Escape: Carsten Höller – Leben

I went to Vienna to sleep in an artist’s bed. Positioned inside of tba21, a beautiful former studio now exhibition space inside of the even more beautiful Augarten in the 2nd district of Vienna, the bed is part of an exhibition also including two aviaries with two finches each and combined by a big scale, a giant floating tank, light and mushroom installations as well as two video works by the artist, Carsten Höller.
Do you remember the exhibition in Hamburger Bahnhof where the giant hall was occupied with reindeers, even more finches, and a display of all shapes of fly agarics? And in the middle the giant bed? The Viennese version is a kind of re-installment of the Berlin exhibition, just a littler easier to digest for those staying over night. Like me.

The view
The view

tba21, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, is showing Leben, an exhibition by the German-Belgian artist Carsten Höller, who created the fully functioning hydraulic bed, including mini bar and sockets. It is positioned in the center of the other works and can be elevated to 3,5m – and you can book a night to sleep there. Which means you’ll sleep over and at the same time inside of the installation, and, if you like, become a part of it.

The finches.
The finches.

It’s strange to sleep in a museum, a place loaded with intellectuality, which always airs a certain holiness, something untouchable, and is definitely one of those places you’re not supposed to spend the night. That’s why I was so interested and immediately confirmed when the foundation invited me.
I’ve been at tba21 before, as beautiful and approachable (thanks to the surrounding scenery) it is, it’s still an exhibition space, which I have a lot of respect for. So when we entered, we were quite shy about the whole thing, asked too many questions about what was allowed and what wasn’t.
I guess one best appropriates a space by using it, especially when in such an intimate, unusual way. Because of course we  didn’t only enter and went straight to bed.

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After a long marveling at our site of sleep during the introduction tour, we wandered through the halls, watched the finches watching us, wondered how they felt about being part of the art piece Gimpelwaage. Or maybe whether they minded the whistled song, that was activated by a motion detector (and that they’re supposedly repeating). After we climbed up the stairs to the elevated floating tank called High Psycho Tank, wondering if we ever dared to enter the warm liquid with this awkward yellow-green tint. We watched the videos all by ourselves after having a bottle of wine with dinner at the restaurant next door, brushed our teeth even while watching the videos.

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Oh yes, the teeth brushing. Intended meant as a part of the artistic experience, guests receive a set of Insensatus, including an Activator and a female, male and infantile tooth paste, all created to enhance the qualities of dreams and the capacity to remember them. I wasn’t too courageous and “only” tried the activator with the female substance and couldn’t wait to tell my overnight guest my dreams the next morning. I definitely had some intense dreams that night, if induced by the unusual surrounding or by the paste I will never know. And although I remembered all just after waking up, I forgot them by now. Might have to run a few more tests in a more familiar environment.

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carsten hoeller leben-9777carsten hoeller leben-9731Carsten Höller’s exhibition Leben is open until January 4th, at tba21 inside of Vienna’s Augarten.


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  1. Kristin on


    A night at the museum, indeed!

  2. Prekariat on


    Für jene, die nicht mal eben so über 390 Euro(wochentags)/490 (Wochenende) verfügen: Der Eintritt in diese schöne Ausstellung ist GRATIS

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