It’s never about irony – even if, according to Carsten Höller, it is impossible to go down a slide without smiling.
THE WORLD is a playground. The 58-meter slide installed in Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern Gallery in London between 2006 and 2007 was called Test Site: fi- nanced by Unilever, it was one of the seven works commissioned in the Unilever Series. Today similar slide playfully dominates Prada’s Milanese offices. Carsten Höller transforms the world into a place where anything is possible and where fantasy has no limits of reason or normality.
THE SHOW Doubt was open to the public at Hangar Bicocca in Milan until the end of July and the Two Roaming Beds (Grey) installation was an episode of it. I sent two Lampooners to sleep inside the Hangar. The two beds moved in space, tracing graphic shapes on the floor, perhaps following the magnetic lines emanated by a fluoride-al- tered dream. I wouldn’t have slept in the Hangar: I just accompanied the two Lam- pooners like a parent accompanying the kids to a party, and I would have returned to pick them up after the party was over. We are in Höller’s semiotics. I was late: riding my motorbike, I was held in check by invisible restraints so I wouldn’t race across the intersection at red lights. Höller was waiting for me at the door. A phytopathologist born in Brussels in 1961, Höller currently lives and works in both Stockholm and Biri- wa, Ghana. He has a PhD in Agricultural Science and graduated with a thesis on the olfactive communication between insects. He is also specialized in chemical ecology.
WHEN A MAN descends a long, round slide, tumbling along the way, he not only has fun, but he also feels fear, irritation, exertion, and physical pleasure. A hu- man being is distracted by all of this on a slide, and with this precise amount of distraction – a combination of the right amount of fun and tension on the slide – Carsten Höller feels it is the right moment for slipping beneath any attempt to understand reality.
IT’S NEVER ABOUT IRONY – even if Höller says that it’s impossible to go down a slide without smiling. He’s the Willy Wonka of contemporary art and the infinite col- umn of Brancusi. A kind of voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind – wrote Roger Caillois in the fifties, describing a slide.
AS CHILDREN, we have too many things to do: we are so distracted – a kite to fly, a marble to roll, a word to say. «Try thinking of a wave in the sea and then quickly think of snow.» You laugh like a child. «Silence closes your ears, right? Go ahead. Try it.» If Carsten Höller were a fictional character in my book, I’d imagine him in Venice, on the verge of courageous deeds, wide awake for a thousand nights in a thousand corners. The steps of the Chiesa della Salute, a marble stage and a white waltz. I’d imagine him there, as if he were still waiting for me. He’d tell me not to pay too much attention to others and to not believe what others tell you… «You only live once. If it’s true that you only live once, at least this time, you have to live this life.» He’d tell me… «When you walk beside a person who has always known you and you feel a shiver because you’re moved seeing him walk there next to you, without a reason, don’t stop that tear from falling. Don’t try to understand it. Simply, do everything, fight, and beg, so you won’t find yourself shedding all your tears in one day – on the day that person dies.»
PHOTOGRAPHY ALEX JOHN BECK TALENT CARSTEN HÖLLER