Saturday, December 17, 2011

Joisey Review: The New Museum

While on a brisk walk to the Bowery Mission to donate some coats that I know I would not need, I decided to pay a trip to the New Museum which is located at 235 Bowery. This is their current exhibition: “Carsten Höller: Experience” is the most comprehensive US exhibition to date of the artist’s engaging work. The current show gathers together a number of the artist’s signature works in an arrangement that transforms the viewer’s experience of time and space. Originally trained as a scientist, Höller is frequently inspired by research and experiments from scientific history and deploys these studies in works that alter the audience’s physical and psychological sensations, inspiring doubt and uncertainty about the world around them. His work often draws on social spaces outside of the museum such as the amusement park, zoo, or playground, but the experiences they provide are always far from our usual expectations of these activities. Höller’s art takes the form of proposals for radical, new ways of living by creating sculptures and diagrams for visionary architecture as well as transportation alternatives, such as his renowned slide installations. These concepts may seem impossible in the present day, but suggest new models for the future.

Each floor of the exhibition explores a different general theme within Höller’s work to provide a carefully choreographed journey through the building and the artist’s oeuvre. The fourth floor focuses on the theme of movement—featuring the artist’s spectacular Mirror Carousel (2005), which provides riders with a notably different physical experience than the traditional fairground merry-go-round, while at the same time reflecting and illuminating the space surrounding it. The third floor gathers together works that seek to provide an altered or utopian experience of architectural space. For example, his Giant Psycho Tank (2000) invites viewers to float weightlessly in the water of a sensory deprivation pool, providing a tenebrous, out-of-body experience.

Over the years, the artist has employed psychotropic drugs, flashing lights, and other stimuli to potentially alter the viewer’s mental state. His new site-specific installation on the second floor, Double Light Corner, flickers back and forth on a central axis, creating an immersive, hallucinatory experience. The work is paired with a recreation of Höller’s Experience Corridor in which the viewer is given the choice to undertake a number of self-experiments. The sculptures, Giant Triple Mushrooms (2010), icons of the kind of personal exploratory journey that his work has always centered on, will also be on view. Taken as a whole, Höller’s work is an invitation to re-imagine the way in which we move through the world and the relationships we build as he asks us to reconsider what we think we know about ourselves.

The exhibition is organized by Massimiliano Gioni, Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions, with Gary Carrion-Murayari, Associate Curator and Jenny Moore, Assistant Curator. (Source:

This exhibit has gardenered much press lately from Time Out New York magazine all the way to Interview magazine and one question that pops in my head is WHY??? This exhibit is a great big come-on with the main attraction a slide that you can do for free at a playground. Also what they do not tell you is the Giant Psycho Tank, which essentially is a jacuzzi tub with Epsom salt, is either a naked or a bathing suit activity for only about 10-15 minutes. So if you were like me just roaming one of your favorite neighbourhoods in NYC and are kind of reserve with being naked in front of strangers, then this is not for you. But maybe that is the point of this exhibit -- to get you to think outside of your comfort level. I truly do not have an idea and I did not need to spend $12 dollars to have that reaction. If you are a fan of avant-garde art, then please go and enjoy. This exhibit is there until January 15, 2012. For myself, it was a waste of time. Then again, I would not have known that without at least going in.

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