Carsten Höller: Experience

Yesterday my friend Marisa and I went to the New Museum to have an experience led by Carsten Höller.  Thankfully, the show was photography friendly, so I'm here to share that experience with you! I had heard many things about this show, and had been anticipating it for a while, so I was more than glad to go.

The main floor had these amazing sculptures of shrooms. Alice and Wonderful with their growing shape and size.  These sculptures prepare your mind for the sort of fantasy land that awaits you in the rest of the museum. 

My preference in museums is to start from the top and work my way down.  So up we went, first stop, this very slow moving swing carousel while birds tweeted in their cages above.  Shows that require participation also require patience I think. Comments I over heard on the carousel, "This is going so slow" or "So this is it?  What is it supposed to mean?" Clearly people are looking for immediate results.  More than an immediate experience, I enjoyed the way the carousel brings you back to experiences you've already had.  This entire show felt like a carnival, albeit, quiet and much more thoughtful. 

There were various participatory pieces around, some of which worked, some of which didn't.  This piece was a video of ourselves, looking at ourselves.  Some people were disappointed, others seemed to have a great time seeing themselves projected onto the wall.  They moved around in funny ways. 

The floor where the slide ended was filled with these strange animal sculptures that were neon colors. I loved them and thought they were cute, some people seemed disgusted by them, which was interesting. There were flashing lights in this entire space, so capturing them was difficult, but I enjoyed that.  Something about a flashing light disrupting your ability to really perceive your surroundings, it elevates you to a different kind of cognition.

Then I went back upstairs to wait in a long line for this two story slide.  Like many carnivals, the line, and waiting, become a large part of this exhibition. Whether the artist thought about this aspect or not is unclear, either way, I didn't mind the wait. The really special part about this piece was the way people reacted when entering into the slide, immediately the years of adulthood vanished into the same nervous joy of entering into the abyss of childhood. Some people screamed, some laughed, some were scared and didn't end up going down. The employees went down numerous times a day, I felt strong pains of jealousy.  After all, it's a TWO STORY slide we're talking about here.  It was FUN. 

Lastly, after coming down the slide I felt completely sold on this show, I wasn't really thinking about how relevant anything was or wasn't, just that it seemed  necessary to participate. So I waited in line to enter the Giant Psycho Tank.  Appropriately named because it is an interesting mental journey when you make the decision to take off all your clothes and lay naked in a pool of salt water with New York's finest.  It was an individual experience, and there was a shower, but I still can't explain the strangeness of floating nude in a shallow pool of water.  Anxiety at first, joy for the sake of being naked in a museum, and relief that it was over and no one managed to peek up at me while I was getting dressed.  

I still have salt in my ears from the water.

There are significant positive themes of childhood, play, and amusement that surround most parts of this exhibition.  Negative ones like waiting, impatience, and broken equipment.  After it all, I couldn't help but want more.  I mean, really, why aren't there slides connecting us to the bottom floor of our homes yet?  Are we really that serious? 

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