Carsten Höller at New Museum: Challenging the Senses (Sponsored Post)

Untitled (Slide) (2011)

Untitled (Slide) (2011)

I’m a lucky guy. I’ve wanted a reason to break out of my cramped, unkempt studio and check out Carsten Höller: Experience, the new exhibit at the New Museum that provides a comprehensive survey of the German-born artist known for his immersive, sensory-confounding — and sometimes adrenaline-pumping — installations, and along comes Air France to sponsor my coverage.

And why not? Not only is Air France the gateway to Paris, New York’s only equal as a cultural capital (I’m not saying which city is actually better, but only one of them has original Picassos and Shake Shack), but the airline tends to express the romantic thrill of travelling to their home turf (yeah, there may be grungy areas in France, but I can’t think of any, offhand) by coming up with imagery like this:

Which is just a lovely way of expressing the feeling through pure kinetics.


Giant Triple Mushrooms (2010)

Giant Triple Mushrooms (2010)

Interestingly, Carsten Höller is himself no stranger to employing kinetics as part of his toolset for provoking intense, and frequently visceral, responses from his viewers. Having left a career in science in the early 90’s, Höller has translated his clinical background into works that range from the grandly whimsical — the lobby of the New Museum boasts a garden of oversized mushrooms that Lewis Carroll would have felt right at home in — to the powerfully immersive. “Viewers” rarely remain passive observers in the artist’s efforts: Included in the exhibit are such works as Experience Corridor, a series of rooms containing strange, sensory experiments (most curious: The Pinocchio Effect, in which strategic application of a medical vibrator convinces one that one’s nose is growing); Giant Psycho Tank, a sensory deprivation pool; Mirror Carousel, in which the glistening replication of a stock, amusement park thrill-ride is paradoxically trimmed to a serene pace; and — the big draw for this exhibition — Untitled (Slide), a corkscrewing tube that briskly transports daring visitors from the museum’s fourth floor down to the second, landing them into the visual bombardment of a pulsing, Höller light installation.

The works have a singularly unique way of cutting through intellectual concerns to provoke pure, emotional responses — interesting for pieces that frequently present themselves as the products of an especially fanciful laboratory. I wanted to find out more about Höller’s motivations, so in addition to getting some interesting pics of the exhibit, I also spoke with associate curator Gary Carrion-Murayari. Click on the player to hear the discussion, and check out the link to the slide show below that


BTW: I’m not likely to be shaken from my conviction that New York was, is, and forever will be the center of the cultural universe, but if anyone wants to check out what’s doing in Paris, hit up Air France, get yourself over there, and compile the evidence that’ll make me eat my words.

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