That's all it took to convince me that I just had to visit the Carsten Höller: Decision exhibition at London's Hayward Gallery. I know, I'm such an easy target. But come on: GIANT SLIDES!
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not really what one would call an art aficionado. When I think of art galleries I tend to think of pristine rooms with stark white walls, filled with people who glare at you if you so much as sniffle. But luckily, every once in a while an exhibition comes along which shatters my preconceived notions of the art world. Case in point: a few months ago there was an art exhibition in London which involved a giant ball pit exclusively for adults. I have no idea what the artistic message was there, but who really cares: it's a giant ball pit for adults! Some people even held business meetings in the ball pit, making them a shoe-in for Company of the Year. Sadly, I never made it to the exhibition and am still kicking myself for it. Take it from me, ball pit regret is the worst!
So when I spotted those gloriously giant slides on the Southbank which form part of Carsten Höller's latest exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, I knew I had to go. Any excuse for my inner child to frolic about in the name of art!
The exhibition itself is incredibly hands-on. As soon as my adventure buddy and I arrive, we're ushered into a pitch black hallway. We then proceed to grope and flinch our way through the twists and turns until finally we reach the end of the tunnel. As we emerge from the darkness, we find ourselves transported to a world which is essentially Alice in Wonderland meets The Matrix.
Höller's work tends to be quite playful, often providing visitors with various interactive installations that they can experiment with. Basically, it's like Disneyland for adults, cleverly disguised as art. At one point we're invited to strap a pair of "Upside Down Goggles" to our heads. The goggles are fitted with mirrored lenses which invert one's vision, causing the world to appear as if it's been turned upside down. The result is pretty disorienting but delightfully fun.
Sexy and I know it. Trying out the upside-down goggles (notice anything strange about my eyes?)
Also in the gallery are two robotic twin beds which roam around "like a pair of restless, insomniac twins." My personal verdict: they are creepy as shit. I'm genuinely convinced that those beds are going to sneak into my house one night while I'm asleep and murder me. But apparently not everyone feels this way, because the gallery actually offers select visitors the chance to sleep in the beds overnight as they continue to roam the floor and plot their attempt to overthrow mankind.
Moving swiftly along from the Roaming Beds of Doom, we come to an installation which allows visitors to be strapped into a harness and soar over the Southbank. This proves to be one of the main draws of the exhibition and we're both keen to give it a go. Sadly, this Disneyland for adults is not without its occasional downside, and when the attendant informs us that the wait is over an hour we decide to give it a miss.
After exploring a few more quirky installations (have you ever tried putting a vibrator to your arm whilst pinching your nose? Because I now have) it's finally time for the main event: the slides. I've got to admit, never has exiting an art gallery been so exciting. The ride down lasts all of about 6 seconds, but it's 6 seconds on a giant slide, so you won't hear any complaints from me.
All in all, it's been a great day of exploration, slight terror (I'll be having roaming bed nightmares for weeks), and excellent fun. If you ever find yourself looking for something to do one rainy Saturday afternoon in London, I'd highly recommend giving this exhibition a go.
THE FACTS: Booking in advance is strongly advised. You can buy tickets at the gallery, but entry times are pre-assigned and slots tend to fill up quickly, so you might get stuck waiting around for a few hours before you're able to enter the exhibition. Check the website for times and ticket prices. Also note that some of the queues for certain parts of the installation can be a bit long, so be prepared to stand in line.
Many thanks to the Hayward Gallery for kindly providing me access to the exhibition. As always, thoughts and opinions are my own.