Wednesday, 10 June 2015

ART: Carsten Höller: Decision at Hayward Gallery - Opening Night

'Voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind.' - Roger Caillois

Carsten Höller, Isomeric Slides, 2015, Image: David Levene

‘Carsten Höller's art is constantly pulling the rug out from under the way we look at the world' - a stand-out metaphor from Hayward director Ralph Rugoff at last night's much anticipated opening; taking over the Southbank space, Belgian artist Höller has certainly bought more than a bit of slapstick back to the art gallery.

Known best for his Turbine Hall slide installation at the Tate Modern - 'Test Site' - in 2006, Höller has repeatedly required not only active participation with his works, but a certain amount of bravado too. Decision is no different, with the whole show based around the concept of duality and - of course - decision making; it's kind of an exhibition full of Sliding Doors moments, minus the confusing Gwyneth Paltrow haircuts. The exhibition is undoubtedly fun (I will shy way from too much detail on the works as part of its dynamism stems from the unknown), but whether these moments of glee really push us to the artistic realisations Höller expects is something I'm still trying to decide on myself.

With mushroom carousels, dice shaped child’s playgrounds, roaming beds and (of course) outdoor slides, the show feels made for our Instagram generation. Furthermore, Höller's interest in the idea of the present/presence, the experience happening now which is so key to much of his work, taps brilliantly in to the modern FOMO-complex. Now we are all about the experience, the present, showing we were there, sharing our presence with the world so that our lives look like one long playground of brilliant moments. Within this contemporary context do the works thrive, or do Höller's pieces lose the provocation of spontaneous delight which their true effect relies on?

Personally it was not the silliest nor most surprising works which I felt particularly moved by, but instead I fell for a simpler piece called 'Pill Clock': an installation whereby every 3 seconds (the length of time 'in which it is possible to create the impression of presence') a single red and white capsule drops from an unknown location in the ceiling, onto the gallery floor. This playful rendering of a time piece had a quiet power to it, one heightened by it's accompanying water fountain which allowed myself and a few other visitors to drop our own pill as we passed, and was definitely the stand out piece for me.

Carsten Höller at Hayward Gallery will be one of the biggest shows of 2015 and its not hard to see why - artistic epiphany or not, you know it'll be one hell of an experience. And here's one decision that we can make for you: book your tickets now and get over there, FOMO is coming for you.

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