Carsten Höller says there are two sides to everything, just like his background.
Even though he holds a doctorate in agricultural science specializing in the area of insects, rather than becoming an entomologist, he has devoted himself to arts. He treats arts as he does science. Science solves various mysteries in the world, and Höller believes that arts serves the same purpose by offering answers for the world. However, after all, human beings are emotional animals, and quite a lot of questions cannot be answered based only on science. That is why arts still has its place in the world.
Höller is currently holding his first solo exhibition in Hong Kong titled Double, in which there is a mushroom broken up into two uneven halves. One half is “fly agaric”, a kind of poisonous mushroom that is white-spotted and red while the other half is a commonly found mushroom species. However, the growth of mushroom baffles this science-trained artist. They grow under the soil into various colors and slightly different shapes under suitable climate. Some are colorful yet carry poison, thereby luring insects to their death. They are unlike flowers and fruit, whose colors serve to attract insects to pollinate for them to ensure reproduction. Höller finds this very difficult to understand. If the two-sided concept, as he suggests, can be commonly found in daily life, this actually is not too difficult to understand. I would think that life most probably is always a mixture of the mundane and pain, and we must have had the experience of “embracing something despite knowing that it is bad for you”.
Another piece featured in the exhibition is titled Vehicle, with two orange and yellow-colored spheres, designed to be spun downhill ideally in the mind of Höller. Regrettably in the Hong Kong exhibition, since the piece has been installed within a gallery, it is being hung in the air and thus cannot spin. I recall his solo exhibition titled Doubt held inside Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan, in which Vehicle was also among the exhibits, which were all playable. Visitors felt as though they were inside an amusement park in which they could experience for themselves what was fun and interesting about the pieces. Double challenges the viewers’ sensation. They can pass through two rails which seem to be parallel but are actually not, as well as through a maze formed by mirrors that give you illusions…Höller attempts to interact with viewers through his work. According to him, the fact that the viewers develop an understanding about the pieces differing from his also reflects a two-sided relationship that is complementary yet mutually repulsive at the same time.
“People say that science and arts are similar but I think they are like water being mixed with oil. For example, I have created quite a lot of large-scale slides so that visitors can slide down from the top. However, such pieces might not resonate with them because they have a fear of heights, or they might choose only to see them from a distance without participating.” Höller insists on both combining arts and science and separating the two at the same time. Perhaps even something blended as well as water and milk contains elements that repel each other. It is always how things are in this world.