In Minnesota, art imitates miniature golf

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 Mini golf

The Walker Art Center offers another chance to practice your swing at Walker on the Green: Artist-Designed Mini Golf. (Christopher Borrelli / Chicago Tribune)

MINNEAPOLIS

Life, it has been said, is crap. Endless, difficult, you're forever in line behind some idiot, and your fate is determined by infinitesimal factors set in place long before you stepped foot in the game. No, wait: I meant golf is crap, endless, difficult, etc. And yet, both hold true, no? That, at least, seems to be the playfully frustrating premise behind the Walker Art Center's Artist-Designed Mini Golf.

For the fourth time since 2006, this cheeky institution invited Minnesota artists each to design a hole, then dropped the Wonka-esque sprawl beside its celebrated Sculpture Garden. Catch it through Sept. 1; 18 holes are $18 ($13.50 for kids).

A typical summer of mini-golf rarely offers much beyond knocking your ball provocatively between the legs of a fiberglass Paul Bunyan. But Walker mini-golf, on the fourth hole, offers an homage to Marcel Duchamp: Strike your orb just so, and it soars majestically into a replica of Duchamp's iconic urinal. "Garden Gnome Foosball," the third hole, is as advertised, plus wheelbarrows.

And those are relatively benign: The eighth hole, "The Uncertainty Principle," asks golfers to putt the ball into a quotation from theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg — the holes are the O's. The lesson, a caption explains, is "control is only an illusion."

Kids need to hear it sometime.

"Mom, can we skip this one," a child asked on an overcast Monday, annoyed by the "Tilt-A-Putt" hole, which has tubes and levers and involves steering a ball through a maze. No wonder the wait for Artist-Designed Mini Golf is two hours on weekends. One need only watch the perplexed expressions at the second hole ("a physical manifestation of an overlay of all 18 legendary greens at Augusta National") to know you're going to be at this awhile.

But then art, like life, like golf, is challenging. You may try to keep score, but, alas, what's the point?

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