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Indepth Arts News:

"Carsten Holler's Amusement Park"
2006-01-21 until 2006-10-31
North Adams, MA, USA United States of America

Creating a vast environment of slow-turning carnival midway rides, Carsten Holler explores the effects of spatial and temporal disorientation with a new installation opening at MASS MoCA on January 21, 2006. For the large, multi-part installation, Höller has installed five full-sized amusement park rides familiar from childhood - a Gravitron, bumper cars, a Twister and more - in MASS MoCA's massive Building 5 gallery. Slowing their velocity, light patterns, and music Holler unsettles the viewer's mind much as conventional amusement parks unsettle the body through radical changes in gravity, direction, and bodily orientation.

Höller has been challenging his viewers' assumptions for years with installations and sculptures that deliberately induce doubt and confusion. Originally trained and employed as a scientist, Höller often positions his work as an experiment. But, with no data recorded, measurements taken, or objective results achieved, he allows visitors to experiment with themselves, addressing complex relationships with time and space through direct interaction.

"His view of the museum as a space of experimentation and incremental change goes right to the heart of MASS MoCA's mission...and we'll be hanging on for dear life," said Joseph Thompson, MASS MoCA's Director. "The amusement park - already a site of physiological and psychological confusion, unease, and ineffable strangeness - gets further refracted and warped in Carsten's hands. Although this work is experienced through sight and sound, our staff has been surprised how visceral and physical the effect can be. Your body enters a space of shifting times and places, and your mind follows. Amusement parks have a dark underbelly, which this work embraces. Though foreboding for some, the experience is otherwordly, pleasantly disorienting, and profoundly theatrical."

"I plan to use the extended installation and exhibition period afforded by MASS MoCA to introduce constant but subtle change in the show," said Höller. "Every day a new constellation will be on display with the rides running at different speeds and directions. Thus each day will be unique, suggesting the possibility of perpetual change. I want to avoid a fixed pattern of how the rides run, as it is precisely the scenario of a million possibilities that interests me."

The modified rides will be displayed as "kinetic" sculptures, and will not be operated as functioning rides. A large Mirror Wall (2005) at the end of the space will reflect the whole Amusement Park, doubling the apparent length of the gallery, already nearly 300 feet long. Small differences in the angles of the glass mirror tiles will introduce discord. Behind Mirror Wall, a video installation in which visitors see themselves projected three times at slightly different and always changing time delays, will accompany the installation of rides (Turning Infrared Room, 2005). In addition, Revolving Doors (2003) will be installed on the second floor in which five interlocking revolving mirrored doors produce a multitude of reflections of the viewer, the environment, and the doors themselves.

The exhibition will remain on view through October 2006.

Recent Work

Höller's recent works include: Solandra Greenhouse, a greenhouse filled with the Solandra maxima vine, a plant that exudes an oil capable of inducing amorous feelings. Coupled with green blinking lighting intended to create a slight disorientation in the visitor, the experience of the Solandra Greenhouse - realized for the 2004 Carnegie International -- was meant to trigger the feeling of falling in love in the absence of the object of desire.

Upside Down Mushroom Room (2005) is a cool-white room with giant, yet naturalistic rotating mushrooms affixed to the ceiling which causes the room to appear to be upside down. The piece is currently part of an exhibition at LA MoCA in Los Angeles, which runs through February 20, 2006.

A 2003 exhibition at the ICA Boston included Light Corner and Choice Corridor.   Glide Magazine described both: "In Light Corner a free standing corner wall, containing almost 1800 [flickering] light bulbs, synchronizes with the viewer's brain, inducing strong retinal after-images. With eyes closed, the viewer experiences a kaleidoscope of colors, and the body is enveloped in a warming glow...it's as if you are submersed in a techno-chicken egg incubator.... Choice Corridor is a disorienting and gradually darkening passageway [...]. When initially entering the piece, the audience encounters a long hallway, dimly lit, narrow and ominous. As one proceeds the scene [becomes] complete darkness. At each turn, one cannot tell if it would be better to turn back, or proceed forward, or if in fact one is still even going forward at all. [...] There is no logical reason for fear, it is an empty hallway within the same museum you entered just moments ago, though Holler successfully moves the audience a step past comfort within minutes. At a last corner, the light becomes visible, and the visitor 'moves to the light'. A warm security overcomes you, and you exit unsure why you were so uneasy at all."  In addition the visitor may not realize that at the darkest point, the corridor divides into two acoustically isolated parts of equal length. The voices of other visitors comforting one in the darkness disappear if they chose the other path, until rejoined at the end. 

Born in Brussels in 1961, Höller now works in Stockholm, Sweden. He recently represented Sweden at the Nordic Pavilion at the 51st International Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia (in cooperation with Miriam Bäckström), in addition to past exhibitions at the Tate Modern, London (2004), and the MAC in Marseille (2004). His next large-scale installation after Amusement Park will be a major work commissioned for the Tate Modern's Turbine Hall, to open Fall 2006.

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