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Carsten Holler / Olafur Eliasson

Carsten Holler is a key example within this study, often re- appropriating science for the purposes of art. Staging ‘Quasi-scientific’ experiments (Windsor, 2018) which transform the gallery into a laboratory. Often disorientating the viewer, or more appropriately, the participant. As well as the large-scale installations smaller performative works such as ‘Kit for Exploration of the Self’ (Carsten. Holler, 1995) take the form of durational perception changing instruments such as ‘Upside Down Glasses’ (Carsten Holler, 1994-2018). These both directly re-appropriate methods from experimental psychology (Stratton, 1896). Many of the works require the participant to travel through them or offer the opportunity to make decisions of which there are no return or unknown outcomes, further reinforcing this active notion of experience as experiment.

Carsten Holler Flugmaschine (Flying Machine), 1996 Steel, electric motor, cable. From

When asked if his work bridges art and science, he claimed that he only uses the experimental form rather than simply introducing an experiment to the gallery; “In art the experiment is more of an experiment with oneself, without tangible results—there’s no objective observer collecting data and drawing conclusions” (Birnbaum, 2017). Hollers work is a good example of ‘Somaesthetic’ art[1]. Additionally, his notion of the experiment as performance provides another reference for the Action Lab methodology. This research differs in that it imposes an additional layer to the experience, offering a space in which to reflect on the experiences from which data is captured, and from which work is generated. As well as offering an accessible toolkit for practical use.

Olafur Eliasson creates immersive environments, large-scale architectural interventions which employ the use of elemental materials and perceptual phenomena. The experience of the work, and movement through its space are crucial. The use of immaterial phenomena, such as light, force the ‘participant’ to become aware of their own inner perceptions. Works using mirrored materials for example, which allow you to ‘see yourself sensing’ (Olafur, 2001). This focus on the inner experiences of the ’viewer’ is an idea further reinforced through the titles of the work, such as ‘Your Black Horizon’(Olafur, 2005). Eliasson believes that he is sharing the work with ‘you’. The work is the experience. He writes that at the moment of sharing the work, the viewer takes ownership “…it takes shape in your presence. Just like a building, an artwork is, essentially, a relationship. It is reality-producing.” (Eliasson, 2016) Could these mechanisms or ‘experience machines’ (Eliasson, 2015) be repurposed as experiential tools which enhance our daily lives beyond the scope of the gallery? Action Lab adopts and adapts this kind of use of space, in which the viewer can exercise their own subjective perceptual experience. It differs from this work employing the use of discrete mechanisms to alter perception, temporarily modifying the way we interact with our environment.

[1] Holler was directly inspired by Shusterman’s early text ‘Pragmatic Aesthetics’ 1992

Bukdahl, E. M. (2015) Embodied Creation and Perception in Olafur

Eliasson’s and Carsten Höller’s Projects. Vol. 1. The Journal of Somaesthetics No. 1, 2015: The Journal of Somaesthetics No. 1, 2015.

Eliasson, O. (2015) The Experience Machine.

Eliasson, O. (2016) Olafur Eliasson: Nothingness is not nothing at

all Shanghai

Holler, C. (1994-2018) Upside Down Glasses.

Holler, C. (1995) Kit for exploration of the self   

Windsor, M. (2018) ‘Art of Interaction: A Theoretical Examination of Carsten Höller’s Test Site.’ Tate Papers no.15, [Online] 15. [Accessed


INVERSION OF THE RETINAL IMAGE. The University of California.

Artist, educator, and researcher working between the fields of science and art.

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