James Dive is still referred to as ‘the Mr Whippy guy’ thanks to the artist’s memorable ice cream van that seemed to melt into the sand at Tamarama Beach as part of 2006’s Sculpture by the Sea exhibition. A comment on global warming, the installation is still talked about today.
Now Dive has turned his sights on the fun fair, recreating a life-size, working cha-cha ride. Like Mr Whippy, this one has a twist: it never stops.
Titled Make a Wish, the ride has been built into the Cutaway, the new cultural space at Barangaroo, where it will remain throughout November as part of the month-long Sky festival, focusing on children and Sydney’s future.
“I wanted to explore how younger people have dreams that adults are scared of,” Dive says. “For kids, the idea of a never-ending cha-cha ride is an absolute dream, but for adults it would be a nightmare. There’s a certain naivety there that’s almost enviable.”
Tailoring the 25-metre high ride to his ideas wasn’t without its challenges. After tracking down The Sizzler and its owner – who will operate the ‘look-but-don’t-touch’ ride throughout the month – Dive and his team had a number of engineering complications to solve: how to fit working speakers to the 12 permanently revolving seats, for example, and finding someone who could make oversized googly eyes.
“I want the pupils to move around with the g-force, as that creates the expression of the work. Whether you read those eyes as having the time of their life or desperately wanting to get off is completely up to you, and probably based on whether you’re a child or an adult!” Dive says.
Dive has created Make a Wish with The Glue Society. A creative collective, it consists of Dive and six friends and has been operating for 18 years now. Each member brings a different creative skill, including directing, writing and sculpting. They remain defiantly independent, refusing to take on permanent clients so they can stay open to new ideas and projects.
“A lot of creative people [have a day job] then are creative in their spare time. We try to create a model that allows us to have creativity as our job,” Dive says. “We’ve managed to balance art and commerce, which is traditionally a tough ask, but we keep them divided in our headspace. As long as you have good intentions creatively, I think you can balance it.”
The group’s output is certainly diverse, and has appeared everywhere from art shows in Miami to a billboard in Iraq. The Glue Society are also regular participants in outdoor art festivals. I Wish You Hadn’t Asked, for example, was a seemingly ordinary suburban house that popped by in the Sydney CBD with Art and About, and later in Aarhus for Sculpture by the Sea.
Passers-by were invited to don large yellow rain jackets and go inside, where 200 litres of water a minute pelted down from the ceiling, which was designed to deteriorate over the month. When it toured to Denmark the first in line were Crown Princess Mary and Crown Prince Frederick.
Another installation invited to Aarhus, Once, consisted of a brightly coloured four-by-four-metre cube created using an amusement park that had been demolished, complete with rides, toys and neon signs.
“We like to create art in unexpected places. There’s something so nice about the surprise of something turning up in your path,” Dive says. “I now own around five shipping containers around Sydney that have artworks in them: a raining house, a crushed fun park and a Mr Whippy. Make a Wish will probably end up in a sixth.”
A free exhibition, Make a Wish is on display at Barangaroo throughout November. Weekends only.