By the time he came to make the hovercraft Dobrowolski was more content at the art school and this, the third vehicle, was the result of a conscious decision to extend what was an emerging sequence of 'modes of transport'. Initially the artist felt that a logical step to follow the boat and the car was a plane. But he also thought that the technologies necessary to producing a viable aeroplane would involve too much precision. At that time he didn't have the confidence to achieve that. He felt a hovercraft would be more 'organic' in the making. When on the beach with the pedal car at Spurn Point, a spit of land that projects into the Humber, he had noticed hundreds of discarded plastic bottles that had been deposited there by the tide. He decided to use these to construct the hovercraft. He wanted some direct link between the vehicle and the landscape. Constructing the hovercraft from materials found on the beach and then taking the vehicle back to the beach seemed to be a logical, even poetic, connection. His aim was to hover from Spurn Point, which was thirty miles down stream, back up stream to the college.
At the same place on the beach from which he collected the plastic bottles he even found an abandoned hovercraft from which he took, and reconditioned, the engine.
It took me a while to get it working. It was full of water you see. I suppose in a lot of ways it was pretty stupid. I took the engine out of a perfectly good hovercraft just to put into my made-out-of-old-plastic-bottles hovercraft which never worked as well as that one would have done.
He learned how to make a hovercraft by doing it. The fact that he made a hovercraft that actually worked was important. It has to be genuine. If you don't believe in it, how can you expect other people to believe in it? You could quite easily suggest a hovercraft made out of plastic bottles. I could have dressed up the one I took the engine from - dressed it up to make it look like it was made from plastic bottles. But it wouldn't have had the same integrity would it? I hope that when somebody looks at this work they can see that I really meant it because there are so many thousand pot rivets in it. I think that's very important. It's vital that I made these things myself. Today many artists use technicians and hardly touch the work themselves. They justify this by reference to the past when artists used apprentices to produce large works. But the thing is that I don't think it was important in the past but it's more important today that the artist makes it all. We've got all the technology now to produce things easily and quickly; genuineness, or integrity, is the one important thing that's missing.
The hovercraft is one of the most beautiful and, at the same time, 'folksy' of the vehicles in this exhibition, its riveted plastic surfaces suggesting patchwork quilting. Dobrowolski says the orange bottles are a brand of bleach, the blue ones family size bottles of Domestos... To those of us with no idea of how a hovercraft actually works and even less of how we would start making one ourselves, it is an awesome accomplishment. It inspires the kind of admiration that contemporary art so often fails (declines) to deliver to the 'ordinary' spectator - the admiration for skills that we see as beyond our own capacities. Dobrowolski may be right to insist that the necessary skills are within the reach of everyone. Whether or not that is true, what does connect with 'everyone' is the sheer achievement in the making and, not least, the scale of the ambition.
His description of his 'flight' in the hovercraft gives an interesting insight into the kind of place, condition or experience to which he might be aspiring to 'escape' with his other vehicles. I got into the hovercraft, said goodbye to everybody - a car-load of friends who'd come to help me and see me off. They went back along the road and I set off across the mud-flats. I remember I rounded this bend in the river and I could see the car parked by the river bank. They were staggering their journey to watch me go past. I had to go right out into the mud 'cos it was slightly smoother. But there was still a lot of drag that was slowing me down so I was at full throttle and there was, like, a hell of a lot of noise. As I rounded the corner I noticed the car. I could see my friends watching me. In front of me there was a flock of birds feeding on these mud flats. Now, I couldn't steer for fear of stalling so I had to keep going in a straight line through them. Obviously they heard me coming and there was this one moment when they all took off as I approached them and there was this amazing moment when I was hovering along surrounded by all these flying birds. Maybe it was just knowing that I was then centre of attention but I actually shouted out, 'This is it!' It was a sort of nice poetic moment. 'Yeah! This is it!' and as I said it there was this enormous BANG and the engine barrel blew up and left me stranded there. I pulled it a few times. It wouldn't start. So I got out of this thing. It took a while to work out what was wrong with it. By this time there was about a hundred yards of mud between me and the car on the river bank. So I sludged through all this mud. (There's a photograph somewhere with the hovercraft and this trail of my foot-prints). The car with my friends in it was a Citroen with electric windows and central locking. When I finally approached the car it was obvious what I wanted and, as I got close, I heard the central locking snapping down and all the electric windows going up. I had to wander back to the hovercraft. They all sort of felt sorry for me and came to help me. It took two hours to get it ashore. The mud was so sticky that two people had to get hold of the handles at the front with one person at the back. You could drag it up to yourself. Then you had to get your feet out of the mud to move back a pace and do the same thing again.
This apparently romantic and heroic encounter with the birds leaves us uncertain of the implications for nature; something to be overpowered or something with which to identify completely? Either way the attempt fails and the inevitability of the failure is a condition of the work.