Carsten Höller – Decision review | Interactive art, flying machines and slides
Most of the time, going to an art exhibition means keeping a safe distance from the art in question and definitely no touching. However, that all changes with Belgium-born artist Carsten Höller’s new exhibition Decision, which opened last month at the Hayward Gallery.
This new exhibition explores perception and decision-making. From the beginning, you are given the first of many decisions to make – to go through Door A or Door B. The door we chose immediately plunged us into darkness so we had to rely on our sense of touch, gingerly walking along the sloped dark tunnels while touching the walls. While it was very disorienting, it was fun, although I was glad to eventually reach the light again.
The first room in the gallery kick stars the theme of a suspended reality. The room contains Flying Mushrooms, which invites the visitor to be part of the machinery which sends them spinning above our heads. Another room contains a huge pile of white and red pills which are dropping from the ceiling. There’s no sign to say what they are so if you can, put your trust in the artist that they won’t be harmful and swallow one if you wish.
One of the big draws has been the robotic beds, which glide around a dark room. People can actually pay £300 to spend the night on one. In the same room, are virtual reality headsets which transport you into a dark, snowy forest. The headset left me feeling confused, dizzy and a bit freaked out. Another dizzying experience was the Upside Down Goggles, which had my friends and I stumbling around a balcony looking at the London skyline from upside down, which was very clever.
For those with a sense of adventure, there’s two interactive pieces to give you a thrill. Two flying machines on one of the balconies see you strapped into a hand glider-style frame with a safety harness ensuring you won’t fall. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a wait and my visit to the exhibition was within a strict time frame as I had plans afterwards so didn’t get the chance to try. There was a queue of about an hour and riders are given a substantial amount of time to fly above the rooftops, so bear this is mind if you want to try it out. Finally, to exit the exhibition you are given the option of sliding down the Isometric Slides – picking left or right. I was actually surprised by how fast I went down and the slides gave me more of an adrenalin rush than I anticipated.
Overall, it was a fun way to spend an hour or two. It was definitely a very different experience than I am used to having from an art exhibition. I really felt like all my senses have been fully exercised in different ways.
- Carsten Höller: Decision runs at the Hayward Gallery until 6 September 2015. Tickets: Adults £13.50-£15, Students £11. Hayward Gallery, Belvedere Road, Southbank, SE1 8XX. Nearest station: Waterloo. For information and tickets, visit the Southbank Centre website.