Carsten Höller: Decision – Hayward Gallery

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Carsten Höller: Decision is this summer’s blockbuster at the Hayward Gallery, an experimental and interactive exhibition with slides – slides! – coming out of the gallery’s roof. Intrigued, I booked a ticket for the Bank Holiday weekend.

The show is structured around the theme of “decisions”, allowing the participant the chance to choose for themselves how they will approach a particular work, and experience mind-altering sensations.

The first work, Decision Corridors, apparently had different entrances but I didn’t notice, being too concerned with getting inside. It was formed of numerous tunnels, pitch-dark inside with only occasional pinpricks of light to show the way. The photo I took later on shows just how winding these corridors are. Walking through them, with no way of seeing where I was going, was incredibly surreal.

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Decision Corridors, seen from above

Later works included Half Clock, “the most complicated clock in existence”, and the Pill Clock, which drops a single red and white capsule onto the gallery floor every three seconds. As you can imagine, a considerable pile has sprung up by now. You are offered the chance to swallow your pill and I did so, Alice-in-Wonderland style, not really expecting anything to happen (it didn’t).

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Pill Clock

Another work, Flying Mushrooms, incorporated models of Amanita muscaria (fly agaric mushrooms) which are red and white hallucinogenic mushrooms, famous in folklore. Here, the models have been halved and placed back together the wrong way round, and you have to push the sculpture around to move it.

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Flying Mushrooms

The Forests was a dual-screen video with a 3D headseat and earphones, with which you could experience a snow-covered forest at night. It was surprisingly calming. In the same room were Two Roaming Beds (Grey), which sounded brilliant: “These robotic twin beds roam the lower floor of the exhibition like a pair of restless, insomniac twins.” However, hiring them for the night costs £500, so I think I’ll give them a miss.

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Two Roaming Beds

Upstairs, The Pinocchio Effect was something I didn’t look at but as it seemed to involve two people at a time, and Two Flying Machines looked like the most fun exhibition but as the queue was an hour and a half long, I didn’t bother. The Half Mirror Room and giant dice (or die) was disorientating.

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Half Mirror Room

The Upside Down Goggles in the same room were bizarre to say the least. Without a friend to hold on to I felt odd walking around.

The final part of the exhibition – and the highlight for me – were the Isomeric Slides, “a sculpture you can travel inside and a device for experiencing a condition somewhere between delight and madness” according to Höller. Whatever the theory, it was a lot of fun to slide down to the bottom of the gallery.

I had a great time here, although I was disappointed at the number of exhibits where it seemed to be expected that you had someone else with you – what about us solo exhibition-goers? Nevertheless, it was good fun.

 

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