(Photos: Benoit Pailley)
For his first New York survey exhibition, German artist Carsten Höller has transformed the New Museum into a fun house-cum-laboratory that invites visitors to take a ride on the mirrored carousel, commune with nature (giant mushroom sculptures in the lobby, canary mobiles, a zoo’s worth of napping polyurethane mammals), assault their visual cortices with a wall of flashing lights, and take a disorienting dip in the “Psycho Tank,” a sensory deprivation pool. Getting to all of these attractions—uh, works—is half the fun, thanks to the 102-foot-long stainless steel slide that now perforates the ceilings and floors of the SANAA-designed building. The pneumatic mailing system for humans runs from the fourth floor to the second floor, but those that prefer to take the elevator will find Höller’s videos—of elevators and twins—playing, appropriately, on a loop.
On view through January 15, the exhibition features work from the past two decades, but don’t expect clear chronology at this carnival. “The show is conceived as an immersive environment,” writes curator Massimiliano Gioni in the exhibition catalogue, which borrows its mini-encyclopedia format from a publication for Marcel Duchamp’s 1977 retrospective at the Centre Pompidou. “Nearly all of the works in the show are meant to be used and tested. And viewers themselves will also be tested and tried by an exhibition that alternates between excitement and boredom, overstimulation and radical dullness.” That’s also an apt description of the labor-intensive process of installing Höller’s slide, and the New Museum has created the below series of three videos to answer the inevitable question: How’d they do that?