Newsletter Spring 2010
February 2010

Sjarel Ex explains...

Sjarel Ex, director Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, wrote an essay on the exhibition. This essay is part of the brochure available at the exhibition in the museum. Read an exclusive prepublication here.

Design drawing by Carsten Höller, made during a visit to Rotterdam at 15 August 2009
Design drawing by Carsten Höller, made during a visit to Rotterdam at 15 August 2009

Divided Divided

Take a sheet of paper and draw a large square on it. Then divide the square into two halves. Then divide one of the halves in two. Divide one of the resulting halves again, and so on. This simple geometric formula is the basis for Carsten Höller’s exhibition Divided Divided. The gallery floor plan, the wall paintings and all the individual art works have been realised in accordance with this principle.

The idea to make an exhibition upon a geometric basis came from Carsten Höller himself. When, in August last year, he was walking around these galleries he had a sudden vision: an invisible grid that could provide a measure and a connection for a number of new works and several existing works made in the course of his twenty-year artistic career. They are exhibited together in Divided Divided. The Bodon galleries have hosted many unforgettable installations, think of Walter de Maria’s A Computer Which Will Solve Every Problem in the World / 3-12 Polygon from the 1980s or more recent exhibitions by Urs Fischer and Ernesto Neto. Once again these galleries now serve as a podium for a unique idea.

The pattern behind Divided Divided is more than simply a geometric foundation. Working with two halves – you could call it bipolar spatial thinking or approaching questions according to the methodology of the thesis and antithesis – is characteristic of Carsten Höller’s mode of thought. At the Documenta in 1997 he created an installation together with Rosemarie Trockel that drew a clear distinction – or did it? – between people and pigs. On a beautiful spot in the garden of the Fridericianum in Kassel stood a special construction that provided accommodation for pigs on one side and the public on the other. The two halves of exactly the same size were separated by a one-way mirror. The family of pigs lived in a perfect biotope, evinced by the fact that during the exhibition thirteen healthy piglets were born. The people observed the rural idyll from an inclined plane that served as a tribune in the darkened half of the building as if witnessing a re-enactment of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

If this art work involved a relatively sharp division between culture and nature, in London in 2008 and 2009 Carsten Höller’s The Double Club was based upon a juxtaposition of cultures from the West and Africa, in particular that of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Double Club, comprising a bar, restaurant and nightclub, took its title from a strict division – of each of its three areas – between Congolese and a Western parts, including the music played and the food served. In the restaurant the public chose between Congolese and Western menus, which they enjoyed on either designer furniture or (African) plastic garden tables and chairs. Just as the bar offered a choice between Congolese and Western drinks on its Congolese or Western side, so too the disco provided a mix of Congolese rhythms and Western dance music. Two cultures stood opposite one another, yet within each other’s sight and earshot, more or less separated by an invisible line of demarcation, which was constantly and enthusiastically crossed, especially as the night progressed. As a synthesis of two cultures in North London, The Double Club was such a success that – months later than intended – it was difficult to close it down.

Read more on the essay in the brochure, available for free at the exhibition.