Carsten-holler

We have recently observed the reemergence of sensory deprivation (sendep)—in particular flotation tank REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy)—as a kind of luxury service in urban centers. Floating was first developed neuropsychiatrist John C. Lilly in 1954, who used isolation tanks to test the effects of sensory deprivation (often in combination with LSD) and explore the nature of consciousness. Though extended or forced sensory deprivation has been deemed a form of torture—British armed forces used sendep techniques in Northern Ireland to interrogate prisoners, for example—short-term sessions are used in alternative medicine as a form of therapy. A recent Vogue trend piece described REST as promising “many lifestyle benefits, including lasting calm, heightened creative thought, and greater suppleness of skin.” Floating, which dresses up mid-century quackery as bleeding edge body hacking, speaks to the paradoxical nature of contemporary tech culture, a chimera of bohemian 1960s counterculture, radical individualism, and neoliberal economics. Floating is for the Kurzweilian transhumanist: the die-hard Burner and Bulletproof coffee early adopter. It is about being completely inward-facing—perfectly self-immersed—while also becoming free of the self and its corporeal nature. You are you, but better; you, but without limits (i.e. a mortal body). Floating, indeed, fulfills the impossible desire to be in control while also losing yourself; to be in your comfort zone while also pushing your limits. Unsurprisingly, sendep tools and techniques naturally bleed into sexual fetish (specifically bondage), a potent fount of magical thinking. A Google search of “sensory deprivation,” for example, returns grainy photos of early “black-out” masks used in float tanks alongside “Total Sensory Deprivation Black Leather Hood” sold by Strict Leather on Amazon. The ideal techno-utopian self, the immortal cyborg, is perhaps then a kind of fetishized object: man as iPhone.

filed under: #sendep

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Carsten Höller, ‘Giant Psycho Tank’, 1999

In Höller’s Psycho Tank, visitors will float weightlessly in a sensory deprivation pool, providing a strange out-of-body experience. In these scenarios, as in his other work, Höller treats the viewer as the subject and audience for his radical and disorienting experiments.

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If you’ve ever set foot inside an art museum, you’ve seen the warning sign: Please don’t touch. But New York’s Jewish Museum is upending the distance between art and museum-goer with the exhibit Take Me (I’m Yours) — an exhibit where you’re not only allowed to touch the art, you’re encouraged to take it home.

Take Me (I’m Yours) will feature art from forty internationally renowned artists, including Yoko Ono, Lawrence Weiner, Carsten Höller, Félix González-Torres, and Rirkrit Tiravanija. You’ll be able to grab a pill from Höller’s Pill Clock, fwhich rains pills down from the ceiling every three seconds. Or you can snag a tattoo from Weiner that reads, “Now art belongs to you and me.” Or would you rather a capsule of air from Yoko Ono?

First curated in London by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Christian Boltanski in 1995, the exhibit explored the politics of value, consumerism, and participation in the arts. More than twenty years later, those concepts are still central to our lives.

As you touch, interact with, and take away objects from the museum, you’ll play an active role in the artistic process — and spreading art out into the world. Help the Jewish Museum replenish their thousands of art objects here, so that as many people as possible can participate.