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Step In/Slide Out: We Experienced The New Carsten Höller Exhibition

Wednesday 10 June 2015
Words Alice Bell

We’d never thought we would enter an exhibition with complete trepidation, bordering on terror. That’s meant in the best possible way of course, as those are the first emotions many will feel as they delve deeper into one of two pitch black tunnels which stand as the sole entrance to the new Carsten Höller retrospective at Hayward Gallery.

Decision is the name, and certainly the game from the start, as throughout this bold new show you are given choices on how you navigate it. Each choice is seemingly identical, raising questions on how much control we actually have over our decisions.

Carsten Ho?ller ‘Decision Corridors’ 2015. Photo: Linda Nylind

The viewer is truly part of the exhibition; part sculpture, part playground, we are invited to slide, fly, look and feel, often interacting with other viewers, breaking down the norms of silence and isolation at galleries. As Höller states, “it’s possible to experience the work through other people, to see it from the outside, or to just contemplate it”.

Included is a wide range of Höller’s works, from newly-made pieces that have been especially commissioned, to key early artworks like The Pinocchio Effect (1994) and Upside Down Goggles (1994-2009). It brings together kinetic sculptures, videos, installations and light works that are designed to profoundly re-orientate our awareness of time and space, reflecting Höller’s wide-ranging interest in the nature of consciousness.

There is an air of excitement, as this is the last exhibition before the Hayward closes for a two year major refurbishment. The space has never conformed to people’s ideas of what a gallery or architecture should be, which is fitting as Höller’s work plays with our perceptions on typical art, making it playful and interacting with the space. The installation even includes a drinking fountain for those visitors who decide to take one of the pills in Pill Clock and face its unknown effects.

Carsten Höller, Pill Clock 2011, 2015 © Carsten Höller. Installation View Carsten Höller l Decision, Hayward Gallery, London 2015. Courtesy of the artist, Photo © Linda Nylind

Carsten Höller ‘Pill Clock 2011’. Photo: Linda Nylind

The question of whether it is art or more of an amusement park will be on many people’s lips, but Höller does not necessarily distinguish between the two, “It’s not about should art entertain or not, it’s about what kind of entertainment… taking entertainment as a strong force in our lives and making it very specific to this context of the exhibition, producing very specific entertainment.” As he rightly says, you never see someone going down a slide without a smile on their face.

Carsten Höller: Decision opens today at Hayward Gallery, Southbank and runs 6 September.