Carsten Höller: Doubt. A solo exhibition at Pirelli HangarBicocca

In Events and Exhibitions / February 27, 2016

The exhibition Doubt divides the space at Pirelli HangarBicocca into two halves, which can be accessed through two different entrances. Visitors have to decide for a color, green or yellow, in order to enter. They will find the artworks aligned along  the middle axis of the space. This alignment of works forms a central dividing wall, where visitors will see/experience only half of a given work, and have to remember the half they have seen until they encounter the other half on the other side. More than twenty large-scale works, including Decision Corridors, Double Zöllner Wall, Flying Mushrooms, Double Neon Elevator, Two Flying MachinesLight Corridor and Two Roaming Beds will be exhibited.

On April 7, 2016, Pirelli HangarBicocca will open Doubt a solo exhibition by Carsten Höller. The German artist (b. 1961 in Brussels, based in Stockholm, Sweden and Biriwa, Ghana) has risen to the fore of the international scene for his penetrating inquiry into the nature of human experience. Directly engaging the viewer in his art, Höller’s practice revolves around the search for new ways of inhabiting our world. His work summons upon different states of mind: joy, illusion, and of course, “doubt” which opens the door to new ways of perceiving reality. The show, curated by Vicente Todolí, presents a rich selection of works both existent and new, including large-scale installations, videos and photographs, and plays with the spatial and temporal coordinates of the exhibition venue, charting a course between symmetry, duplication and reversal. Doubt unfolds along twinned, parallel paths that foreground the potential which lies in the moment of decision-making, demanding sensory participation and perceptual focus on part of the viewers. For only the visitors themselves can choose how to approach the exhibition and which path to take.

Carsten Höller, Double Zöllner Wall. Courtesy of the artist and Pirelli HangarBicocca. All rights reserved.
Carsten Höller, Double Zöllner Wall. Courtesy of the artist and Pirelli HangarBicocca. All rights reserved.
Carsten Höller, Flying Mushrooms, 2015. Courtesy of the artist. Photo © Linda Nylind.
Carsten Höller, Flying Mushrooms, 2015. Courtesy of the artist. Photo © Linda Nylind. "Carsten Höller: Decision" at Hayward Gallery at Southbank Centre, London (2015)

In Carsten Höller’s view, choice is inherent to the work of art, and at the very beginning of the exhibition, the installation Y (2003), which is lined with numerous flashing light bulbs and can be walked through in its entirety, raises the question of which way to go. This choice is what determines the shape of “Doubt” both as an individual experience, based on the sensations and memories of each visitor in relation to the space, and as a collective one that allows visitors to observe other people as they interact with the works. As the artist says, “You might have the feeling that you are missing out on something because there is always another possibility, or there is always another way to do it.”

Just after Y, Divisions Wall (2016) comprises two partitions made up of colored sections, each of which halves both the dimensions and the intensity of tone found in the one before. This echoes the mathematical concept of the asymptote, according to which a curve can only approach a straight line by infinite degrees. The contrast between boundary and extension on which this work is based paves the way for the installation Decision Corridors (2015): two mirror-image steel structures, set at different levels, which lead visitors along a dark, maze-like path, where they may lose their sense of orientation and time.

The exhibition layout alternates works that draw on optical experiments—like Double Zöllner Wall (2016), whose illusory pattern characterizes the central part of the show, and Upside-Down Goggles (1994 – ongoing), in which the artist invites visitors to see the world bottom-up—with others that are as playful in nature, like Flying Mushrooms (2015), a mobile structure that allows viewers to interact with giant toadstools, and Two Flying Machines (2015), in which visitors can experience the sensation of flight. The exhibition also invites us to reconsider the meaning of play and participation through Double Carousel (2011), a merry-go-round for adults that gives a sense of euphoria and amazement, while Two Roaming Beds (Grey) (2015), made up of two beds that drift endlessly through the space, suggests a state of meditation.

Yellow/Orange Double Sphere (2016), a hanging light-based work composed of two concentric, flickering colored spheres, one inside the other, interacts with Marquee (2015), a piece by Philippe Parreno from the exhibition previously on view at Pirelli HangarBicocca, Hypothesis, which runs through February 14, 2016. This overlap between the two exhibitions suggests an idea of collaboration linked to the practice of both artists, who since the 1990s have explored the concepts of participation and authorship. The exhibition Doubt is accompanied by a catalogue, edited by Vicente Todolí, that includes extensive photographic documentation of the show and a double analysis of the works on view.

Carsten Höller, Decision Corridors, 2015. Courtesy of the artist, 2015 © Carsten Höller. Photo © Linda Nylind.
Carsten Höller, Decision Corridors, 2015. Courtesy of the artist, 2015 © Carsten Höller. Photo © Linda Nylind. "Carsten Höller: Decision" at Hayward Gallery at Southbank Centre, London (2015)

Additional Information

About Carsten Höller: Having originally been trained as a phytopathologist, Carsten Höller holds a doctorate in agricultural science with a specialization in chemical ecology. In the early 1990s, Höller abandoned his scientific career to devote himself to art. Over the last twenty years he has shown his work in many international art institutions, such as: Hayward Gallery – Southbank Centre, London (2015); Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna (2014); New Museum, New York (2011); Hamburger Bahnhof Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (2011); ICA, Boston (2003); Fondazione Prada, Milan (2000). In 2006, he presented the installation Test Site as part of The Unilever Series at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. He has also participated in major international art festivals, including four editions of the Venice Biennale (2015, 2009, 2005, 2003).

The exhibition program at Pirelli HangarBicoccaDoubt is part of the exhibition program conceived by Vicente Todolí for Pirelli HangarBicocca. The show by Carsten Höller is presented in the Navate parallel to the project XXI Esposizione Internazionale della Triennale di Milano 21st Century: Design After Design, housed in the Shed (April 2September 12, 2016). In the Navate, the Pirelli HangarBicocca calendar will continue with planned exhibitions by Kishio Suga (September 2016 – January 2017), Miroslaw Balka (March – July 2017), Lucio Fontana (September 2017 – January 2018), Matt Mullican (February – July 2018). The Shed space will be featuring exhibitions by Laure Prouvost (October 2016 – February 2017), and Maria Nordman (April – September 2017).

 

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