Carsten Höller’s impressive tubular metal sculptures are certainly his best-known body of work. Spectators are invited to take a joyful ride in his corkscrewing slides, which provoke simultaneous sensations of anxiety, freedom, and excitement—responses that are unusual in the traditional
museum or gallery setting.
Höller is part of a generation of artists who want to reimagine the experience of art. Behind his career as an artist, he has an unusual background, with a doctorate in agricultural science, and specializing in the olfactory communication strategies of insects. As a sculptor and installation artist, Höller creates situations that destabilize the spectator’s sense of control and visual perception. His objective is to enable the spectator to experience the familiar anew. To do so, he creates situations that often remind gallery visitors of the apparatus in a scientific laboratory, inviting them to become the subjects of the experiment. At one point in his career, large sculptural mushrooms became his trademark. Since then, however, he has featured many other elements in his work, such as animals, toys, the double, vehicles, a sensory deprivation pool, eyewear, narcotics, food, and a range of other methods to synchronize or manipulate the moods and emotions of the audience.
At the 56th Biennale di Venezia, Höller is represented with a series of new photographic collages that offer an insight into his visionary ideas. These images respond to the architecture of Accra, Ghana, and highlight its utopian qualities. Also exhibited is his Fara Fara, a two-channel video installation, each channel dedicated to one of two rival musicians from Kinshasa’s vibrant music scene. This presentation alludes to a long-standing tradition in Congolese music in which two rival musicians perform simultaneously with their respective bands, each trying to animate and impress the crowd, which can include more than 150,000 people. Fara Fara shows the immense power and beauty of Congolese music while offering insightful observations on the context, history, and political impact of this specific subculture. A highlight of his presentation at the Biennale is RB Ride, a colorful, continuous carousel car ride that has been modified to run so slowly (taking fifteen minutes to complete a full rotation) that its riders can mount and dismount while it is moving.