Carsten Höller – LEBEN
July 11, 2014–January 4, 2015 | TBA21–Augarten, Vienna
January 11, 2014 – January 4, 2015

Carsten Höller – LEBEN
Installation view: Carsten Höller – LEBEN, TBA21, Vienna 2014
Photo: Irina Gavrich, © Carsten Höller

Carsten Höller’s exhibition LEBEN at TBA21–Augarten is conceived as an experimental parcours. It 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. As an extension of the exhibition, the iconic work Y (2003) was installed in the Upper Belvedere’s stunning Marble Hall.
Surreal giant hybrid mushrooms, a functional flotation tank that enables corporeal stasis, a clock that gives the time only at select intervals, dream-enhancing toothpaste, and an elevated bed available for overnight booking—all these works play a part in Carsten Höller’s exhibition LEBEN to let visitors experience a different kind of logic, one that is far from habitual. However, what is at stake? Which use and practice is being proposed, if indeed the new rules of a hitherto unknown logic essentially seem to cause confusion? Only this much seems clear: the rules adopted by the visitors relate to the large and universal communality of existence and aliveness, and the knowledge of both. At the same time, the works thought of as tools provide the possibility of perceiving rudimentary and everyday activities (sleeping, bathing) differently than usual. They take place in a space, context and condition that no longer complies with a utilitarian rationale.

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 a collaboration with Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom. The bed is mounted on a platform, which can be raised to different heights, up to 3.5 meters, allowing guests to spend the night perched high above the other works in the 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 specially prepared in a local Viennese pharmacy, based on an original recipe devised by Höller and the perfumer Ben Gorham.

The water in High Psycho Tank contains a high concentration of Epsom salts. Visitors can undress and immerse themselves in the floatation tank, experiencing 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 hangs the Gimpelwaage; where two pairs of trained bullfinches in two balanced aviaries whistle a melody that integrates into the leading 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 Giant Multiple Mushrooms. The two oversize fungi, one mature and the other still developing, are composed of four split mushroom bodies. They constitute a surreal moment of hybridity.

As an extension of the exhibition at TBA21-Augarten and an additional experience for visitors, a special installation of the iconic work Y (2003), a split passageway encircled by a seemingly infinite halo of flashing white lightbulbs, was shown in cooperation with Vienna’s Belvedere in the spectacular Marble Hall. Y, which is from the collection of TBA21, articulates the dilemma of individual choice as a question of contingency.
With the exhibition LEBEN, TBA21–Augarten and the surrounding natural setting turn into a place for experimentation with life itself, as well as a field of collective action and shared responsibility introduced to visitors. The exhibits are conceived as a form of laboratory equipment, as unsaturated artworks, which become complete and understood only when activated and engaged with by exhibition visitors. Consequently, they enable new and illogical experiences of the activities of life itself.

The career of Carsten Höller is a considerably unusual one. Originally a student of agricultural science, he excelled in phytopathology with a graduating thesis examining the odor communication between insects. During this scientific work, he began an artistic career through the implementation of his scientific experiments into his aesthetic undertakings and creative projects. 1993 marked his inaugural participation in the Venice Biennial and shortly after representing Sweden in 2005 (along with Miriam Bäckström). Other important mentions of Höller’s expositions include the Expo 2000 in Hannover (with Rosemarie Trockel), the slide installation Test Site at the Tate Modern in London in 2006, the presentation of the Revolving Hotel Room at the Guggenheim, New York in 2010, the exhibition “SOMA” at Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin in the same year and “Experience” at the New Museum, New York in 2011. Carsten Höller lives and works in both Stockholm, Sweden and Biriwa, Ghana.
Carsten Höller – Leben
Edited by Daniela Zyman, TBA21
Contributions by Alfred Höller, Carsten Höller, Daniela Zyman

Sternberg Press, Berlin
2014, English/German
14.8 x 29.7 cm, 96 pages, 5 b/w and 36 color ill., wire binding
ISBN 978-3-95679-080-5
Curated By
Daniela Zyman
July 11, 2014–January 4, 2015
 TBA21–Augarten, Scherzergasse 1A, 1020 Vienna, Austria
Supported by
Wiener Städtische Versicherungsverein