This major exhibition at Hayward Gallery presents a wide range of Höller’s works, from newly-made pieces that have been especially commissioned, to key early artworks like The Pinocchio Effect (1994) and Upside Down Goggles (1994-2009). It brings together kinetic sculptures, videos, installations and light works that are designed to profoundly re-orientate our awareness of time and space, reflecting Höller's wide-ranging interest in the nature of consciousness.
On entering Carsten Höller: Decision visitors become part of the exhibition, their varied actions and reactions as vital to the artist, and to other visitors, as the works themselves. While many of the works are participatory and immersive - transforming the visitors’ physical and mental experience in ways that lead them to question their habitual perceptions - they also encourage reflection. As Höller states, 'it's possible to experience the work through other people, to see it from the outside, or to just contemplate it'.
As indicated by its title, decision-making is a focus of the exhibition. Visitors to the Hayward Gallery show constantly need to reflect on the choices and decisions they make, beginning with how they enter the gallery: two separate entrances are available, each providing a different route through the first part of the exhibition. Pill Clock (2011-2015), a ceiling-mounted timepiece that will drop over one million pills onto the gallery floor during the course of the exhibition, poses a different kind of conundrum for visitors: the installation includes a drinking fountain for those visitors who decide to take one of the pills and face its unknown effects.
Other highlights of the show include Flying Mushrooms (2015), a new large-scale work of an upside-down mobile with giant psychedelic mushrooms; Two Flying Machines (2015) installed on one of the Hayward’s outdoor terraces, opposite Waterloo Bridge, offering visitors the sensation of soaring above city traffic; The Pinocchio Effect (1994) giving visitors the uncanny sensation that their nose is growing; and Two Roaming Beds (Grey) (2015), a pair of robotic beds that roam the galleries in slow motion and which can be booked for an exclusive overnight stay for the duration of the exhibition - with full access to all the works.
Throughout the exhibition, recurring motifs of doubles, twins, forking paths and mirrored reflections lead visitors to question how they go about choosing between things that on the surface, at least, seem almost identical. The exhibition reaches its climax by confronting visitors with a final choice between several dramatic ways to exit Hayward Gallery, including climbing up through the gallery’s glass pyramid roof lights and descending via one of two new Isomeric Slides (2015). Built onto the gallery’s exterior wall, these sinuous slides constitute a graceful sculptural installation whilst at the same time, as the artist notes, the work is a device for ‘experiencing an emotional state that is a unique condition somewhere between delight and madness.’
Ralph Rugoff, Director of Hayward Gallery and exhibition curator, says: “Carsten Höller is truly one of the world’s most thought-provoking and profoundly playful artists, with a sharp and mischievous intelligence bent on turning our ‘normal’ view of things upside-down. Höller's approach to art-making is also remarkably generous in its address, frequently involving some element of direct participation by gallery visitors and acknowledging their presence as a key element of the exhibition. Decision asks visitors to make choices, but also, more importantly, to embrace a kind of double vision that takes in competing points of view, and embodies what Höller calls a state of ‘active uncertainty’ – a frame of mind conducive to entertaining new possibilities.”
Jude Kelly, Artistic Director, Southbank Centre, said: “Höller is an exceptional artist, whose playful and daring work transforms the inside and outside of the Hayward Gallery. He creates spaces and situations which question familiar forms of perception and we're delighted that thousands of people will be able to experience his fun-filled and thoughtful installations, as one of the highlights of our programme this summer."
The exhibition is curated by Hayward Gallery Director Ralph Rugoff and is one of the main highlights of Southbank Centre’s summer programme. Carsten Höller: Decision is the last exhibition in the Hayward Gallery before the Gallery closes (with the Queen Elizabeth Hall), for essential repair and refurbishment.