Sprawling across the gallery and erupting beyond its roof and walls, this exhibition by the famously experimental artist explores the psychology of decision making.
Originally a doctor of insects’ olfactory communication strategies, Carsten Höller’s art is more often likened to a psychological experiment than an installation. Previous projects have included sensory deprivation pools, mirror-plated carousels and vision-modifying goggles.
That’s not to mention his Soma exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof, where visitors paid 1,000 euros to spend the night on a floating mushroom-shaped bed perched above 24 canaries, 12 castrated reindeer, eight mice and two flies; an accompanying minibar was stocked with drinkable hallucinogenic urine. In an interview with Tate in 2006, he said his work offered ‘the possibility of unique inner experiences that can be used for the exploration of the self’.
So it is with excitement – or perhaps trepidation – that Britain awaits his summer show at the Hayward, the gallery’s last before a two-year closure for renovation. As well as pieces representing Höller’s artistic output from the past 20 years, there are new commissions he has created to interact with the architecture of the space.
According to gallery director Ralph Rugoff, curator of the exhibition, its title reflects the fact that at various points during the show visitors will be expected to make decisions, ‘with those choices leading to quite dramatically different experiences’. Höller is committed to exploring the possibilities of uncertainty; a psychological state where we are open to suggestions because we haven’t committed to a particular decision yet.
This thinking manifests itself in installations such as ‘Pill Clock’, which spurts out pills at random intervals during the exhibition for volunteers to trial with unknown effects. Other highlights include giant psychedelic mushrooms – hung upside-down from the ceiling – roaming robotic beds and a flying machine on the outdoor terrace, while exiting the show involves a dizzying helter-skelter ride from the heights of the gallery roof.