Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Down the Rabbit Hole

After scaling The O2, and eager for further adventure, my friend Lilia (Paracosm of Lilies) and I headed on to the Southbank Centre for an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery.
The artist was Carsten Höller (remember I mentioned him in my last post?) and his show Decision is his biggest in the UK so far.
Rather than an exhibition, it would be better described as an experience! A lot of the pieces were fully interactive, bringing a new dimension to the art world, and some rather trippy results!

This exhibition had a real Alice in Wonderland feel to it, with strange sights, weird experiences, and a very noticeable difference between the world outside, and the world within the exhibition itself.

After his work A B Sign, we entered through one of two entrances, which involved walking through Höller's work, Decision Corridors: metal corridors so dark we had to feel our way along the walls! The corridors twisted and turned, sometimes sloping up or down. I found myself wanting to duck my head, certain I was going to walk into something! Other visitors' voices could be heard whilst walking in the darkness, and the nature of the two sets of corridors meant that one moment a voice was nearby, and the next it was far away!

Eventually we exited to an open space which held the next piece, Flying Mushrooms (also pictured at the top of this post). I think we were both pretty entertained by this one!
The piece looked like an upside-down mobile, where all the mushrooms had been halved and stuck back together the wrong way. It was possible to push the bottom bar of the mobile to make the mushrooms move!

From Flying Mushrooms, we went up a few steps to Pill Clock: a huge puddle of red and white pills on the floor, which occasionally had new pills dropping onto it from the ceiling. As we reached it, we were invited to take a pill...

Would You?
According to the exhibition leaflet, a single capsule is dropped every three seconds, which Höller says is the length time needed to create the impression of a presence.

Also close to Pill Clock is his work Half Clock, 'the most complicated clock on earth'. I don't know how to explain it, so I'll quote the guide: 'he translated the 60 units of an ordinary clock-face into 360 degrees on three interlinked hemispherical surfaces. While one hemisphere measures the passing seconds, the other records minutes, and the third, hours.'
To me, it looked like a really cool kind of headset.

Next up was Divisions (Wall Painting with Aphids). This was a wall painting in which different sections were painted in different shades, each section being half the size of the one before. An aphid stands at the centre. According to the guide, aphids are able to reproduce asexually, and in one season can produce over 600 billion offspring. (Explains why the little blighters were all over my plants this year!)

After Divisions came two pieces we didn't really experience: 7,8Hz (Reflective Concrete), which to be honest I didn't notice, and The Forests, a dual-screen video that is watched on a 3D headset, apparently an 'experiment in seeing double'.
The Forests sounded interesting, but the queue for it stretched right across the gallery, so we decided to give it a miss!
I think I missed 7,8Hz (Reflective Concrete) because I was distracted by the next piece, Two Roaming Beds (Grey). These are robotic beds that move around the exhibition, but at the time we saw them, were still. During the day they are empty, but at night, members of the public can sleep in them!

Phi Wall II was the next piece, in the same room as the previously mentioned three pieces. The wall was covered in big circles, which lit up. The exhibition leaflet explains that it's based on the phi phenomenon: 'when we look jointly at two separate light sources, one of which goes off milliseconds before the other goes on, the viewer experiences the change as a movement between the two points'.
Unfortunately this part was hard to see, as the queue for Two Forests stretched right in front of it!

Skipping past those few exhibits, we moved on to a room containing Fara Fara, which featured two screens showing video about the music scene in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo's capital city. Apparently 'Fara Fara' is Lingala for 'face to face', and is a type of musical competition with deep roots in Congolese culture, once even used to settle disputes.

WZ sign was the next on the map, and I don't think I really noticed it--I was too busy being amazed at how much the queue for Two Forests had grown. A lot of people were more patient than we were!

Moving upstairs again, we encountered another big queue, this time for The Pinocchio Effect. We didn't join the queue (which seemed to randomly split into two at one point!) but stopped to watch for a moment. The Pinocchio Effect is a vibrating device that 'works by influencing proprioception, a so-called 'sixth sense' that enables us to understand our body in relation to the things that surround it'. The gist I got was that the device can affect how people perceive their own body!

Memory Game and Table was also nearby, and involved a bunch of different photographs, which visitors were stacking into card houses!

From there, we moved through a corridor which housed Twins (Belgian, London, New York, Paris, Santiago de Chile, Tokyo, Vienna). This was a set of TV screens lined up on either wall, and features videos of twins who face each other and address each other across the corridor. This one was hard to see and impossible to hear, because of the queue stretching right by them!

The next big room we found ourselves in housed several more pieces: Half Mirror Room (half of the walls were covered in floor to ceiling mirrors), Dice (White Body, Black Dots), which was hollow inside so that children could climb into it, Reflections on Her Eyes, Reflections on My Eyes, and Upside Down Goggles. The latter had been moved from outside, due to the wet weather!
Had I been a child I would have made a beeline for the dice, but had to leave that one to the kiddies!

However, Lilia and I both experienced Upside Down Goggles, which uses mirrored lenses to turn the world upside down. This piece was really disorienting as everything looks wrong!

Looking at the guide, this piece is probably more effective when used out on the terrace, as the only thing that appears the right way up is another of Höller's works, Adjusted Hayward Sign, which was outside.

The room with these pieces also housed what I guessed was the upper part of Pill Clock, which in this instance was a big container of pills, which I assume drop down on the floor.

As the morning had been wet, the Hayward Gallery's terraces were closed, which was unfortunate as it meant we didn't have the chance to see two of the pieces: the previously-mentioned Adjusted Hayward Sign, and Two Flying Machines. I was disappointed that the latter was inaccessible, as it was another more interactive piece: two machines that simulate flight by suspending visitors in the air and enabling them to 'fly' through the air, above the traffic. It looked like fun on the website!

Having seen all of this, we went back through past The Pinocchio Effect to the last few works. Phi TV was one of them, which was made up of two TV screens that faced each other. When one is on, the other is off, and the audio is slightly out of sync. The images switch frequently, as though someone is flipping through the channels. I didn't spend too long looking at this piece as it made my eyes go funny (especially after experiencing Upside Down Goggles!)

XY Signs was another of the works, which to be honest I would have missed if I hadn't been looking for them! They were two white cubes marked with X and Y, hung on the wall several feet up.
My lack of noticing most of the signs in this exhibition suggests that I pay little attention to signs, doesn't it!

Finally, we went to make our exit. As with the entrance to the exhibition, the exit is through another of Höller's works. It's also the entire reason I wanted to go to this exhibition (because I really am still 5 years old at heart).
Isometric Slides is a spiralling tube slide that delivers visitors all the way from the roof to the ground floor, in but a few seconds!

After the strange and surreal experiences of the exhibition, the speedy, swirling exit down the slide and into the damp outside air was akin to being reborn into the normal world!

Grinning like idiots, we stumbled away from the slides and headed back inside to collect our stuff from the cloakroom. This exhibition was definitely fun!

I don't always understand work like this, and don't necessarily always consider it 'art' but this particular exhibition was extremely enjoyable due to its interactive and memorable nature.

If Carsten Höller exhibits again, I'll definitely be going to check it out.

Carsten Höller: Decision is on at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre until 6th September 2015. Tickets are pre-booked, so if this post has whetted your appetite for some fun times in London, you'd better get your skates on and buy some!

Visiting this exhibition counts towards one of my ongoing goals from The List:
010. Visit 30 museums/art galleries/exhibitions
This was #13!  You can see the others I've visited here.

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