Carsten Höller transforms London's South Bank into a playground

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Belgian artist Carsten Höller has filled the Hayward Gallery and terraces on London's South Bank with interactive installations, including a pair of spiral slides (+ slideshow).

Carsten Höller: Decisions at the Hayward Gallery
Isomeric Slides, 2015. Photograph by David Levene

Titled Carsten Höller: Decision, the artist's solo show occupies the two-storey Brutalist Hayward Gallery and focuses on the theme of decision-making.

Carsten Höller: Decisions at the Hayward Gallery
Isomeric Slides, 2015. Photograph by David Levene

Höller – who has been described as the "authentic Willy Wonka of contemporary art" – is presenting newly commissioned pieces alongside many of his earlier works.

Carsten Höller: Decisions at the Hayward Gallery
Isomeric Slides, 2015

The indoor and outdoor exhibition allows visitors to both "fly" over Waterloo Bridge and experience the world through upside-down goggles.

Carsten Höller: Decisions at the Hayward Gallery
Isomeric Slides, 2015

"Almost every piece in this exhibition has a wonderful, mischievous playfulness to it," said Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery and exhibition curator. "It is trying to give us the chance to have a fresh way of experiencing and perceiving the phenomena we encounter in the world around us."

Carsten Höller: Decisions at the Hayward Gallery
Isomeric Slides, 2015

A pair of entrances – labelled with rotating A and B signs – lead to two dark, confined corridors, which repeatedly turn and change level through the first gallery space. The galvanised steel structures, created in collaboration with Delvendahl Martin Architects, resemble air ducts.



Carsten Höller: Decisions at the Hayward Gallery
Decision Corridors, 2015

"When you walk into the gallery you are on a journey into darkness," said Rugoff. "You are filled with uncertainty and doubt. That is a very important beginning to an exhibition that is exploring the idea of decision-making."

Carsten Höller: Decisions at the Hayward Gallery
Decision Corridors, 2015. Photograph by Delvendahl Martin Architects

A terrace overlooking the busy Waterloo Bridge is occupied by Two Flying Machines. The two structures allow visitors to simulate flight as they rotate slowly in a circle wearing a harness that is attached to a rotating arm.

Carsten Höller: Decisions at the Hayward Gallery
Two Flying Machines, 2015. Photograph by Ela Bialkowska, OKNO studio

Pairs of Upside Down Goggles are handed out when exiting onto another of the gallery's terraces. The goggles, first made in 1994, are based on an experiment carried out by American scientist George Stratton in the 1890s, in which he constructed a mirrored lens that inverted his vision.

At another point in the exhibition, visitors can put on a virtual-reality headset and embark on a journey through a forest at night. The dual-screen video of the forest splits the viewer's vision in two, with each eye shown a different path.

Carsten Höller: Decisions at the Hayward Gallery
Upside Down Goggles, 2015

Two self-navigating robotic beds occupy one of the gallery spaces, where visitors can climb on board and wake up in a different place to where they fell asleep. Using navigational systems such as lasers and radio beacons, the two beds move in relation to each other. These beds can be booked overnight for £300.

Carsten Höller: Decisions at the Hayward Gallery
The Forests, 2002/2015

A ceiling-mounted timepiece named Pill Clock drops a red and white pill onto the gallery floor every three seconds, creating a mound in the centre of the room. A nearby water fountain encourages visitors to swallow one of the unidentified tablets.

Carsten Höller: Decisions at the Hayward Gallery
Two Roaming Beds, 2015 and Decision Corridors, 2015. Photograph by David Levene

Visitors can exit the exhibition via one of two 15-metre spiral slides that have been built into the gallery's exterior wall, accessed through an opening in the building's glass pyramid ceiling. Höller, who installed a similar 22-metre structure in the Tate Modern's Turbine Hall in 2006, describes the slide as a "device for experiencing a unique condition somewhere between delight and madness".

Carsten Höller: Decisions at the Hayward Gallery
Two Roaming Beds, 2015 and Half Clock, 2014

The transparent-topped spirals allow visitors to see out across the Thames as well as be spotted by passing pedestrians.

Carsten Höller: Decisions at the Hayward Gallery
Two Roaming Beds, 2015

"[My favourite element of the show] is not mine, it is the experiences people have," Höller said. "I consider these works or installations usable to create very specific personal experience – it could be playful, it could be scary, it could totally disorientating – so this is what I am really after."

"Also what is really important is that you can see other peoples experiences, looking at and doing things with what I am exhibiting," he added.

Carsten Höller: Decisions at the Hayward Gallery
Pill Clock, 2011/2015

Höller told Dezeen that he is yet to travel down the slide at the Hayward. "After the work is done they lock [the slide] at both ends. The slide guy once got stuck in a slide – they locked the bottom but not the top."

Carsten Höller: Decisions at the Hayward Gallery
Dice, 2014

Carsten Höller: Decision opens tomorrow and runs until 6 September 2015.

The Hayward Gallery will shut after the show for restoration work, which will include removing the glass pyramid-shaped roof lights to fill the gallery with natural light, as the architects originally intended.

Photography by Linda Nylind, unless specified otherwise.

  • Derek_V

    Slides? In a London gallery? Now that’s original.

    • Alun

      Yeah, boooo. Carsten Höller is always ripping himself off.

  • Josie

    That’s my weekend sorted then!