A mirrored carousel, a three story tube slide, and a sensory deprivation chamber (among others) dispersed throughout an architecturally marvelous New York museum. The result? Carsten Höller’s Experience.
Höller’s highly publicized one-man show at the New Museum invites viewers to participate in a museum experience unlike any other. On view through January 15, 2012, the exhibition includes the most noteworthy pieces from the past two decades of the scientist-turned-artist’s career. His body of work breaks the conventions of audience/artwork interaction, and according to the exhibition’s press release, is “designed to explore the limits of human sensorial perception and logic.” Literally penetrating the museum’s lobby, second, third, and fourth floors, Höller’s work successfully transforms the museum environment and flips the dynamics and conceptions of the 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 and ceilings 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 of the tube slide is a mirrored carousel that invites viewers to step onto the platform and sit in slowly revolving seats. The industrial materials of the slide and gray museum interior are reflected in the mirrored surface of the carousel and ties the whole floor together. Live songbirds caged within a gigantic mobile fill the space with their chirps and project calmness over the chaotic industrious amusement park environment while slide participants wait to dive down the tube.
Upon being thrown high speed out the reverse end of the slide, viewers are assaulted with a series of flashing fluorescent lights that line the walls of the gallery. Meant to induce hallucinations, the flashing bulbs illuminate a collection of brightly colored animals that lethargically lay in the migraine-inducing gallery.
Located on the third floor gallery is Höller’s controversial Giant Psycho Tank. Here, viewers are encouraged to experience nude or swimsuit donned weightlessness in a foot of super saline water. Further, visitors have the option to wear special upside down glasses to physically alter perception of the space.
Adults and children alike carried almost drug-induced expressions as they navigated the museum space. Their boisterous smiles and laughter, otherwise inappropriate for the museum environment, suggests that Höller’s construction of the experiential exhibition received a high level of success.