London’s Southbank is a place transformed. Where once wind blew round deserted and forbidding concrete structures, now crowds of happy smiling people flock to playful fountains, a sandy beach and a peaceful roof garden, among many other excitements. The Junior CW’s and I made a beeline for the Hayward Gallery, formerly home to challenging modern art but more likely these days now to house playful and engaging modern art. Carsten Höller’s latest exhibition is all about choices. Our first was which door to go through. One son went with me and the other with a friend. I expected to glimpse left and see them both as soon as were through the door. Wrong! We were plunged into a stainless steel tunnel and when we went round the corner we were in complete and utter darkness. At this point I felt very, very guilty about sending two boys to face this alone. The two of us emerged at the other end of our tunnel to two very cheerful boys. They had solved the problem of being plunged into a dark maze by turning on the assistive light on their phones.
Once out of the tunnel we were confronted by what looked like a large astrolabe topped with mushrooms. Now the boys had to decide which way to push and once the matter was settled, they set off in a clockwise direction causing the mushrooms to fly around our heads. Next up was a large puddle of pills, one more pill pings down from the roof at regular intervals causing some of the pile to ping and leap about.
Virtual reality headsets had us walking through dark snowy forests, we walked through an avenue of conflicting video screens and decided against joining the queue to don upside down glasses. Right at the top of the exhibition, we faced one last choice. Left or right spiral? Each spiral is a tunnel that sharply drops down the exterior wall of the Hayward. Isomeric Slides is the proper title for these stainless steel helter-skelters. The swift descent is the most fun that I have had all summer. If you are in London before 6 September 2015, drop all your other plans and head for the Southbank.
To build up energy for all our choices we ate our picnic on the roof garden on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Just look out for the bright yellow staircase and climb up for a fabulous view over the Thames and London. If you’ve come without provisions, there is a café there that serves excellent coffee and light snacks.
CARSTEN HÖLLER: DECISION
10 June – 6 September 2016
Open: Monday 12noon-7pm, Tuesday
Wednesday and Saturday 11am-7pm
Thursday and Friday 11am-8pm