Holler at me, bro. Carsten Holler - Decision
Although by the time this goes to press, the exhibition will have run its course, and this article thus embarrassingly late to the proverbial party, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to write about Carsten Holler’s Decision. The summer’s blockbuster had been divisive to say the least. The fairground gimmickry of giant slides and flying machines has ensured that the show fell foul of a somewhat exhausted reception by critics searching for ‘real, serious art’ on the Southbank. Apparently galled by the queues of people reaching round the side of the Hayward Gallery in search of some fun, Holler’s appealing interactive works have been the hot ticket for the public last summer, but also attracted the ire of visitors with a more professional mandate.
The exhibition was also a last bow out before the Hayward closes for a two-year hiatus for renovation work, and was a suitably dynamic choice. The show spilled out from the very building: commuters walking southwards across Waterloo Bridge had the pleasure of gleeful ticket holders slowly paragliding around in a circle above their heads since June, and the dual slides which provide the means of exit wind down the side of the Brutalist brickwork to shoot people off at Belvedere Road.
I took my best friend Louise along for her birthday treat. She’s a fun loving gal so I knew she would be up for the ensuing madness Time Out had promised us. We were told to check in our bags “unless of course you want to go on the slide”, which is a kind of Pope/Catholic question. And so, because I suppose we are now part of ‘generation selfie’, we spent most of the exhibition with our iPhones stuffed uncomfortably in our bras because Louise wanted to get a charmingly Trainspotting-esque picture of herself with a pill in her mouth (from the notorious Pill Clock, but more on that later).
In order to get into the exhibition, one had to make a choice between two entrances, the Decision Corridors, both of which opened with a sign instructing you to ‘hold on to the sides of the walls’ in case you fall over. To go in left or right is the first of Holler’s ‘decisions’ which you are forced to make. We chose the left door, which had the lonelier looking security guard because everyone kept going into the right hand side. Whilst we were reflecting on our upstanding moral character, we were plunged into labyrinth of pitch black. Suddenly robbed of sight compared to the fresh white light of the gallery lobby, the only thing you could see in the darkness is the green ring of the veins behind your eyes, an experience Louise compared to being ‘in hell’s opticians’. Initially a man of science, Holler enjoys playing with taking away or obstructing sight as a primary sense in approaching an artwork, and a lot of Decision featured riffs on this presumption. With sight out of the equation, you are only really aware of the tinny footsteps of those grasping about around you in the dark, and finally you emerge, blinking, in front of a mobile made out of magic mushrooms.
There were a lot of lines in Decision, and a lot of waiting around. Decisions, it seems, are intended to be mulled over in quite some depth. Every work that requires some form of human interaction, naturally with the volume of visitors in the gallery, was preceded by quite a lengthy queue. The longest of these was for the