Carsten Höller, Hayward Gallery

carsten slides

As a child I always imagined having a slide from my bedroom window down to the garden…it would have been the ultimate escape route from homework or bedtime. When I first saw the curly, shiny silver slides protruding from the Hayward Gallery I remembered my childhood dream happily. This fun installation is part of the Carsten Höller exhibition currently showing at Southbank’s favourite art space.

This is the Belgian artists largest survey show in the UK to date, showcasing a range of his weird and wacky inventions. Visitors are encouraged to engage with the exhibits, in fact Höller seems to consider the viewer and their actions as part of the artwork itself. The entrance is mysterious and immediately all-consuming as you enter into a pitch black tunnel – with disconcerting turns, all you can feel is the cold steel against your desperately searching hands. I found it quite unpleasant and was pleased to emerge into the light at the other end.

The exhibition is titled ‘Decision’, a theme which continues through all the works. You must decide when and how to participate. Some works are successful others less so, as is true in most interactive exhibitions. The frequent tedious waiting in line did rather dampen the excitement in some cases. There is an opportunity to fly over the traffic in ‘Two Flying Machines’, see the world upside down with ‘Upside Down Goggles’ or experience a sixth sense in ‘The Pinocchio Effect’.

The beauty of randomness is also explored. Red and white pills drop from the ceiling in three second intervals in ‘Pill Clock’. The pills land in a pile, which guests can pick up or ignore, by the end of the exhibition there will be 1.2 million pills deposited onto the floor. In ‘Two Roaming Beds’ Höller investigates the madness of dreams. The two beds creep around the gallery, empty during the day but occupied by members of the public at night.

It is the futuristic escape route that provided the most excitement for me though. The Isomeric Slides were created as ‘a sculpture you can travel inside’. This piece of art is both aesthetic and functional as a thrilling gallery exit, swooshing you quickly back to reality after the funfair of Carsten Höller surprises.

Book ahead and be prepared to queue for the popular participation pieces.

Continues until 6 September 2015, book here.

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