This weekend, we had a spontaneous opportunity to join old friends at the Carsten Höller: Experience exhibit at the New Museum, just a short walk from our apartment. On the surface, it seemed like something that kids would love: an interactive show with a giant slide, carousels, fish tanks and strobe lights. Visitors may enter a giant slide on the 4th floor of the building, zoom down two stories, and exit from the 2nd floor where they will be dumped into a room filled with strobe lights and fluorescent sculpture animals lurking around the floor. A blue chimp here; a pink alligator there. My friend Mary opted to cuddle for a moment with the blue chimp... I opted to stick my head into a head-shaped glass bubble inside of a fish tank, as did Jamie, which I began to regret when he started throwing up the next morning. All those people sticking their heads in there, gack...
This is how the New Museum summarizes the show: "Taken as a whole, Höller’s work is an invitation to re-imagine the way in which we move through the world and the relationships we build as he asks us to reconsider what we think we know about ourselves."
This is how I summarize the "Experience" show: The New Museum gets a big Fail for not managing crowds in more efficient way. If you head over on the weekend, be prepared to stand in three lines that are each no less than a half hour: line to get in; line for wristbands which you must be wearing to get in the lines for the carousel and the slide. And you must wear them, or you'll be asked to get off of the carousel at the midway point, as Jamie was because his mom didn't know she needed to stand in line for a wristband after paying the entrance fee. Really? Kick a kid off of a very slow moving carousel when he had like 4 seconds left to go? Fail! Three hour wait for the slide? Really? What's the hold up, you ask? Grownups being coached on wearing helmets and sliding down slides.
Also, if a child walks up to a giant vat of empty gelatin pills that's part of the exhibit, maybe the security guard standing there shouldn't hand him a pill so he can run up to his mommy holding the empty capsule and argue "But a man with a name tag gave it to me! He's giving them to everyone!" My bad for having him out of eyesight for five seconds flat. Was it the strobe lights that threw me off my game?
For some, this show will be the pinacle of a mind-altering and experimental hallucinogen-inspired experience. So don't be put off by my crankiness; just plan to go during the week when it's not so crowded. Or hit a playground and experience a slide immediately. Teardrop Park down in the Battery has an impressive one, and you don't need to put on a helmet and sign a waiver to go down the thing.