The New Museum has been transformed into a real-life game of chutes and ladders, or perhaps a Fun Palace a la Cedric Price, for its new exhibition Carsten Höller: Experience that opened this week and is running through January 15, 2012. The centerpiece of the show is a spiraling stainless steel slide traversing the fourth through second floors and providing what certainly must be the most rapid vertical circulation in the entire city short of a plummeting elevator . We stopped by to check out the slide and, after signing our lives away on a waiver, took a couple rides ourselves.
Carsten Höller, originally a scientist, is known for experimenting on others’ perceptions of the world around them, and upon entering the New Museum and being confronted by a series of ten-foot-tall mushrooms lined up against the back wall, it was clear Experience would be unlike a typical museum visit. On the fourth floor, the sleek stainless steel of Höller’s slide emerges from a concrete floor, offering no insight to where you might end up. Sandwiched between an unusually slow, mirrored carousel and a mobile made of bird cages (and singing live birds), the slide clearly steels the show.
Once saddling up on a canvas sheet to speed your descent, the plunge down the rabbit hole only lasts a couple seconds. You don’t notice others gawking at you through plastic windows as you fly through what the museum has likened to “a giant 102-foot-long pneumatic mailing system.” The spiral deposits viewers on the second floor largely no worse for wear (but watch your elbows on that last turn!) and uncontrollably grinning, perhaps wondering if they had indeed just slid through three levels of an art museum. While many made a bee-line for the elevator back upstairs, we suggest taking the spiral staircase to beat the others back to the line.