Jul 30, 2012

Soma: Höller

"Carsten Höller's latest exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum in Berlin takes its title from the mythical drink referred to in ancient Hindu texts, a liquid that is supposed to have been consumed by gods and mortals seeking enlightenment. It is said that reindeer urine and hallucinogenic mushrooms formed the base of the elixir, and it is up to the viewer in Höller’s installation to infer whether or not the roaming animals have imbibed elements of this mythical drink. Who, he seems to ask, is the control group in this experiment? Höller has devised a fantastical scenario that stands at the crossroads between art and science, laboratory and dream, supposed objectivity and heightened subjectivity.

Linguists, anthropologists, mycologists, and botanists alike have been searching for the composition of soma for millennia. Sifting through Sanskrit verses, they aimed at uncovering its compounds, but no consensus has yet been reached. In his life-size experiment, Höller continues the research done by American scientist Gordon R. Wasson, whose 1968 thesis on the origin and makeup of the potent potable informed the artist’s inquiry. Höller’s fantasy land can also be your home for one night – for the price of 1,000 euros (stay includes a nighttime tour of the museum with a guard, as well as breakfast)."

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