Carsten Holler Experience At New Museum: Encouraging Psychedelic Journeys In Public Spaces

If you live in NYC or are visiting it soon, get to New Museum by the end of the month if you know what’s good for ya!

Closing January 2nd is this amazing, amazing enveloping psychedelic sculptural Experience, presented by Germany’s Carsten Höller (now living and working in Sweden).

Where else will you see giant life-size multi-colored hippos? Nowhere.
Where else will you be presented with giant tri-shroom composites? Nowhere.

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This is, according to the New Museum website, “the most comprehensive US exhibition to date of the artist’s engaging work.” They continue by saying:

“The current show gathers together a number of the artist’s signature works in an arrangement that transforms the viewer’s experience of time and space. Originally trained as a scientist, Höller is frequently inspired by research and experiments from scientific history and deploys these studies in works that alter the audience’s physical and psychological sensations, inspiring doubt and uncertainty about the world around them. His work often draws on social spaces outside of the museum such as the amusement park, zoo, or playground, but the experiences they provide are always far from our usual expectations of these activities. Höller’s art takes the form of proposals for radical, new ways of living by creating sculptures and diagrams for visionary architecture as well as transportation alternatives, such as his renowned slide installations. These concepts may seem impossible in the present day, but suggest new models for the future.”

This Experience — and its title certainly cannot be stressed enough — is huge. It is a journey, a pychedelic one. You can take a mini photo journey below, thanks to images from Benoit Pailley, but this is obviously a joke compared to the real thing.

Höller surprises visitors with the unconventional riding experience of a Mirror Carousel.

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Giant Psycho Tank is a weightless sensory deprivation pool, giving those who don’t normally seek altered states of mind through such means a socially-acceptable forum to do so.

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Through an Experience Corridor, viewers are given a choice to undertake a number of self-experiments. Wait, and what was this we missed on the New Museum website? “Over the years, the artist has employed psychotropic drugs, flashing lights, and other stimuli to potentially alter the viewer’s mental state,” it says. Think giant mushrooms. Giant. Mushrooms.

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Carsten Höller is onto something. Go and get tripped out before it’s too late. Thanks, sir, for bringing psychedelic art into the mainstream in such a bold and reality-whipping way.

Written by
Vee Hua 華婷婷

Vee Hua 華婷婷 (they/them) is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer with semi-nomadic tendencies. Much of their work unifies their metaphysical interests with their belief that art can positively transform the self and society. They are the Editor-in-Chief of REDEFINE, Interim Managing Editor of South Seattle Emerald, and Co-Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. They also previously served as the Executive Director of the interdisciplinary community hub, Northwest Film Forum, where they played a key role in making the space more welcoming and accessible for diverse audiences.

Vee has two narrative short films. Searching Skies (2017) touches on Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States; with it, they helped co-organize The Seventh Art Stand, a national film and civil rights discussion series against Islamophobia. Reckless Spirits (2022) is a metaphysical, multi-lingual POC buddy comedy for a bleak new era, in anticipation of a feature-length project.

Vee is passionate about cultural space, the environment, and finding ways to covertly and overtly disrupt oppressive structures. They also regularly share observational human stories through their storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE!, and are pursuing a Master’s in Tribal Resource and Environmental Stewardship under the Native American Studies Department at the University of Minnesota.

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Written by Vee Hua 華婷婷
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