Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New Museum - Carsten Höller - New experience

New Museum - picture of the façade (from the museum's website)
Today I went with a friend to see a totally different kind of exhibition at the New Museum. It had been a while since I wanted to visit this museum, mainly because of its architecture. The building was completed in 2007 and designed by Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, who won the Pritzker Price in 2010 (this is the equivalent to a Nobel price for Architecture).

The museum is the only one in Manhattan specialized exclusively in contemporary art. By looking at the picture above, you may see that the architecture of the building is quite simple and looks like piled up boxes. Inside is no different. The rooms are white, windowless and spacious. And the museum doesn't have a permanent collection. All these features makes it very attractive for contemporary exhibitions that usually require more space. And this is exactly the case for the one they are currently showing, Carsten Höller: Experience.

The description of the exhibition in the museum's website will explain much better than I will what it's all about. But, basically, the artist wants the public to interact with his art by "experiencing" time and space. So he plays with the viewers senses throughout the whole exhibition. The main works exposed included a carousel, a "Giant Psycho Tank", a fake corridor that would make you dizzy when the walls moved and a huge slide going down from the 4th floor to the 2nd floor. There are also some strange goggles that have mirrors inside, so they make you see everything upside down.

Here's my point of view. The carousel is the opposite of a traditional carousel. It's all white, there is no music and it turns at a very tedious pace - thus quite boring. The tank is a huge white box where you can go inside and float in saline water - I didn't try it so I can't comment on that. But the idea would be that after going there you would feel very relaxed and weightless. We asked a girl that had just been inside and she didn't look very convinced about those sensations. The goggles are interesting, but just for 5 minutes. Finally, the slide is fantastic. It goes very fast and it makes some unexpected turns at some point. Really really fun. It is worth going just for the slide. 

I was telling my friend while we were at the museum that sometimes I have some difficulty to understand contemporary art. I know that artists use Art as a way to express themselves, their feelings, their views on a certain matter or to make us feel something new, look into an object through a different point of view, make us aware of a dysfunction in our modern societies and so on. But I have to confess that I don't always get the artists' messages and I usually feel that their work is a little bit pointless (I'm referring here to current artists).

However, I still want to learn about contemporary art. So here's something that I've been willing to do for some time and I hope I'll start to do soon: visit art galleries that are specialized on the subject, but with someone that understands it and explains it to me. As I said in a previous post, we need to educate our eyes so they can become more sensible and appreciate new forms of Art and sometimes it takes some time and studying. So maybe this is what I've been missing.

The slide between the 4th and 3rd floor with someone inside
Me using the Upside Down Goggles


  1. what do you think on hiring someone who could do it with small groups?
    This exhibition/experience in already on my plans!

  2. Carla, I think it would be a great idea.

  3. I have emailed a friend who does tours.
    Let's try to put that together!