The Carsten Höller Experience

Feature

Friday, December 09, 2011

Carsten Höller's Mirror Carousel (left), Singing Canaries Mobile (top right), and Untitled (Slide) (bottom right) at the New Museum Carsten Höller's Mirror Carousel, Singing Canaries Mobile, and Untitled (Slide) at the New Museum (New Museum)

Don’t stand too close, hands away from the art, don’t talk too loud — you know the etiquette. But right now at the New Museum in New York there's a huge exhibition that breaks all those rules. There are pieces you can climb on, ride on, stick your head into, smell. Even swallow.

Carsten Höller took an unorthodox path to the art world. A Belgian now living in Sweden, Höller started out as a scientist, receiving a PhD in agricultural science with a focus on insect communication.

Höller eventually left science for art, but never lost his fascination with the animal world, as the exhibition shows. Singing live canaries, a giant aquarium of tropical fish, and giant mammal replicas occupy one of the exhibition floors. “I'm fascinated by the impossibility of understanding the animal,” he explains. “They seem so close. At the same time they're so distant. There's many, many different qualities of being alive. The animals are a kind of a living proof for the fact that there are other ways that we don't have access to."

Höller’s show gives people that access through a sort of museum-sized jungle gym of experiences and other encounters. He devised all kinds of ways to challenge visitors' perceptions of light, sound, and space. They can float in sensory deprivation tank, a saline pool at body-temperature. They can wander around the show wearing a set of goggles that makes everything appear upside-down.

And, of course, there’s the gigantic slide that shoots museum-goers down three stories of the building.

“So many of these things have to do with the idea of losing control in a specific way,” Höller says, “and just see what happens.”

 

Slideshow: Carston Höller at the New Museum

Mirror Carousel, Singing Canaries Mobile, Untitled (Slide), Carsten Höller, New Museum
New Museum

Mirror Carousel, 2005 | Singing Canaries Mobile, 2009 | Untitled (Slide), 2011

The work of Belgian artist Carsten Höller is the focus of an exhibit at New York’s New Museum (through January 15, 2012). The unorthodox show is full of art that you can climb on, stick your head into, smell, eat, and even ride.

Untitled (Slide), Carsten Höller, New Museum
New Museum

Untitled (Slide), 2011

Museum-goers can hop into a slide which shoots them down three stories of the building. “It’s impossible not to smile when you come down,” Höller says.

Aquarium, Carsten Höller, New Museum
New Museum

Aquarium, 1996

Höller was an agricultural scientist before becoming an artist, and many of the pieces in the show reflect that background. This giant fish tank has three stations that allow you to can lie on your back and stick your head into an indentation in the glass. The fish tank surrounds your head, so it feels as if you’re inside the aquarium. “I'm fascinated by the impossibility of understanding the animal,” Höller explains. “They seem so close. At the same time they're so distant.”

Animal Group, Carsten Höller, New Museum
New Museum

Animal Group, 2011

The brightly-colored animal sculptures in this series are life-sized.

The Forest, Carsten Höller, New Museum
New Museum

The Forest, 2002

In this experiential piece, visitors watch a moving forest scene through goggles outfitted with tiny video screens for each eye. The video eventually shifts so that one eye sees movement in one direction while the other sees movement in a different, opposite direction, causing disorientation.

Giant Psycho Tank, Carsten Höller, New Museum
New Museum

Giant Psycho Tank, 1999

In perhaps one of the most ambitious pieces in the exhibition, visitors can step into a sensory deprivation tank and float in a saline pool.

Giant Psycho Tank, Carsten Höller, New Museum
New Museum

A look inside Giant Psycho Tank.

    Music Playlist
  1. The Fear Theme [The Cinematic Orchestra’s Reinterpretation]
    Artist: Kenji Eno
    Album: The Cinematic Orchestra: Remixes, 1998-2000
    Label: Nine Tune Records/Redeye
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Vilderness [The Cinematic Orchestra Remix]
    Artist: Nils Petter Molvaer
    Album: The Cinematic Orchestra: Remixes, 1998-2000
    Label: Nine Tune Records/Redeye
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. Anthem
    Artist: GusGus
    Album: GusGus vs. T-World
    Label: 4AD
    Purchase: Amazon

Contributors:

Sarah Lilley

Comments [4]

Henry Drewal from Madison, WI

Great! Brings into existence my theory/method in the study of arts called "sensiotics"....HJDrewal

Dec. 11 2011 12:28 PM
antonio ferraz from lisboa

i like so mucht

Dec. 10 2011 06:53 PM
Crystal from Missouri

Looks like my kind of place! I wish I could get there before it left New York. I really wish it would tour the states!

Dec. 10 2011 06:03 PM
puthoffbarb@aol.com from hamersville, Oh.

from the spin to the grinder, get in line!

Dec. 09 2011 01:24 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.