Carsten Höller 

// THYSSEN-BORNEMISZA VIENNA

In 2014, Tim Power was invited to stay the night in Vienna, in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21-Augarten).

The Exhibition

LEBEN pivots around a selection of works— some drawn from TBA21’s collection of contemporary art and others commissioned and conceived especially for the exhibition—that invite specific forms of interaction, induce moods and affects, and generate « oriented » behaviors. One of the treasures of the TBA21 collection by Höller, entitled Y, is installed in the spectacular Marble Hall of the Upper Belvedere. This amusement fair-like tunnel spins around the visitor like a vortex. Y-shaped, it articulates the dilemma of individual choice as a question of contingency, with which visitors can also decide, or not, to continue their parcours of the exhibition at TBA21–Augarten.

There, they encounter an ensemble of familiar devices, tools, constructions, and objects that have the unusual capacity to orient, model, and intercept, creating both a physical and conceptual space of experimentation. Surreal giant hybrid mushrooms, a functional flotation tank that enables corporeal stasis, a clock giving the time only at selected intervals, dream-enhancing toothpastes, and a bed that can be elevated to up to 3.5 meters in the air, lead the exhibition visitors through a transforming experience that is about unlearning, dreaming, drifting, and dancing. In cooperation with Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom, the Elevator Bed can be booked overnight and offers guests a unique and solitary overnight experience in the foundation’s exhibition grounds in Vienna’s lush Augarten Park.

Works in the exhibition

Elevator Bed (2010), the central element within the exhibition space, is as much a proposition as it is an installation. It can be booked on a nightly basis by prospective guests through Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom. The bed is mounted on a turning platform, which can be raised to different heights, up to a maximum of 3.5 meters, and allows guests to spend the night perched high above the other works in exhibition hall. Before going to sleep, guests are instructed to brush their teeth with Insensatus Vol. 1 Fig. 1; a dream-inducing series of toothpastes exclusively prepared by the Saint Charles pharmacy in Vienna, based on an original recipe devised by Höller and the perfumer Ben Gorham of Byredo.


carsten_höller_Elevator-Bed_up


The water in High Psycho Tank contains a high concentration of Epsom salts. Visitors can undress, nudity is mandatory, and immerse themselves in the floatation tank to experience a sense of weightlessness and sensory equilibrium. The exhibition is accompanied and structured by Half Clock, a newly created work that functions as both a utilitarian time display and a seemingly illogical conundrum, with its apparent ability to alternately speed up or slow down the passage of time. High above the heads of viewers, two pairs of trained bullfinches housed within a set of balanced aviaries form the Bullfinch Scale, and whistle a melody that becomes part of the soundtrack of the show.

The newly created film installation Fara Fara shows auditions and rehearsals for a musical clash between two stars of the vibrant Congolese music scene. The work introduces themes of duality and juxtaposition. Similar themes of duplication and division are prominent in Höller’s Vienna Twins. Here, two identical siblings lead a completely logical, and at the same time confusing, conversation with a rhythmic and repetitive structure. Outside, on the Augarten grounds, a moment of visual dissection is captured sculpturally in the Giant Multiple Mushrooms. The two oversized fungi, one mature and the other still developing, are composed of four split mushroom bodies and constitute a surreal moment of hybridity.

A special installation of the iconic work Y (2003); a split passageway encircled by a seemingly infinite halo of white light bulbs, is presented in the Upper Belvedere. Remaining stationary, the structure appears to be spinning in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction, depending on the direction of the light sequence, and draws viewers into it. Höller created this work in 2003 for Dreams and Conflicts. Delays and Revolution shown in the Italian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.