Richard Wilson is a British sculptor based in London. His new commission Hang On a Minute Lads, I’ve Got a Great Idea . . . will be situated the roof of the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill on Sea in East Sussex, England, until October 1. It is part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad Festival.
ALL MY IDEAS start from a formal place, so when the late Alan Haydon contacted me about doing the second rooftop sculpture project on the flat roof area of the De La Warr Pavilion in 2010, I knew the piece had to in some way announce the pavilion, which was designed by Mendelsohn and Chermayeff in 1935. I just wanted to find some way to acknowledge its iconic status.
One day on the drive home from the edge of the south coast where the Pavilion is located, the word cliff-hanger popped into my mind. I knew then that I wanted to focus on an area of the building that was seen as not being its best side––so that the building becomes the plinth, as it were, and that a sculpture could then articulate the building. I sought permission to go to the very top of the roof, and to install a facsimile of a Harrington Legionnaire coach there. That is the bus used in the 1969 film The Italian Job. It will be designed to sit right on the precipice, the very edge of the building overlooking the parking lot.
The piece is motorized––it weighs six and a half tons––and incorporates hydraulic equipment programmed to rock randomly to a maximum angle of twelve degrees. The work mimics the final sequence in The Italian Job where the bus is laden with gold bullion and half of it has gone over cliff’s edge. And obviously the bank robbers at one end of the bus are unable to get to the gold at the other end, because if they do, the whole lot tips over.
Coincidentally, Alan Haydon was able to have the project awarded with regional Cultural Festival project status. So this piece also became about England and Team GB. With the coach being red, white, and blue, I suddenly had my very own Olympic flag flying for our GB athletes. I started thinking about this film being about gold robbers who kind of pulled off the greatest heist and find themselves at the end of the film caught in something that goes nowhere. These guys were going for gold just like our Olympic athletes, so there’s a lovely parallel. The film is literally a cliff-hanger. You don’t know how it ends. What I liked about the film was this typically British humor. It’s Keystone Cops meets Lavender Hill Mob, and that humor is something I allowed into the work as well.
The ultimate goal is to make something that is structurally daring: a work that tethers on the edge of being and not being, between stability and collapse. It’s really a lot like what our athletes go through as they compete: that moment of not knowing, of being in balance, winning or defeat, in equilibrium with yourself. It speaks also of the limits one wants to go through as an artist, how daring one is willing to be in terms of ideas.