Rankin, Damien Hirst and golf with David Shrigley at Pulborough's Nova Festival

By Ben Miller | 27 June 2012
A photo of a red neon sign above a building which reads love, love will tear us apart again
The inaugural Nova Festival should illuminate a picturesque corner of Sussex© Victoria Lucas
Talk of art bunkers usually ends in underground studios rather than sporting calculations amid the idylls of West Sussex. But in the latest adventure for Doug Fishbone – the man who filled London’s Trafalgar Square with 30,000 bananas back in 2004 – Adventureland Golf will be opening for one weekend in the garden estate of Bignor Park in Pulborough.

Part of the inaugural Nova festival of music, art and general joyfulness, it features a course with holes designed by David Shrigley, Jake Chapman, Brian Griffiths and Jonathan Allen among others, all in aid of rehabilitation efforts in Haiti.

“If someone was to take this Nova work and stick a bar next to it in Hackney, we’d be millionaires,” declares Fishbone, an American who was nominated for this year’s Samsung Art Prize.

“The brief was open. But it will be politically and conceptually challenging. Mini or crazy or adventure golf is usually a very conservative thing, so we are going to push the envelope quite a bit – if the artists raise issues that might not normally be seen on a golf course, I promote that 100%.”

Most festivals worth their wellies are embracing art programmes on a par with their sonic headliners these days, but Nova has a line-up to make any gallery jealous.

Perhaps the most high-profile is Myths, Monsters and Legends, a cinematic woodland installation by Rankin and Damien Hirst which contrasts model Dani Smith with fantasy creatures from classical civilisations. “We were all intrigued by the idea of taking something really beautiful and making it ugly,” says Rankin, who must have found a willing partner for that idea in long-term friend Hirst.

Elsewhere, 18,000 photos, made by a camera left in a tree for two years, are turned into a film showing a still image in a state of constant flux in an installation on landscape devised by Jem Finer in collaboration with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas co-screenwriter Tony Grisoni.

Master filmmakers Andrew Kotting and Ben Rivers also give premieres to new works, and 12 neon signs will rise above the landscape in illuminations of famous lyrics – the brainchild of Victoria Lucas and Richard Wheater, who created a different monthly sign for a year in celebration of the heritage of Leeds.

Co-organiser Victoria Burns, a self-confessed “sucker for a neon”, used to be the fringe programmer at the Big Chill. She’s created Nova with that festival’s co-founder, Katrina Larkin. “Nova is a realisation of a festival dream that Katrina and I have had since we left the Big Chill,” she says. “For as long as we have known each other we have been cooking it up – that’s roughly 17 years.”

“What excited us when we created the Big Chill was the opportunity to bring art outdoors – out of the galleries,” adds Larkin, stressing the boutique nature of a festival which will entertain 5,000 visitors. “With Nova, we want to take that a step further and bring together art from all platforms into the fields.”

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