Carsten Höller’s ‘Decision’ asks the viewer to reflect on the process of decision making. Accepting doubt and uncertainty, Höller intends the viewer to experience ‘moments of not knowing’. Decision making is a vital part of everyday life, from the small decisions of what to have for lunch to the much larger choice of what to do with one’s life, how to spend it and with whom.
Höller’s ‘Decision’ has a theme park feel to it, which begins when you queue up to enter the exhibition space. As you enter you are faced with your first decision. Entrance A or entrance B will guide you into the main exhibition space. The ‘Decision Corridors’ are dark spaces where the sense of vision is replaced by touch as you are led into the dark, the only noise is other people’s footsteps reverberating in the tunnel. You are not sure what is in front or behind.
Soon you encounter a pile of pills on the gallery floor, dropping from the ceiling every three seconds, the next decision, to take one or not? The pills are obviously placebos so the decision seems a little redundant, but ‘Pill Clock’ is a way of measuring time through the accumulation of pills dropped. Höller states that three seconds ‘is the length of time in which it is possible to create the impression of presence – or a distinct event separated by past and a future’.
In another queue a sense of anticipation is built as you watch ‘Phi Wall II’, a large light-based installation that dances across the gallery wall. The ‘Phi’ phenomenon is an optical illusion of movement perception in rapid procession. Our brains are trained to perceive pattern but ‘Phi Wall II’ resists, not seeming to give us one. But we keep watching, waiting and hoping to be rewarded with a flicker of recognition. The queue leads to ‘The Forests’, a dual screen video that visitors watch on a virtual reality headset. We are led through a forest at night where our vision is shortly split in two. We experience double vision. The work feels a little gimmicky: the experience of wearing the technology is not matched by the video.
Half-way through the exhibition is the video ‘Fara Fara’, a dual screen projection of a Congolese sound clash tradition where two groups play face to face and the group that plays the longest wins. Höller’s video is a wholly engaging piece of work that feels out of place in this exhibition.
Walking through a corridor you experience ‘Twins (Belgian, London, New York, Paris, Santiago de Chile, Tokyo, Vienna)’ where sets of twins address each other with a series of spoken or sung phrases that are lost in the sound of the exhibition space. The work intrigues but it is difficult to hear.
‘Upside Down Goggles’ are headsets that place a mirror in front of the visitor’s vision so the world is inverted based on an experiment by George Stratton in the 1890s. Stratton constructed a mirror lens to invert his vision and wore them for eight days, after which Stratton reported parts of his vision returned to normal. This effect is replicated with Höller’s ‘Adjusted Hayward Sign’ that appears the right way up to visitors wearing the goggles. While a novel experience, there is not much else to see or do on the Hayward’s Belvedere Terrace so it fails to fully engage.
Leaving the gallery on Höller’s ‘Isometric Slide’, it didn’t feel like I made a lot of decisions as a viewer. The exhibition is enticing to children, asking them to interact with artworks such as ‘Dice (White Body, Black Dots’), a sculpture that invited exploration inside and out. Yet young visitors are often told not to touch other works. ‘Decision’ is fun but as with theme parks, the experience is rather shallow.