Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary(TBA21-Augarten) in cooperation with the Belvedere, Vienna, presentsLEBEN, an exhibition of the Belgian-German artist Carsten Höller.LEBEN pivots around a selection of works, drawn from TBA21's collection of contemporary art and others commissioned and conceived especially for the exhibition—that invite specific forms of interaction, induce moods and affects, and generate "oriented" behaviors. The exhibition visitors encounter an ensemble of familiar devices, tools, constructions, and objects that have the uncanny capacity to orient, model, and intercept, creating both a physical and conceptual space of experimentation.
The central element within the exhibition space—Elevator Bed (2010)—is as much a proposition as it is an installation. The bed is mounted on a hydraulic rotating platform, which raises to different heights, up to a maximum of 3.5 meters. It can be booked on a nightly basis through Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom and offers guests a unique and solitary overnight experience in the foundation's exhibition grounds in Vienna's lush Augarten Park. Before going to sleep, guests are instructed to brush their teeth withInsensatus Vol. 1 Fig. 1; a dream-inducing series of toothpastes based on an original recipe devised by Höller and the perfumer Ben Gorham. The water inHigh Psycho Tank, a newly devised flotation tank for two, contains a high concentration of Epsom salts. Visitors must undress and float on the water's surface to experience a sense of weightlessness and sensory equilibrium.Half Clock accompanies and structures the current exhibition—it is a newly created work that functions as both a utilitarian time display and a seemingly illogical conundrum, with its apparent ability to alternately speed up or slow down the passage of time. High above the heads of viewers, two pairs of trained bullfinches housed within a set of balanced aviaries formthe Bullfinch Scale, and whistle a melody that becomes part of the soundtrack of the exhibition.
The newly created film installationFara Farafeatures auditions and rehearsals for a musical clash between two stars of the vibrant Congolese music scene. The work introduces themes of duality and juxtaposition. Similar themes of duplication and division are prominent throughout the exhibition but specifically in Höller'sVienna Twins. Here, two identical siblings lead a completely logical, and at the same time confusing, conversation sung in a rhythmic and repetitive structure. Outside, on the Augarten grounds, a moment of visual dissection is captured sculpturally in theGiant Multiple Mushrooms. The two oversized fungi, one mature and the other still developing, are composed of four split mushroom bodies and constitute a surreal moment of hybridity.
One of the highlights of the TBA21 collection by Höller, titledY (2003), is installed in the spectacular Marble Hall of the Upper Belvedere. This amusement fair-like tunnel spins around the visitor like a vortex. Y-shaped, it articulates the dilemma of individual choice as a question of contingency, with which visitors can also decide, or not, to continue their parcours of the exhibition at TBA21–Augarten.
TBA21 Founded in Vienna in 2002 by Francesca von Habsburg, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) represents the fourth generation of the Thyssen family's commitment to the arts. The foundation's projects promote artistic practices that are architectural, context and site-specific, performative, and often informed by an interest in social aesthetics and environmental concerns. Since May 2012 Vienna's Augartenpark has been transformed into a revitalized center for the arts under the aegis of the foundation. TBA21–Augarten marks the inception of a four-year collaborative relationship with the Belvedere and presents artists' individual stances and artistic dialogues through works drawn from the foundation's collection. The aim of TBA21–Augarten is to fill its project space with complex and critical programming, as well as to breathe new life into the Augarten as a social and cultural meeting place.