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Exhibition of the work of artist Carsten Höller opens at Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary
Carsten Höller, Y, 2003. Photo: Jen Fong Photography / TBA21 © Carsten Höller / Bildrecht Wien 2014.

VIENNA.- Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary and the Belvedere, Vienna, announce their first ever collaboration presenting LEBEN, an exhibition of the work of the Belgian-German artist Carsten Höller. LEBEN 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. One of the treasures of the TBA21 collection by Höller, entitled Y, is installed in the spectacular Marble Hall of the Upper Belvedere. This amusement fair-like tunnel spins around the visitor like a vortex. Y-shaped, it articulates the dilemma of individual choice as a question of contingency, with which visitors can also decide, or not, to continue their tour of the exhibition at TBA21–Augarten. There, they encounter an ensemble of familiar devices, tools, constructions, and objects that have the unusual capacity to orient, model, and intercept, creating both a physical and conceptual space of experimentation. Surreal giant hybrid mushrooms, a functional flotation tank that enables corporeal stasis, a clock giving the time only at selected intervals, dream-enhancing toothpastes, and a bed that can be elevated to up to 3.5 meters in the air, lead the exhibition visitors through a transforming experience that is about unlearning, dreaming, drifting, and dancing. In cooperation with Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom, the Elevator Bed can be booked overnight and offers guests a unique and solitary overnight experience in the foundation’s exhibition grounds in Vienna’s Augarten Park.

“With the exhibition LEBEN, TBA21–Augarten and the surrounding natural setting turn into a place for experimentation with life itself, with the essentials of singular life, as well as a field of collective action and shared responsibility. The exhibits are conceived as a form of laboratory equipment, as unsaturated artworks, which become complete and understood when activated and engaged with by exhibition visitors. Consequently, they enable new and hinterlogical experiences of the activities of life itself.”—Baldo Hauser

"I have been fascinated for a very long time by the way Carsten Höller’s quasi-scientific work makes me explore my own consciousness and my relationship to art. He transports his investigations of our psyche into our daily reality, and he questions how we feel about ourselves in a way that is both challenging and playful. This exhibition takes us through Carsten's experimental work, while turning the galleries into a personal living experience. After the folly of having Ragnar Kjartansson's epic film experiment take over the Augarten studio space, we will find ourselves in the tranquility and solace of Carsten's experimental solitude. I can’t wait to explore all the sensory experiences he provokes”—Francesca von Habsburg

Works in the exhibition 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 Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom. The bed is mounted on a turning platform, which can be raised to different heights, up to a maximum of 3.5 meters, and allows guests to spend the night perched high above the other works in 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 exclusively prepared by the Saint Charles pharmacy in Vienna, 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–nudity is mandatory–and immerse themselves in the floatation tank to experience 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, two pairs of trained bullfinches housed within a set of balanced aviaries form the Bullfinch Scale and whistle the song Longing for Lullabies by Swedish singer Tiitiyo, that becomes part of the of the exhibition.

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 the Giant Multiple Mushrooms. The two oversized fungi, one mature and the other still developing, are composed of four split mushroom bodies and constitute a surreal moment of hybridity.

A special installation of the iconic work Y (2003); a split passageway encircled by a seemingly infinite halo of white light bulbs, is presented in the Upper Belvedere. Remaining stationary, the structure appears to be spinning in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction, depending on the direction of the light sequence, and draws viewers into it. Höller created this work in 2003 for Dreams and Conflicts. Delays and Revolution shown in the Italian Pavilion at the Venice Bienniale.

Carsten Höller
Carsten Höller has had a highly unusual career. Originally a student of agricultural science, he excelled in phytopathology, writing a graduate thesis examining olfactory communication in insects. While pursuing this scientific work, he began his artistic career by implementing his scientific experiments through aesthetic undertakings and creative projects. The year 1993 marked his inaugural participation in the Venice Bienniale, and in 2005, he represented Sweden (along with Miriam Bäckström). Other key exhibitions include Expo 2000 in Hannover (with Rosemarie Trockel), the slide installation Test Site at Tate Modern in London in 2006, the presentation of Revolving Hotel Room at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2010, the installation SOMA at Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin in the same year, and Experience at the New Museum in New York in 2011. Carsten Höller lives and works in Sweden and Ghana.

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