press release

he Vienna Secession is the first Austrian art gallery to present an one-man-show of the German artist Carsten Höller, who was born in 1961. The exhibition will begin on May 10 and end on June 30, 1996.

Carsten Höller, who was born in 1961 in Brussels, studied Agronomy at the University of Kiel and obtained a postdoctoral qualification as a phtytopathologist (plant doctor) with a thesis on olfactory communication between insects. While still pursuing his academic career, Höller began to introduce scientific subjects and methods into artistic contexts and undermined by this means the formalistic limitations of science.

During his first action at the end of the '80's, the artist inaugurated a "Warmwestenverkauf" ("Warning Vest Sale"). One shop sold nothing but the fluorescent tunics that are worn by workmen involved in roadworks on motorways. While he signalised with these and similar actions that "much in the more recent phase of human history could become irrelevant, if the essentials are not agreed on soon" (Christoph Blase), his video films and installation at the beginning of the '90's suggest various conceivable dangers for children. "Pest Control", his contribution to the Aperto of the Biennale of Venice (1993), shows a child catcher's car and is devoted to the question why people follow the dictates of their genes and the mechanisms this involves, and are so avid to devote themselves to the unbridled desire for reproduction.

In these artistic interventions and those that followed, such as the "Liebesfinken" ("Love finches") installation in 1994 (in which Carsten Höller refers to a tale from the 18th century where the county squire finches teaches his sweetheart a love song in order to win her over) or the "Glück" ("Happiness") installation, which will be shown with "Scope" in the Kölnischer Kunstverein, Carsten Höller reveals phenomena that were brought about by evolution and the exigencies of social existence in a playful and devious manner. He often operates here on both a multimedial and interactive level. He involves the visitor in his works and not only transmits pictorial information, but also physical experiences. Thus, the visitor in invited in many of his exhibitions to play the role of onlooker, experimenter and "guinea pig" in the 'unscientific experiments', and become actively involved in utopian problem solving and new interpretative models for the world.

Carsten Höller is planning an installation for the Main Hall of the Vienna Secession whose leitmotif will be the idea of the future. With reference to the exhibition venue itself: (whose founding members regarded as a model of what could happen in the future) Höller combines the utopian projections of the future that were developed in the '60's and '70's with the pragmatic concepts of the future prevalent today. The intention is to confront the joy in experimentation of the '60's and '70's (which, in retrospect, was characterised by innovative ideas and their partial realisation) with present-day blueprints for "possibilities to come". In Carsten Höller's exhibition, the spirit of the past is represented by a so-called “Futuro-house", a kind of UFO on stilts, that was designed as a weekend or country cottage by the Finnish architect Matti Suuronen in 1968. Those models of the future characteristic of the '90's are represented by small-scale electronic vehicles, an ultra-light flying apparatus and a "flying Alpine hut". All of these objects – apart from the flying apparatus – can be used by visitors: the vehicles can be used to move about the hall and the "Alpine hut" can be used to experience acoustic deprivation. By blocking off every form of external noise, the hut allows the visitor to hear his own heartbeat and to consciously experience the "buzzing in his head". Incidental elements, such as the projection of a shadow onto the glass ceiling of the main room, an ocean surface, an inflatable island, "Baumsäcke" ("tree sacks"), a strawberry field, a solar energy plant, etc., produce a "village of possibilities", that can also be perceived as an area for living or an natural environment.

This confrontation between utopian ideals and pragmatism, which is represented by the most diverse objects, allows development and change become palpable.

"Consciousness", according to Carsten Höller, "allows mankind to project its own future. Although these projects seldom become reality in their original form, the idea remains of a scenario that was conceived as a model and that supplied significant motivation for the will to change."

only in german

Carsten Höller