Carsten Höller’s slides: A fun way to experience museums

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Carsten Höller - Test Site, 2007, New Museum, New York - Exhibition Experience, 2011

Carsten Höller – Test Site, 2007, New Museum, New York – Exhibition: Experience, 2011, photo: Benoit Pailley

Published: August 17, 2017

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Carsten Höller & his work

Carsten Höller is well known for playfully including his slide installations in major museums across the world. Höller, who is formerly a scientist with a degree in agronomy, is famous for repurposing components of the real world, such as slides, for art spaces. The majority of his works feature aesthetics that are relational, meaning that the projects created are inspired by the relationship that people have with their social contexts. The end result of Höller’s incredible work is an experience that resembles part playground and part lab, which is a crowd-pleaser.

Höller’s slides: Playful and dissident

Höller stages quasi-scientific experiments that affect the audience’s state of perception; his slides cause participants to question their relationship with ordinary things that surround them, with other people around them and with themselves. As such, all of the slides are both playful and dissident, creating an experience that is enjoyable and unnerving.

Carsten Höller said:

There must be a reason why we don’t remember early childhood. Maybe it is genetic, maybe it is something else…”

Video: Carsten Höller introduces Left/Right Slide

5 min 34 sec

Transforming museums into anarchic and utopian environments

By opening up places that were traditionally considered to be serious, Carsten Höller creates an anarchic and utopian environment that enables people to relate to each other and the art situated in the gallery freely. Because of the fascinating slides, people are reborn and are able to create new human relations in a space that suspends social order. Undoubtedly, the experience of sliding down the humongous pieces of art is exhilarating in itself; however, audiences do not have to grasp the significance of the slides by sliding down them.

Video: Carsten Höller speaks at the NGV Melbourne

54 min 55 sec

Conclusion

His body of work is popular with audiences and attracts large groups from different parts of the world. Visitors seem to delight in his artworks because it allows them to experience art that can be looked at and touched. The works created are all-encompassing, meaning that it is also possible to experience the pieces through other attendees. Alternatively, the pieces can also be enjoyed through contemplation or from an outsider’s view.

Höller’s slides

The Florence Experiment, 2018, Florence
Carsten Höller - The Florence Experiment, 2018, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

Carsten Höller – The Florence Experiment, 2018, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, photo: Martino Margheri

Carsten Höller - The Florence Experiment, 2018, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

Carsten Höller – The Florence Experiment, 2018, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, photo: Martino Margheri

Aventura Slide Tower, 2018, Miami

Crossing the Atlantic, Carsten Höller takes his gigantic slides to Miami, precisely at the Aventura Mall. The imposing slide features two tunnels through which visitors can race against each other down the 93-foot slide.

Accessed only through its corkscrew staircase, located on the opposite side of the slide, visitors can descend at 15 miles per hour.

This installation was meant to help the Aventura Mall increase the number of visitors and help it ride through the challenging retail industry. It should be noted that this also the second-largest mall in the United States.

Aventura Mall slide is one of Höller’s few installations that are not around and or in a museum.

The artist said in an interview with Artnet News:

I like artworks that are not necessarily only an artwork. I like the idea of putting work into the context that is not a museum.

According to Höller, the slide took two years from idea to completion. He collaborated with a team of engineers to design and build it in line with the US safety regulations.

Isomeric Slides, 2015, Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London

20 sec

43 sec

For his second London installation, Höller filled the Hayward Gallery with a pair of spiral slides. Both the indoor and outdoor structures allowed visitors to ride over the Waterloo Bridge and experience the London landscape through upside-down goggles.

Besides the slides, the exhibition also features several interactive installations that offer new ways to experience the gallery space.

Speaking about Holler’s work, the director of Hayward Gallery Mr. Ralph Rugoff said:

Almost every piece in this exhibition has a wonderful, mischievous playfulness to it…it is trying to give us the chance to have a fresh way of experiencing and perceiving the phenomena we encounter in the world around us.

In addition to Holler’s earlier work Upside-Down Goggles, the gallery’s terraces also feature several installations called Two Flying Machines, which propels visitors above the Southbank Center, and the newest installation titled Decision Corridors.

Vitra Slide Tower, 2014, Weil am Rhein, Germany

1 min 24 sec

Höller also helped Vitra add to its burgeoning collection of spectacular buildings and structures within its campus.

This new structure offers two ways to view Vitra Campus – from the top deck, where you stand and enjoy the vistas of the surrounding and from dizzying descent through the slides, where everything is whisked up in a dizzy cocktail before you are shot out at the base.

Standing at 30.7 meters, this slide comprises a slanted trivet of columns that support the glass-roofed slide.

