Tate Modern Turbine Hall
10 October 2006 – 15 April 2007
From today visitors to Tate Modern are able to travel through the vast Turbine Hall on five large slides which spiral through the vast space connecting the galleries with the Hall. Test Site is the latest installation in the Unilever Series at Tate Modern and has been made by German artist Carsten Höller (b1961).
The title of the installation, Test Site, relates to both Höller’s wider interest in the application of slides as a means of human transport and his exploration of how participants might be stimulated. The installation is, in part, an open experiment into the reception of slides by the public and the effect they have on those who use them. While the slides in Tate Modern provide a practical form of transportation, the act of going down involves relinquishing control, inducing a particular state of mind related to freedom from constraint. Höller’s proposition is that slides could and perhaps should be incorporated into existing architecture and the architectural planning of future buildings and public spaces, not only because they offer a clean and efficient means of transport, but because the frequent act of sliding could bring about untold changes in our everyday behaviour and outlook.
The five silver slides produce an extraordinary sculptural form that is suggestive of a futuristic vision of the building’s system of circulating people. Three of the chutes depart from each of Tate Modern’s main gallery levels (Levels 3, 4 and 5) and two chutes depart from each side of the walkway or bridge (Level 2) that cuts through the Turbine Hall. The tubular slides dramatically twist round before landing all at the same place at the bottom of the Turbine Hall (Level 1). The landing point beneath the bridge has been transformed into a brightly lit arrival zone where the sliders’ arrival can be viewed by all.
The longest slide is 55.5 metres and drops 26.5 metres from level five to the Turbine Hall floor. The two smallest twin slides (they have the same length and form, but are built in reverse to mirror each other), both 16 metres long, leave the bridge and drop to the floor 7.5 metres below. All slides have gradients between 30 and 35 degrees. Sliders can test how the quality of sliding is affected by the different shapes.
Well used to working on a large scale, Höller’s central concerns relate to the concept of the self, the questioning of logic, and the beauty of uncertainty. He considers subjective experience his main working material and his work frequently allows for participation from the viewer. Höller is well known for his interest in and production of slides, an ongoing project since 1998, and he has produced slide installations in Berlin, New York, Helsinki, Milan and Boston. A total of six slides have been built so far. Among his most famous slides is the one he made for the offices of Prada in Milan (2000), which connects Miuccia Prada’s personal office to her car.
The Unilever Series: Carsten Höller Test Site is curated by Jessica Morgan, Curator of Contemporary Art, Tate. It is accompanied by two volumes: an illustrated catalogue The Unilever Series:Carsten Höller Test Site edited by Jessica Morgan with essays by Dorothea von Hantelmann and Roy Kozlovsky. It also contains a proposal for an Hypothetical Slide House commissioned from leading architects Foreign Office Architects and a feasibility study for the use of slides within the urban public arena by General Public Agency. The Unilever Series: Carsten Höller Test Site: Source Book, edited and with a foreword by Carsten Höller, will also accompany the installation and is a collection of texts and images which have inspired and informed the artist in regard to his interest in slides and the effect of sliding.
Notes to Editor
Vicente Todolí, Director of Tate Modern, said: ‘Carsten Höller has eloquently and innovatively transformed our means of navigating in the vast space of the Turbine Hall. In addition, he has offered an experience, the results or effect of which we have yet to understand.’
Gavin Neath, National Manager UK and VP Global Corporate Responsibility, Unilever, said: ‘The Unilever Series at Tate Modern has been described as one of the toughest challenges in the art world. As with the six artists before him, Unilever is proud to support this commission and Carsten Höller has risen to the challenge admirably.’
The Unilever Series
The Unilever Series of annual commissions was launched in 2000 when Tate Modern opened with Louise Bourgeois’ I Do, I Undo, I Redo. The Spanish artist Juan Muñoz was the second artist commissioned in 2001 with Double Bind, while the first British artist to be commissioned was Anish Kapoor with Marsyas in 2002. Olafur Eliasson’s Weather Project illuminated the Turbine Hall in 2003 and Bruce Nauman’s mesmerising sound installation, Raw Materials, opened in October 2004. In October 2005, Rachel Whiteread’s EMBANKMENT filled the Turbine Hall.
Born in Brussels in 1961, the German artist Carsten Höller currently lives in Stockholm, Sweden. His work ranges from the purely conceptual to the elaborately architectural. Höller’s works frequently allow for participation from the viewer to take another form. Well used to working on a large scale, he demonstrates his central concerns which relate to immediate experiences capable of sharing the foundations of the viewers and uses. His explorations often involve playful elements such as in Sliding Doors (2003), a series of electronic sliding doors with a mirrored surface through which the audience passes in a seemingly endless passage (first presented in Common Wealth, an exhibition at Tate Modern in 2003) and Upside-Down Mushroom Room (2000) which features enormous, fabricated red and white fly-agaric mushrooms, their stalks fixed to the ceiling, slowly rotating in a mesmerising way.
While Höller’s knowledge of perceptual theory and physiology has found its way into his art (he has a doctorate in agricultural science from the University of Kiel (1988)), he states that he has never intended to bridge the gap between art and science. He sometimes makes reference in his work to researchers from different fields of experimentation but uses these not to establish knowledge, but to encourage uncertainty and perplexity. For example, Upside-Down Goggles (1994-2001) was inspired by an experiment by the American psychologist George M. Stratton who, in 1897, wrote an article about seeing without the natural inversion of the retinal image. Where Stratton explains the inversion, Höller forces the spectator to remain with the upturned image.
Carsten Höller has had major solo exhibitions at the Prada Foundation, Milan (2000), Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2003), Musée d’art Contemporain, Marseille (2004/2005) and the Nordic Pavilion at the Venice Biennial (with Miriam Bäckström) (2005). An exhibition by Höller, Amusement Park, which takes the form of a slowed-down and silent funfair opened in January 2006 at MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusettes.
A Channel FIVE programme Tim Marlow on Carsten Höller at Tate Modern will be broadcast on 24 October 2006.