towards his mouth. In stoic silence the figure digests the ball and ejects it from his backside.

Mark Patterson