You’ve still got time – make the right decision and head to the Hayward Gallery in London for one of the most interactive art exhibitions you’ll come across this year!The reason I try and encourage you to visit, is because the experience is definitely one for everyone! Whether or not you have background knowledge and understanding of art – the Decision exhibition from Carston Holler breaks down the boundaries that people sometimes feel that art constructs.The outside of the gallery has parts of the exhibition sprouting out and gives a hint to the amazing contents inside!About half an hour late for our time slot, Ruth and I headed into explore the exhibition that the Hayward Gallery had to offer!Tickets in hand (and having booked ahead of time playing to our advantage, and being able to enter the exhibit halfway through a time slot) we headed inside…The art of choice is presented right at the door – literally! Two doors stand side-by-side labelled ‘A’ and ‘B’, and your first role as a participant in the exhibition is to make a decision of which you would like to enter through.
We chose ‘A’ and ventured into the darkness of a winding metal tunnel…The tunnel was pitch black. It sloped steeply upwards, and then suddenly twisted and turned. We ended up clinging to each other in the darkness, happily tripping and stumbling our way through.
After finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel (literally) we stepped out into, what seemed far more vast, a space that housed a giant turning sculpture of mushroom and mechanisms.We took turns to propel the turning of the different levels with a push of the lowest bar, causing the varied spin of the human-sized funguy!It is pieces like this that express a sense of whimsy, and thus a simplistic intent that just wishes to connect with an audience, rather than force an agenda onto them.From one open space to another, we moved up the steps and into a section of the room that was empty except for a giant pool of red and white pills.We very quickly pounced and dove our hands into the satisfying mound.
We could see from above a single pill drop from the ceiling into the center of pile – and were told that this happened consistently every 3 seconds!We were informed that the pile we had the pleasure of delving our hands into was an accumulation of all the pills that had dropped since the opening of the exhibition.And again, the principal of choice was presented.
Ruth, the brave soul that she is, decided to take one of the mystery pills and neatly swallowed the bi-coloured vessel.(Of course, the pills are perfectly safe and are filled with a basic mixture similar to flour and plant extract – but where’s the fun in safety, right?)After satisfying our investigation of the pills, we progressed to the far side of the room, and decided to go downstairs…Downstairs, in a dimly lit and low ceilinged space, were a collection of various elements of the exhibition. From flashing wall light displays to robotic rolling beds – it was a jumble of mismatched eclecticism that simultaneously seemed to belong in the space!
(If you have an urge to splurge, or simply need an expensive bed for the night, you can actually pay to stay and sleep in the roaming beds overnight! Check out the full – and wacky details – here!)And at the far side of the room was a built in bench that offered virtual reality goggles and headphones. On the wall next to the installation was the first sign of Carsten Holler’s use of queueing in the exhibition. Because even though the Decision exhibition is freely interactive – it is still set in a British gallery, and what would a British experience be without queueing? We sat side-by-side and jammed the virtual reality kit onto our heads and sat silently enjoying the experience…If you want to know what we saw, you’ll have to visit the Decision exhibition and see for yourself!Once we’d had our fill of the lower floors, we ascended the concrete stairs to final floor of the exhibition…And stepped into the mirror walled room of assorted art pieces!
One of the central art works consisted of a large plastic perspex cube filled with the same pills we had seen on the floor below.We also found out that this is actually the source of the pills – this is the spot that feeds through the ceiling that drops a pill every 3 seconds!Next to the plastic cube was a white platform featuring two very overstuffed pink pythons! (The perfect example of random whimsy.)It was hard to ignore the enormous die on the other side of the room.And we found that if you positioned yourself at just the right angle, we could spy each other through the holes!Sadly for us, we were too tall to clamber inside – but if any of you readers take kids to the Decision exhibition, they might just have the chance to jump inside!As I said earlier, there is more than one location in the gallery where the audience is expected to queue in order to participate in limited access areas. We stood for only a few moments before stepping outside to don our heads with another set of headgear that would change our perception of our reality!With a pretty great rooftop view of the London Eye, I took the first go of having my world flipped upside down (again, literally)!The visor uses cleverly collaborated mirrors that reverse your everyday view upwards and flip everything on its head. This is particularly disorientating when outside on a rooftop!When outside experiencing the bizarre sensation of hanging off the face of the world, the Hayward Gallery’s signs change makes much more sense!
Ruth then strapped on the head piece, and began to look around and take in the experience of a world turned upside down!I definitely recommend attending the gallery with a friend, as activities like this are made twice as fun when you can watch your companion stagger around confusedly on an open rooftop!Satisfied with our outdoor experience, we passed our visor onto the next in line wandered through to the remaining space of Carsten Holler’s exhibition.For those that are more seriously art inclined, there are installed elements of the exhibition to satisfy! One piece in particular, was a corridor section that was lined with heavy square television monitors displaying the faces of identical twins facing opposite each other.As you walked through the center of the monitors you became bombarded by the sound of the scripted phrases read out by the different halves of the twins. The artwork here becomes a(nother literal) reflection of identity, self expression and image.We were reaching the end of our exploration of Decision, but were too eager to slow down! So we quickly slotted ourselves into one of the wooden school-like desks against the wall and attempted to make our noses grow…Apparently, by applying vibration to a certain part of your arm in a very particular way, while holding the tip of your nose, you can confuse the body into believe the nose is either growing or shrinking!We attempted them one for sometime, but to no avail. If anyone else attends the exhibition or has tried this experiment before – comment below your success of failures!One look outside onto the other rooftop space and you could see another small queue waiting to take turns up on a rotating flying machine!Helmeted and suspended by the small of your back, you would swing through the air with all of London stretched out below and in front of you!This experience is no extra charge to your ticket, but I recommend booking your timeslot for the exhibition in the earlier part of the day if you definitely want your turn in the air!When we felt we had seen it all, we walked to the end of the room that housed the metal scaffolding and staircases that would take us to our exit point!Like our rather unconventional method of entering the exhibition, the exit was not to be outdone! Canvas sacks in hand, we scaled the metallic stairwell and positioned ourselves at the mouth of a multi-storied metal and clear top spiral slide.With a grin and a scream, we rocketed down the shoots to soft exercise mat at the bottom!
The exhibition is one that presents art from the perspective of solely the experience – created through the use of “perception a decision making” – this was a time spent in an art gallery where not everything is as it seems, but everything is enjoyable!We deposited our canvas modes of transportation and headed for the doorway that would lead us out.And as always with any interactive experience – you are directed out through the exit, that just so happens to be a gift shop.However, don’t be fooled by the idea of cheap tat with nothing to do with your experience! The souvenirs for sale are all designed by Carsten Holler himself and feature the theme of of opposites and decisions. The chocolate bars were clever and sweet (nudge, nudge)…But our favourites were the little button badges printed with the split opposites motif as well as a few nods to pieces from the exhibition itself!
The exhibition is on until the 6th of December. For more information on the Decision exhibition, or bookings, visit the Hayward Gallery website, here.