Saturday, November 19, 2011

Carsten Höller at The New Museum - Revision

A mirrored carousel, a three story tube slide, and a sensory deprivation chamber (among a variety of other works) installed throughout the towering New Museum. The result? Carsen Höller’s Experience.

Höller’s blockbuster one-man show at the New Museum invites viewers to participate in a museum experience unlike any other. The retrospective includes the most noteworthy pieces from the past two decades of the scientist-turned-artist’s career. His work breaks the conventions of audience/artwork interaction and relies heavily on audience participation with almost experimental twist. Resonating throughout (and quite literally penetrating) the museum’s lobby, second, third, and fourth floor galleries, Höller’s work successfully transforms the museum and art viewing experience, flipping the politics of the conventional art institution on its head.

Naturally the most playful piece on view is Höller’s signature 102’ long tube slide installation. The aluminum and Plexiglas slide punctures the poured concrete floors of the museum’s interior, stretching from the fourth to second floor galleries. The interior space of the fourth floor is the most cohesive and unified gallery. Adjacent to the entrance to the tube slide is a mirrored carousel that invites viewers to step onto the platform and sit in slowly revolving seats. The industrial material of both the artworks and museum’s interior are reflected in the mirrored surface of the carousel, tying the whole floor together. While viewers wait to dive down the tube, live songbirds caged within a gigantic mobile fill the space with their chirps and project an unexpected calmness over the chaotic environment.

Upon being thrown high speed out the reverse end of the side, viewers are assaulted with a series of flashing fluorescent lights that line the walls of the gallery. Apparently meant to induce hallucinations, the flashing bulbs illuminate a group of brightly colored polyurethane that lethargically lay in the migraine-inducing space.

Located on the third floor gallery is Höller’s Giant Psycho Tank. Here, viewers are encouraged to experience nude or swimsuit donned weightlessness in a foot of super saline water, which has recently gained a controversial reputation with the NYC Board of Health. Further, visitors have the option to rent upside down glasses, consequently disorientating the wearer as they navigate the gallery.

Adults and children alike wore an almost drug-induced expression as they wandered around the museum. Their boisterous smiles and laughter, otherwise inappropriate in the museum context, suggests that Höller’s experimental artistic intent was reached successfully.

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