For some, there are fewer youthful pleasures more exhilarating than a trip to the amusement park, with all its attendant but fleeting charms—funnel cakes, hour-long queues, and stomach-churning rides. That’s why James Dive’s new sculpture, Once, an entire theme park compressed into a tidy cubic monolith, is fun, poignant, and more than a little perverse. Or in Dive’s own words, “brutal.”
The new sculpture, installed as part of the Sculpture by the Sea program in Aarhus, Denmark, consists of a four-ton steel cube that hems in the twisted remains of an erstwhile amusement park. Among the wreckage you’ll find old hand-painted signage, flattened carnival stalls, smashed token dispensers, and, of course, creepy plastic dolls. It wouldn’t be a party without them.
Dive, a member of the Glue Society, collected the knickknacks and carnival stalls from a farm just outside of Sydney that he remembers from his youth. Revisiting the site, he found that it was “jammed full of funfair equipment.” Either out of reverence or as part of the artistic act, he neatly attended to and prepared the wood-and-steel ephemera before demolishing it Katamari-style. “Strangely, the first thing I did to ready the items for crushing was to clean, fix, paint, and assemble all the items,” Dive tells Co.Design. The demolition derby that followed—pounding the detritus into shape—was, he admits, “probably the most violent artistic process I’ve ever embraced."
Indeed, “Over two weeks, a 28-ton excavator crushed, ran over, hammered, and mangled the amusement park into its current form,” Dive says. The result stops you in your tracks, Dive adds, and takes you back to a previous time or place. Asked about his intentions behind his Proustian time machine, he explains: “I wanted to create a work that captured the finality of a missed moment. And how brutal that can sometimes be.”
Once easily distinguishes itself from the dozens of other more playful, palatable works in the program. In fact, Dive’s installation actively tries to "disrupt" the serene calm of Aarhus’ waterfront by blocking the main promenade route. It’s a deliberate, if clunky, move, but it makes its presence undeniably known.