Looking ahead to Play – Carsten Holler: Experience: the New Museum

  Here is an exert from a review of Carsten Holler’s recent exhibition at the New Museum:

Yet if Mr. Höller’s works claim to transform the passive viewer into the active participant, the cerebral and visual into the bodily, this dichotomy is false. You sign away your privacy when you sign these forms. The exhibition makes the viewer into another kind of object to be observed. The spectator becomes a spectacle.

As a museum- and gallery-goer, The Observer has participated in relational aesthetics. We have eaten the Thai soup, tasted the triangles of candy, taken the posters, danced on the floors, slept in the galleries, read the books in the book-reading-rooms and watched the films in the film-watching rooms.

Yet if the traditional work of art addresses the viewer as a thinking, aesthetically critical being, much of relational aesthetics, including this show, addresses the spectator in a more familiar mode: that of the consumer. Even if you aren’t paying anything beyond the price of museum admission, the exhibition encourages you to consume the sculptures as “rides,” to wait in line to go again and again, to accept the experience “as is.” There is no question that Mr. Höller does what he does well. Not to sound like a spoilsport, but there is value to reflection, to consideration rather than participation, and this is what is lost here. “Experience” turns the museum into a funhouse, at a cost. What we lose is the critical faculty, which, in a way, brings us full circle: Mr. Höller’s is an exceptionally fun exhibition to visit, and a particularly difficult one to review.

What do you think?  Does Holler’s playful use of the New Museum diminish our time for reflection?  To read the review in its entirety click here.

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