Sunday, November 20, 2011

Carsten Höller: (In)experience at the New Museum - Revision

Taking up almost the entire museum, the exhibit “Experience” offers various distinct experiences that employ large-scale, interactive pieces. Visitors are also welcomed to share in a secondary experiential level with the help of special mirrored headgear, which creates an upside-down view of the world for the wearer. Employing size, light, optics, and sensations, Höller triggers the senses, removing individuals from typical daily life and, more noticeably, the typical museum experience.

Unfortunately, “Experience” does not have the effect its artist and curators probably had in mind. Despite the exhibit’s emphasis on spectacle, the New Museum’s curators and staff grossly underestimated the repercussions of a successful show. Visitors hoping to walk around a topsy-turvy world, courtesy of the previously mentioned headgear, must wait in line for an unexpected amount of time. Visitors must wait in another line to sign a legal release. Before they enter, a visitor is already waiting on noticeably understaffed, lines. Once in, visitors may choose any floor to begin their sensory excursion. The fourth floor presents two options, the first choice being waiting on line for a slide, an activity accompanied by watching put-together adults (children below a certain height and weight are not permitted) make a big to-do over laying in a slide and hearing their overly dramatic screams as they fly down it. Your other option is to sit on a grandiose Mirror Carousel (2005) plastered with fanciful lights and mirrors, only to take the slowest, most boring and anticlimactic turn around the room possibly imaginable. The third floor provides audiences with another, even slower, line to experience the Giant Psycho Tank (2000), designed to replicate the feeling of weightlessness. Before anyone gets a chance to feel weightlessness, they’ll get to experience a great wait. It should also be noted that this piece is designed for the true exhibitionist, as most likely your naked backside will be seen by anyone who happens to venture too close to the less than substantial partition.

The impact of Höller’s work is dissolved rapidly by a combination of inefficiency and pieces not designed to accommodate vast crowds. It is clear that his work, which evinces amusement park spectacle, is not equipped to mimic their efficiency and crowd-control, especially within the confines of a museum. The visitor is left with a malaise of sensory overload compounded by periods of anticipation and inactivity.

1 comment:

  1. While I do agree that the museum did not sufficiently figure out how to cut down on people waiting online for the various parts of the show, I think you are over cynical about the work itself. I don't agree that his work is only about "amusement park spectacle" but hold a lot of value in a larger art world context. Think about what a show like this implicates for the future of art shows and how viewers see them and interact with them. When Lygia Clark first made her pieces that were meant to be touched and handled by the viewer, this idea was rejected b most critics and historians. Now look at the present with a show like Holler's turns an entire museum into an interaction and experience for the viewer. Maybe not all of the kinks have been worked out yet, but the prospect of this type of show is so exciting in the history of art, and I think you ignore this bigger context.