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Carsten Höller Amusement Park


  • Exhibition

  • January 2006 - October 2006
  • Building 5

Creating a vast environment of slow-turning carnival midway rides, Carsten Höller explored the effects of spatial and temporal disorientation with a new installation that opened at MASS MoCA on January 21, 2006. For the large, multi-part installation, Höller installed five full-sized amusement park rides familiar from childhood — a Gravitron, bumper cars, a Twister, and more — in MASS MoCA’s massive Building 5 gallery. Slowing their velocity and light patterns, Höller unsettled the viewer’s mind, much as conventional amusement parks unsettle the body through radical changes in gravity, direction, and bodily orientation.

Höller has been challenging his viewers’ assumptions for years with installations and sculptures that deliberately induce doubt and confusion. Originally trained and employed as a scientist, Höller often positions his work as an experiment. But, with no data recorded, measurements taken, or objective results achieved, he allows visitors to experiment with themselves, addressing complex relationships with time and space through direct interaction.

“His view of the museum as a space of experimentation and incremental change goes right to the heart of MASS MoCA’s mission — and we’ll be hanging on for dear life,” said Joseph Thompson, MASS MoCA’s Director. “The amusement park — already a site of physiological and psychological confusion, unease, and ineffable strangeness — gets further refracted and warped in Carsten’s hands. Although this work is experienced through sight and sound, our staff has been surprised how visceral and physical the effect can be. Your body enters a space of shifting times and places, and your mind follows. Amusement parks have a dark underbelly, which this work embraces. Though foreboding for some, the experience is otherwordly, pleasantly disorienting, and profoundly theatrical.”

The modified rides were displayed as “kinetic” sculptures, and were not operated as functioning rides. A large Mirror Wall (2005) at the end of the space reflects the whole Amusement Park, doubling the apparent length of the gallery, already nearly 300 feet long. Small differences in the angles of the glass mirror tiles introduced discord. Behind Mirror Wall, a video installation in which visitors saw themselves projected three times at slightly different and always-changing time delays, accompanied the installation of rides (Turning Infrared Room, 2005). In addition, Höller’s Revolving Doors (2003) were installed on the second floor, featuring five interlocking revolving mirrored doors which produced a multitude of reflections of the viewer, the environment, and the doors themselves.

Carsten Höller, Amusement Park, 2006