Monday, November 9, 2009

from Venice: Carsten Höller - slides

Carsten Höller’s photographs serve as references to his sculptural lineage, most famously his slides, titled Test Site, installed in the different levels of the Tate Modern in 2006.

What this work explores is themes of human experience specifically related to physiological effects. In fact, Höller comes from a scientific background, holding a doctorate in biology. In effect, the slides were installed to emit a sensory experience for participants, a physical sensation to be accompanied by a psychological feeling of jubilation.

The imagery of architectural spaces reinterpreted as playscapes are imaginarily enhanced through the proposal of a pen drafting out the course of various slides suggesting an intervention, a hidden purpose revealed through diagrammatical renderings overlain physical spaces pictorially displayed. The renovated images provide series of separate courses, lines of navigation alternative to predisposed tendencies.

In it’s essence, the slide presents an option for a predisposed inclination, to move. As an object of recreational equipment, the motion suggested is based not of necessity but of a desired displacement of site connected to its position of initial propulsion. The slide is an impetus which purpose is to serve as an intermediary construction between one place and another, markedly accentuating each point in the process.

(photo courtesy of Brandon Boan)

A case in point of the slide as conveyor would be the water park. In a reimagination of open space, both in height and length, a suggestively industrial structure is built on a piece of flat land in Keskemet, Hungary for the sole purpose of going down (note: the water park is also, like many of it’s kind, built alongside a river). Travel significant only for it’s own sake, an integration into another physical body through an altered moment.

(photo courtesy of Brandon Boan)

In the water park, an intervention is made among empty space, in the slides physical manifestation as well as the area between the entrance and exit. Further purpose is activated by participants. This is the nature of sliding, as slides are otherwise insensate structures and thus the space they occupy meaningless. Typically, purpose is derived through immediate use, through the exercise of expansive application.

As slides permit a recontextualization of varying understandings of space and a separate stage for mobile discretion, its not far off to imagine these conveyers integrated into the flow of an urban arena. Perhaps a reminder of industrial design, as seen in the defunct sugar factory serving as a major venue for Lyon, France’s Biennale, can serve as a reminder of the true nature of the slide removed from strict recreation, to serve as a arbiter of material goods, succinctly bridging one place to another in a single direction.

Into the streets of Lyon removed from the art spectacle, a slide is present along the path adjacent to the Saône River. This is among several pieces of recreational equipment spread out along the expansive walkway park, among skateboard ramps, outdoor gym equipment, and concrete blocks modelled after beach lounge chairs. With an entrance on level with the sidewalk and an exit out onto the wide foot and bike path popularly travelled, it can nearly be imagined that this slide is merely an alternative to the stairs rather than part of a small playscape. Albeit, what can be ascertained is that this is an example of a playscape integrated into an urban setting in such a way that it almost becomes part of it rather than it’s own separate demarcated zone of activity.

Using Playscapes (a blog dedicated to playgrounds and their design and application) as a reference allows for an imaginative understanding of the history and possibilities of this terrain of traversing. Featured among many entires are group slides, octopus slides,traditional slides in modern form and also their bold elaborations. Also present is playscapes by artists, including Carsten Höller's work, as well as art reinterpreted as playscape.

Considering the intermediary disposition of a slide and it's resolute positioning towards movement, the slide can be imagined in the form of a physical intervention of a site, as a means of creating a playscape among the already existing design of a site. It's an appropriate construction for it's simplicity, the utilization of the basic forces of gravity, and it's comprehended conceptual significance. The slide does not necessarily itself move, but it will move things, as this is what it exists to do as a it operated mainly as a point of mediacy, a stationary operator of momentum.

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