This autumn, the New Museum will present the first New York survey exhibition of the work of the artist Carsten Höller (b. 1961, Brussels, lives and works in Stockholm). Over the past twenty years, Höller has created a world that is equal parts laboratory and fun house, exploring such themes as safety, childhood, love, happiness, transportation, and the future. Höller left his early career as a scientist in 1994 to devote himself exclusively to art-making, and his work is often reminiscent of research experiments. His pieces are designed to explore the limits of human sensorial perception and logic through carefully controlled participatory experiences.
The New Museum’s exhibition will include work produced over the past twenty years in an immersive, interactive installation choreographed in collaboration with the artist. Höller will actively engage the Museum’s architecture, with each of the three main gallery floors and lobby of the building presenting a focused selection of pieces that demonstrate different visual or experiential dimensions of his work. Included will be Höller’s signature stroboscopic light installations; disorienting architectural environments; a spinning mobile; a spectacular mirrored carousel; a sensory deprivation pool; and a number of smaller works installed throughout the entire building. The selected works emphasize the experimental quality of Höller’s work and reveal the complex universe of one of the most significant European artists to emerge in the past twenty years. He came to prominence alongside a group of artists in the 1990s including Maurizio Cattelan, Pierre Huyghe, Philippe Parreno, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Andrea Zittel who worked across disciplines to re-imagine the experience and the space of art. Höller stands out among this group for the manner in which his installations drew on the history and method of scientific experimentation to destabilize the viewer’s perception of physical space and time. In providing this first opportunity for the public here to examine the full scope of Höller’s artistic experiments, the exhibition follows in the New Museum’s long tradition of introducing the most adventurous international artists to an American audience.
Carsten Höller’s work is first and foremost concerned with altering our basic assumptions about what we see, feel, and understand as humans. Over the years, the artist has employed psychotropic drugs, flashing lights, and architectural alterations to overwhelm viewers with visual stimuli and challenge accepted self-perceptions. For example, the immersive installation Light Room (2008) uses a sequence of flashing lights to give the viewer the sensation that the space around them is rotating. Höller also has exhibited a variety of adapted amusement park rides, their speeds slowed until they move almost imperceptibly. His Mirror Carousel (2005) provides riders with a radically different physical experience than the traditional fairground merry-go-round, while at the same time reflecting and illuminating the space surrounding it. In such works, Höller invites us to reconsider the meanings of play and participation.
Höller’s art has often taken the form of proposals for radical new ways of living. He has created sculptures and diagrams for visionary architecture and transportation alternatives like his renowned slide installations. These concepts may seem impossible in the present day, but suggest new models for the future. The artist’s proposals and structures invite the viewer to reimagine the social and sensorial possibilities of domestic space. During the 1990s, Höller collaborated with artist Rosemarie Trockel to create structures shared between humans and animals such as pigs, birds, and mosquitoes, calling into question hierarchies of species and the roles of the observer and the observed. Recently, Höller has invited viewers to share the exhibition space with a variety of creatures from reindeer to canaries to mice. At the New Museum, viewers will be encouraged to test a variety of sculptural experiences. In one of Höller’s Psycho Tanks, visitors will float weightlessly on the surface of a sensory deprivation pool, providing a strange out-of- body experience. In these scenarios, as in his other work, Höller treats the viewer as the subject and audience for his radical and disorienting experiments.
“Carsten Höller: Experience” is curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions.