I first caught wind of the Carsten Höller exhibition when the slides were being built on the side of the Hayward Gallery during the Web We Want Festival. A couple of weeks after that, I got the fantastic chance to go down those slides during the Priceless London evening, before our dinner. It felt like this exhibition was beckoning me and our paths just kept crossing. I listened to the signs the universe seemed to be sending me and got those tickets booked. Before Robin and I got caught up in our Secret Cinema adventures over the weekend, we spent the morning at one of my favourite London spots- down the Southbank! I loved the slides so much, and couldn’t wait to show it off to him.
Our ticket slot was at 11am, and by the time we got there, there was a long queue already. Don’t panic if you come across the same. They stagger people through the exhibit because as soon as you walk through the doors, you face a long, dark tunnel to navigate through. Glad I had used the free lockers to stash my bag, I felt my way through the tunnel and came out the other side into the start of the exhibit.
We ended up in this room which I spotted all over Instagram- thousands and thousands of red and white pills. From the ceiling, one pill would drop down slowly adding to the pile below.
Apparently, you’re allowed to swallow one- as the exhibition explores people’s decisions and perceptions. With thousands of hands having touched those pills, I passed. All I could think about was the poor person who had to clean this up every night, for it to happen all over again the next day!
It’s a very hands on exhibition and is completely surreal. From dark tunnels and giant, segmented mushrooms, to moving hospital beds and my roachy pal here, it had a touch of the Alice in Wonderland feel to it.
There was this hair raising incident- you put this contraption on your head and it flipped the world upside down. I felt pretty sick when I took it off and it will definitely give you the giggles- you feel as if you’re in an episode of Takeshi’s Castle and completely ridiculous. Now, throw a football into the mix, and that’s something I’d like to watch from the sidelines!
I feel queasy just looking at my upside down eyes. Oof!
And then there was this part of the exhibition I was dying to try- the flying machines.
I bumped into our guide Kate from the Priceless London tour a few weeks ago, and she helped me wriggle and squeeze into this fetching Minion-like padded vest thing like a toddler who can’t dress themselves yet. With my helmet clasped on, I waddled to the very fit and very handsome men operating the flying machine and mustered up as much dignity and elegance as I could as one of them secured a clasp near my padded blue bum to the rotating machine.
And then I was up in the air gently swinging around in a circle.You go round and round a few times, dangling high up on the roof, looking down as people go about their business on the streets below.
Before you know it, you’re helped out of the straps, waddling down the steps and passing your kit to the next person. A word of warning- probably wise not to wear a dress or skirt to this thing!
We poked around a few more exhibits including one that made my nose feel like it was melting into my face, before leaving the gallery via the slide.
Carsten Höller believes that the slide itself is a sculpture, causing both “delight and madness” as you zoom through it.
And delight is spot on. It was funny hearing grown adults screaming like kids as they zoomed through the metallic tubes.
It was a brilliant exhibition, and another reason why I love the Southbank. There’s always something going on, to look at and see and do.
See? I even found more Stik friends!
The exhibition runs until the 6th September and it’s such a good laugh and something fun to get involved with. I’d suggest going in the morning like we did, as the longer we spent there the busier it became. Get stuck in!
You can book tickets on the Southbank Centre website.