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Carsten Höller opens first-ever exhibitions in Denmark
Carsten Höller, Problemspie l . Installation view at Herbert-Gerisch-Stiftung, Neumünster (2011). Courtesy Carsten Höller. Photo: Marianne Obst.

COPENHAGEN.- Reproduction at Copenhagen Contemporary (28 September 2019 to 13 April 2020) and Behaviour at Kunsten (26 September 2019 to 23 February 2020) complement each other in content and form as they explore the human perception of our world. Carsten Höller holds a PhD in agricultural science and worked as a scientist for several years before becoming an artist. His artworks incorporate elements from playgrounds, zoos and amusement parks, often presented in a pseudo-scientific environment to give the impression of research. This is also evident at CC and Kunsten where gigantic Fly Agaric mushrooms, carousels, smells and mirrors greet the visitors, who in turn constitute what art critic Baldo Hauser calls the ‘real material’ of the exhibitions.

Carsten Höller firmly believes in the transformative potential of art which, transgressing normal conventions and perceptions, allows us to see the world, its objects and our behavioural patterns in new ways. The first of their kind ever presented in Denmark, these exhibitions provide audiences with a unique opportunity to see a broad selection of works that span the artist’s entire career – ranging from some of his very earliest works to new, site-specific installations.

Reproduction at Copenhagen Contemporary
In the exhibition at CC, Höller examines the theme of ‘reproduction’, adopting an approach which is both scientific and artistic. In all life forms , reproduction begins with cell division, and indeed the principle of division underpins his immersive installation in CC’s large Hall 1, entitled Gartenkinder .

Höller presents a large diorama where the walls and the floor are covered in red, blue, yellow, and green carpets divided into successive steps of diminishing colour intensity. Here visitors are invited to crawl through holes into a die, sit on slowmoving carousels, play with a giant roly-poly mushroom sculpture, or throw a ball the shape of which makes it impossible to calculate its trajectory.

Höller’s career has evolved within a generation of artists whose work disrupts and alters our experience of and conduct within their exhibitions. Often, their artworks require the audience to complete them through interaction. They have the nature of an experiment but also contain moments of deception that distort our expectations. So rather than spinning around quickly to entertain the users, the carousels turn slowly, almost imperceptibly, the user becoming the unexpected spectacle.

The visitors’ senses are also tested when passing through Six Sliding Doors , a corridor of mirrors that leads to the second part of the exhibition in Hall 2, where Höller’s infamous Killing Children series from the early 1990s is presented. Here, the audience is not directly involved. A podium presents a series of traps intended to catch and kill children. This provocative installation simultaneously repels and amuses, evoking memories of the dread-filled joy of hearing eerie fairy tales told as a child.

Reproduction questions the desire for having children while simultaneously harking back to an early experience we have all gone through: the awakening of consciousness and one’s own existence at an early age, followed by the disturbing challenge of positioning oneself in this world. It also reflects on how behaviour is encoded through regulation from childhood.

Höller left behind the world of science in favour of art because of his interest in uncertainties rather than certainty, using his practice as a spectrum for experimentation rather than a source of conclusions. The exhibition Reproduction
provides ample opportunity to consider what constitutes us as human beings.

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