Exhibition Review: Decision by Carsten Höller

Photo: @hausofraus

Everyday life is terrifying. Forget spiders and bumps in the night: the idea that we will stop doing things that make us happy, or curious, or empowered, just because some invisible force deems it the norm, is truly scary. Who could we be if we just let go?

My dad and his girlfriend [Kim] think and act so differently to me, yet always have respect for what I enjoy and am passionate about. I was overjoyed (yet mainly surprised) when my father bluntly told me he had bought tickets for us and my sister to go to Decision, Höller’s latest interactive exhibit, after our annual musical trip. I was going to question them every step of the way.

The exhibit starts with two optional entrances, full of winding dark tunnels, leading to confusion and giggles from us all. Decision revolves around decision making and what this says about ourselves. I teased them all on what door to go through. My sister and Kim conversed excitedly, agreeing on the left door: ‘the left side of the brain is the creative part!’. My dad agreed left too, as he is a ‘lefty’ and naturally does everything to the left. Yet, when we got there, only the right door was open, and even though I asked (and was told we could go through the left door) and protested, they all went through the right. Why?

As the exhibit continued I learned so much about my family. Kim was left shocked, pondering what could possibly be in the red and white pill we were asked to take (which of course, shocker: I was the only one who did).

‘They couldn’t possibly give us anything to harm us’

‘Why didn’t you take it then?’

‘….like cyanide’

My dad instantly got defensive for my sister, telling her she didn’t have to ‘anything you don’t want to’. I started giving him scenarios like ‘If I said ‘let’s run through that fountain now’ would you?’ and he would be logical about it, not understanding my pleasure. In one hall a row of people are sat down with vibrating machines aimed at changing the perceptions of how you see your nose, yet my dad looked at it once, commented ‘No, not for me’ and was gone.

We all talked throughout, and at the end there were 3 options: leave ‘normally’, or take one of two giant twisting slides constricting the outside walls. The final test of my family and their decision making. And they went! They let go, and their shrieks of laughter showed the power of this exhibit, this wonderful place where everything is new. It made me realize that my family aren’t just robots: their decision making shows just as much terror and curiosity as mine. They just need someone to give them that push… to let go.

Höller’s exhibit at the Hayward Gallery has now closed, but he regularly produces exhibits all around the world. You can see a pictorial review of this exhibit (including all that I described) in The Londoner.

By Robert Bone

The Verse Staff

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