I made the decision to go to Carsten Höller’s ‘Decision’ as soon as I saw the pictures of the flying machine you could go on. Any exhibition that has something like that is my sort of exhibition. More on the flying machine later.
We began by walking through almost pitch black corridors, using our hands on the walls to navigate the surroundings. I found this bit really fun and was slightly sad when it was over and we reached the first room, but soon forgot about the corridors when I got to push a contraption with mushroom parts around in a circle.
After the mushrooms, there was a room with a pile of red and white pills on the floor that were dropping from the ceiling. One of the gallery assistants told us to take one, a woman asked him what was in them and he said ‘flour and glucose, it will give you energy.’ So we thought, ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ and took one of the pills.
After the pills, there were a variety of exhibits, including a bug, two engorged snakes, a video about music in the Congo (with two screens, sometimes with differing perspectives of what was happening), a video of a forest on a 3D headset, twin beds, upside down goggles (which were incredibly disorientating) and a gigantic dice. This excited me, as I used to be so obsessed with dice that I would collect them. Unfortunately only children were allowed to climb inside.
Finally we reached the flying machines outside, where you are up in the air, flying round in a circle, and were told the wait was around an hour. I wished I hadn’t left my jumper and jacket in the lockers, but since it was the main reason I wanted to come, my stubbornness meant we had to wait. When watching other people on them (some of which seemed to really enjoy it, some not so much), I thought the rides should be shorter so that the queue wouldn’t be as long, but once I got up there I realised that you don’t want to come down; it’s strangely relaxing and you get into a sort of contemplative and meditative state. After doing a few fun poses for photos, of course.
Last were the slides, which were like those water slides at swimming pools but with no water. I found out that I should have left my bag in the lockers, as the gallery assistant almost didn’t want me to go on due to health and safety and made me swear to accept responsibility for any injury. I’m not sure what she thought was going to happen as the slides were more than big enough to accommodate myself and my bag. It may have made me go faster though, I don’t know. The sliding felt like it was over way too quickly.
The health and safety rules in the exhibition were generally peculiar. At the flying machines a woman came along with a headscarf and the gallery assistant told her she may wait for ages only to find out at the front of the queue that she would have to take her headscarf off to go on. I’m not sure why she wouldn’t be able to put the helmet on top, it’s not like she had a massive head or a Carmen Miranda style fruit display going on. She understandably didn’t look happy with this and decided not to wait. Yet there was no warning to diabetics not to take the pills earlier on (which turned out to be classic placebo sugar pills that didn’t make us larger, smaller, or noticeably different in any way).
The booklet says that ‘Decision’ is about ‘transporting people between different physical and psychological states’, bringing about ‘moments of not knowing’. This was definitely true, and made it stand out from other art exhibitions. I particularly enjoyed the interactive nature and would like to see more of that in general, as it evokes the idea of art not being finished until someone has experienced it. The ‘Alice in Wonderland’ vibe was a nice touch as well and made it feel like a mini adventure. It’s only on for one more day, so go tomorrow if you want to take random pills, fly through the air and slide back down to earth.
Carsten Höller, ‘Decision’, 10 June – 6 September 2015, Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, £13.50 Standard Non Gift Aid Entry