Right now in New York, a fabulous experience is on offer for visitors to the New Museum. Belgium-born artist Carsten Höller takes inspiration from amusement parks, zoos or playgrounds to give us an experience we will never forget. Removed from their normal contexts, rides that we are familiar with become an abstract experience by being placed within a pristine museum with white walls and polished concrete floors. Mirror Carousel (2005) gives us that abstract experience, far removed from the rusted playground swing carousel we may have ridden on many times in our childhood.
Mirror Carousel is created using mirrored panels, Hollywood style lighting and cold steel chains. It allows us to ride around, slowly, watching as the world around us becomes fragmented in it's reflection. But what world are we watching become fragmented when we are within a white walled gallery situation? Had the work been placed out in the middle of Time Square to distort the 'heart' of New York, would we have missed the point of what the carousel was created to reflect upon? I say yes! We would be distracted by an environment that is foreign for most of us and by this, not given a second thought to the 'ride' we had just undertaken. The blank canvas that is the gallery situation allows us to truly reflect on the environment we have created for ourselves in our own lives, as we are left with nothing else but our own thoughts to ponder as we ride around, slowly and contemplatively.
This makes me think of an image that floated around Facebook a few months ago. A message attached to a mirror warned the viewer that their reflection may be distorted by socially constructed ideas of 'beauty'. Höller attempts the same idea but not just about self image and constructed ideas of beauty; his vision is larger. Höller brings our attention to all that may be socially constructed about our own lives, the environment we find ourselves in and what we have created within it.
If in New York before January 22nd, go put aside an afternoon and have a play with Höller. Showing at the same time is Höller's Untitled (Slide) which allows the visitor to ride a slide installed through the floors of the building! Love that! It will be an unforgetable experience as the title of the show suggests.