In addition to an observation deck, the top of the slide also has a clock-like object high above, indicating time, or maybe it is just an extrapolation of one of the columns. Either way, every twelve hours, the hand in the clock forms the Vitra logo. That, along with the fact that it also rotates on its axis, symbolizes time without actually enabling a practical reading of it.

ArcelorMittal Orbit, 2012, London

Billed as the tallest and longest tunnel slide on the planet, ArcelorMittal Orbit was designed by Holler at the request of Anish Kapoor. It comprises 30 sections measuring between 16 and 30 feet and spirals down 12 times at 15 meters per hour in 40-second descent.

The slide is located in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and was completed in 2012.

Unsurprisingly, this was not the first time Holler installed a slide in London, having placed one at the Hayward Gallery and another at Tate Modern.

The slides are a way of hurling visitors into a state of “simultaneous delight, madness, and voluptuous panic.”

When the idea for this slide was conceived, it was supposed to help increase the Olympic Park earnings. The park authority even projected revenue of 1.2 million pounds annually. Instead, the slide was quite a flop and cost an additional ten thousand pounds a week to maintain.

Nevertheless, visitors are promised adrenaline-infused experience when they descent this gigantic metal steel. The transparent sections of the slide’s roof allow you to catch hazy glimpses of London’s skyline.

Left/Right Slide, 2010, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane
Carsten Höller - Left:Right Slide 2010, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, photo Natasha Harth

Carsten Höller – Left/Right Slide, 2010, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, photo: Natasha Harth

Carsten Höller – Left/Right Slide, 2010, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, photo: Natasha Harth

Double Slide, 2009, Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb
Carsten Höller - Double Slide, Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, Croatia, photo Myriam Thyes

Carsten Höller – Double Slide, Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, Croatia, photo: Myriam Thyes, Msu-zagreb-shute, CC BY-SA 3.0

Carsten Höller - Double Slide, Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, photo JasonParis

Carsten Höller – Double Slide, Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, Croatia, photo: JasonParis, Double slide, CC BY 2.0

Test Site, 2007, New Museum, New York

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Carsten Höller - Test Site, 2007, New Museum, New York - Exhibition Experience, 2011

Carsten Höller – Test Site, 2007, New Museum, New York – Exhibition: Experience, 2011, photo: Benoit Pailley

In 2007, Höller turned the New Museum into an amusement park in a bid to take the New York museum lovers on a thrilling ride. It was so packed with adrenaline that you had to sign a waiver first at the entrance before you experience the ride.

“The artworks are recreational,” that is the stern warning that welcomed you. Choosing to interact with them comes at your “own risk, even though such interactions are potentially hazardous.”

Nevertheless, that caution did not prevent people from having fun on this gigantic 102-foot slide.

The funhouse attractions here included a tubular steel spiral that began at the fourth level of the museum and ended on the second floor, Upside-Down Goggles ride, and a slightly rotating mirror carousel.

Test Site, 2006, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern
Carsten Höller - Test Site, 2006, Installation view (Unilever Series - Carsten Höller, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London 2006), dimension variable

Carsten Höller – Test Site, 2006, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London, photo: public domain

Test Site was an installation from 2006 that mixed spectacle, childishness, and sculpture, located at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. This time, Höller installed five gigantic stainless steel slides lunging down the museum hall, one of which descends from five stories above.

While the previous slides were installed outdoors, Test Site was located indoors, which, according to Höller, posed some logistic and mechanical problems.

The expansive size of the turbine hall and the presence of the ramp and bridge made it difficult for Höller and his team to work on this project. But while other artists have found a way to work around the problem, Höller was not keen to copy what they have done.

You cannot work with sound because [Bruce] Nauman had done it; you cannot make a big light at the end because [Olafur] Eliasson has done it. I decided right from the beginning that I wanted to work with the height of the hall, not so much the length. And I was confident with slides because I have done them before. But the bridge is a problem, in the middle of everything. For Rachel Whiteread’s Embankment, for instance, it was somehow in the way. But we will have all the slides landing under the bridge, to wake up this space. At the moment, it looks as though the architect forgot about it, but I will make it very special.

In the end, Höller managed to pull off a masterclass. The slides were wide enough for people of all sizes and the roof was translucent to allow spectacular vistas of the surrounding landscape.

Slide at Prada, 2000, The Milan headquarters
Carsten Höller - slide at Prada, The Milan headquarters, Italy, Miuccia Prada's office with entrance to slide

Carsten Höller – Slide at Prada, The Milan headquarters, Italy, Miuccia Prada’s office with entrance to slide

Carsten Höller - slide at Prada, The Milan headquarters, Italy, starting in Miuccia Prada’s office

Carsten Höller – Slide at Prada, The Milan headquarters, Italy, Miuccia Prada’s office with entrance to slide

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