Carsten Höller is famous for his giant slides installations which have caused several injuries in the past. Two of his 15-metre long slides descend from the Hayward gallery’s glass pyramid ceiling to its entrance level.
The slides double up as quick and thrilling transport from top floor to the first as well as a graceful sculptural installation that is built into the gallery’s exterior wall. What intrigued me was how fun and universal the theme of slides are. In an interview, Höller mentioned that he wanted to create an interaction that transformed anyone’s expression to the same happy when they passed through his slides, much like how people emerge from a cinema hall with the same uniform expression.
There is little to no need for instructions in his work, except when dealing with safety aspects. You see a slide, you are drawn to it, and then you ride it. All the viewer has to do is take that step and the reaction comes naturally. Though the audience would like to think that they have control over what occurs in this installation, the only control they have is resisting the urge to set themselves down on the slide. The entire journey, every twist and turn, the speed of which they fly down the slide, is completely orchestrated by the artist, Höller.
That makes me wonder, with such little control over what occurs in the installation, does the audience feel that it is less interactive? Don’t they still emerge grinning and itch for another go? I feel that this proves that a piece of interactive work does not have to have multiple options or outcomes to be enjoyed. When a piece of work is relatable, that makes it appreciated.
This sculptural installation was in part of Carsten Höller’s Decision (2015), an exhibition that included a few other pieces by him. It also featured Two Flying Machines, which was installed on one of the Hayward’s outdoor terraces allowed visitors to simulate flight as they rotate slowly in a circle wearing a harness that is attached to a rotating arm.
This also makes me question where we draw the line between an interactive installation or art piece and structures that are built for pure entertainment. Is a playground or rollercoaster then considered an interactive installation? I guess it all boils down to intentions and the piece of work in its context as well as in the larger picture.