Carsten Höller – One day One day. Carsten Höller is questioning the singularity of perceiving.

19 September 2003 25 October 2003

Separate exhibition
Main hall, Färgfabriken

Carsten Höller’s art is characterised by being physically and psychically palpable. It engages our perception and our senses involuntarily, often to the point where one cannot escape its hallucinatory effects unless leaving the space. The longer we linger in front of the works, the clearer it becomes that they can be used as tools enabling us to experience “things” we would otherwise not be able to access. This may be a result of the repetitive pattern inherent in some of Höller’s art, as referred to in the title of this show.

The works simultaneously engage the user on several different levels. On the one hand, they cause a number of direct, sensory reactions; on the other hand, they allow for consciously extending one’s personal abilities of perceiving the world, including oneself. We experience how we respond to a specific situation – and we discover that these are highly individualized, intimate and introspective responses which do, however, occur in a social space. While noting the differences to other visitors’ responses, we get a glimpse at our own uniqueness. There is a uniqueness which we are unable to share.

It seems apt to regard Carsten Höller’s art as an ongoing investigation into extending the possibilities, and questioning the singularity, of perceiving. He is often described as an artist who works according to scientific methods. While it is true that Carsten Höller was a scientific researcher before he became an artist, his art, quite unscientifically, is really about creating a space for the individual and the personal. Carsten Höller emphasizes the differences between individual experiences while at the same pronouncing deep doubts regarding the one-sided, singular conditions of perception. To explore the realm of the uncertain, Höller begun a project in 1999 entitled The Laboratory of Doubt, which somehow symptomatically stands for his entire artistic oeuvre.

The work shown at ONE DAY ONE DAY is an extension of a piece originally made for BALTIC in Newcastle, BALTIC Phi Wall, entitled here Färgfabriken Phi Wall. It is based on a phenomenon discovered in 1912 by the Gestalt psychologist Max Wertheimer: if two dots are projected in rapid sequence next to each other, with a short moment of darkness in between, most observers will “see” an imaginary ball jumping between the two sites of projection. This effect is remarkable, as it raises the question of how the observer can “know” where the second dot will be projected, as he or she “sees” the imaginary ball on its way towards the future site of projection. The Phenomenon Phi, as it was called by Wertheimer, has also been tested with two projections of different colours, with the result of a sudden shift in colour “seen” in the ball bouncing between projection sites.

Färgfabriken Phi Wall is an extended display of this phenomenon. Three imaginary balls are seen “jumping” simultaneously over a surface of 57 dots – distributed across a wall six metres wide and three and a half metres high. The three dots are lit for 150 msec each, followed by 150 msec of darkness, before three new dots are lit. The sequences are generated at random. The imaginary balls are “seen” jumping between the lit dots, even though it is impossible to predict which dots will be lit next. Apparently, the observer does not experience linear “real” time, but some kind of rearranged time frame sequence subjected to the hierarchy of the production of sense. Färgfabriken Phi Wall is an elegant device to make apparent that “there is something wrong here”.