Carsten Höller: Decision

Working seven days a week is hard work, so when you get a day off you have to make the most it.

Mutay bought us both tickets for Carsten Höller’s exhibition ‘Decision’ in the Hayward Gallery, and so on a particularly overcast Sunday afternoon we made our way to South Bank not entirely sure what we were going to expect.

Carsten Höller was born in Belgium to German parents. Before working as an artist, Höller trained as a scientist and gained an advanced degree in agricultural entomology. To Höller, museums and galleries are places of experimentation, offering ‘a space and time where you can try things out that you can’t try otherwise’ as well as the opportunity for ‘large-scale experiments with people’. Some of Höller’s works are based on historic experiments, including those carried out by gestalt psychologists in the early 20th century. Unlike a scientist, however, Höller never collects data. The focus, as well as the ‘working material’, of his varied and interactive artwork is personal experience, which the artist admits is ‘the language of the devil’ to scientists.

– Taken from

Before we even got into the main area, we had to go down a tunnel. This wasn’t any old tunnel. The tunnel was made metal, was long-winding and dark. Extremely dark. I had to told onto Mutay because I had no sense of direction, whatsoever.

It was actually quite scary, and even though there were little lights I had to feel around to find out where to go next. My heart was beating extremely fast and honestly, I didn’t think it was going to end. What an experience.

Once we came out of that rather terrifying tunnel, we were greeted with a massive mushroom display.

We got to push the display around, which was quite fun. It is rather interesting to know that Höller’s interest in fly-agaric mushrooms is based on their phenomenological and psychoactive properties.

“I come from an evolutionary biology background – that’s how I was trained to see the world – and I think evolutionary theory is a powerful explanatory model, but I’m always looking for faults in this theory. I would like to dispute its explanatory supremacy. I’m looking for things that don’t fit.

I find mushrooms appealing in many ways, because they’re so powerful in terms of forms, colours, taste and toxicity, and are so unnecessary. Usually evolution is adaptive, but I don’t see any adaption there. Most mushrooms don’t even attract insects to pollinate. So why do you have all these different colours, shapes and tastes? And of course some are hallucinogenic, like the fly agaric, some are just very bitter and some are lethal.

Humankind has a special relationship to the fly agaric which is not comparable to other mushrooms. It has probably influenced our culture. We don’t know to what extent because we can’t trace it back very far, but it’s an attractive thought that it has affected our cultural development by opening up the possibility of looking at the world in a different way.”

After the mushroom display we wandered over to a huge pile of pills. A capsule drops from the ceiling every three seconds, forming a steadily growing pile on the floor. Honestly, I just wanted to jump into the pile but of course you’re not allowed to that. Instead I settled for taking this cheesy picture of me looking way too happy next to drugs. (We got to take one pill home as a souvenir, ahha)

The were some rather funky displays at the exhibition, some of which I have no clue of their relevance. We can’t all be smarty pants. I did particularly like the huge dice display and the wall mirror. It offered a rare glimpse of what we look like to the rest of the world. My arse looked rather large that day.

I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to go on the flying machine, but the wait time was 1hr40, which was way too long. The queue for the upside down goggle was also long, so we didn’t get to experience that either. However, seeing as the exhibition runs until 6th September we will definitely be back.

If you’re ever around South Bank, I would definitely recommend this exhibit. There are various activities to do there, like a puzzle matching game and a tool that will make you believe that your nose is growing longer like Pinocchio.

Lastly, there are Isomeric Slides, which provide you with a rather dramatic exit from the exhibition. The slide is super fast, and so much fun! I wanted to go on it again. It felt like my heart was going to drop out of my butt.

Wed 10 Jun 2015 – Sun 6 Sep 2015

*Gift Aid – Standard £15
Non Gift Aid – Standard £13.50
Free entry with Membership

Booking Fee
£1.75 (Members £0.00)

*Gift Aid – Senior 60+ £13
Non Gift Aid – Senior 60+ £11.50
*Gift Aid Concession £11
Non Gift Aid – Concession £10

Southbank Centre
Belvedere Road


  • Tara

    HAHAHA! Your last line about your heart dropping from your butt is the best thing I read all week XD;

    That aside, I think it was great of Mutay to take you to this exhibition on your day off! (And yes, working 7 days a week is rough!) I am normally not really big into exhibitions, but I think I would have like this one. Though the tunnel at the beginning would have not made me happy either since I got horrible night vision, and I would feel very uncomfortable trying to navigate in the dark!

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience. I enjoyed looking at your photos! ^^

    • Chynna

      Haha, I’m glad it was the best thing you read all week 😛

      You definitely would have liked this one, but yeah the tunnel was way too much for me too handle again.

  • Nancy

    Definitely make the most out of the days off you get! Hope you’re enjoying work on the other hand ;). The exhibition looks pretty cool, and it’s a great way to get your mind off of work~

    The mushroom display looks pretty cool, especially since you can interact with it! I can almost imagine someone getting knocked down from the pole XD. I can’t believe the pills are in a neat pile! I somehow imagine the pills being all over the place or are tangled up with junk from being swept around too much @__@. It’s cool that you can take one pill home ;). The big dice looks pretty cool!

    • Chynna

      I am, thank you! But it definitely is nice to have a day off (even if I don’t get paid for it (because I used all my holidays, lulz)).

      The mushroom display was so trippy. It reminded me of Alice in Wonderland. I think because the timing of the pill be dropped is controlled, so it ends up being in a neat pile whereas if it were dropped all at once they’d be everywhere.

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