Carsten Höller's 'Decision' at the Hayward Gallery

'Decision' in Milan is the latest work of the artist most Brits know best for the slides at the Tate Modern in 2006 and at Miuccia Prada's office 

Funhouse over art house

Carsten Höller – the artist most Brits know best for corkscrewing loopy,  fettucine-narrow slides through the  Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern in 2006, and who most fashion Brits know for doing the same, permanently, out of the designer Miuccia Prada’s office in Milan – has a new(ish) exhibition. It’s at the Hayward Gallery (until 6 September) and it’s called “Decision”.

As that title implies, Höller invites you to stumble about consequences-style through a host of arty japes, like tumbling placebo pills and whirling fungus and, of course, those slides. It’s fun – I’ve been twice, and both times it had a fairground atmosphere, of screaming children, and endless queues, as we all wanted to go down those infernal slides.

Maybe that’s what Höller wanted – for us all just to have a good time? But I couldn’t help but think of how much more sinister and incongruous – indeed, how much more thought-provoking – that chute spiralling out of Mrs Prada’s posh office was, a gaping black hole facing her desk, inviting you to plunge into the unknown depths of darkness. Or something. It didn’t feel like an amusement park, but like an art installation: something to think about. At the Hayward, you don’t really get the chance to think, queuing as you are to whizz around Höller’s helter skelters in a gallery transformed into a cross between the Louvre and Chessington World of Adventures, weighted more heavily towards the latter. Although I do regret not taking a trip down Mrs Prada’s slide, it must be said.

Society of the spectacle

Höller got me thinking about Lee  Alexander McQueen – he loved a spectacle, and to get a reaction through his work. Art and fashion critics are as po-faced as one another, only art critics walk around the works being po-faced, while fashion critics stay in one spot and focus on moving objects, generally entirely passively.

McQueen – as was so aptly demonstrated in the record-breaking “Savage Beauty” exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum – was about inciting them to emotion. Laughter, sometimes; occasionally tears. He once said he’d rather people left his shows to vomit than feel nothing at all.

I think that’s an admirable intention. But I wonder if McQueen – and artists likesuch as Höller – are encouraging us to view the quieter art forms as spectator sports? You rarely go to a gallery and wonder what’s going to happen next – or, at least, you didn’t used to. Is there a line between entertainment and art, and indeed entertainment and the fashion show? Or is it all one and the same, these days?

Film fail

Entertainment brings us to movies – over the past week or so, I’ve been pawing through the abysmal reviews of Fantastic Four with the glee only generated by schadenfreude, experiencing the frisson of satisfaction that, I suspect, most of us feel when rich people waste an obscene amount of money on something that tanks utterly.

It’s what we all wanted to happen to Titanic, and to Victoria Beckham’s career in fashion. Neither delivered (or, rather, failed to deliver), but the balls-up that is Fantastic Four is gratifying. And yet, the film has already been commissioned for a sequel – it even has a released date of 9 June 2017. There’s something a mite depressing about that – about the fact it’s probably doomed from the get-go, and about the lack of originality in the whole thing.

Fantastic Four is already a remake (or a “franchise reboot”, as the soulless spin goes) – wouldn’t it be more exciting, for everyone involved, if all that money went into trying to find and fund something new and different? I’d pay to see that.

Lipstick wars

The counter argument to all of the above is, of course, Star Wars, source of endless sequels, reboots, rehashes and, of course,  a great tranche of merchandising opportunities.

But Star Wars make-up? I don’t think anyone could see that coming – even though Gwendoline Christie, the statuesque Game of Thrones actress who plays Captain Phasma in the forthcoming Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, is also the model for Vivienne Westwood’s autumn/ winter advertising campaign (she’s also going out with designer Giles Deacon).

The promo images from Max Factor, the (hare) brains behind the scheme, show faces representing light and dark sides. See what they did there? The former involves lots of eyeliner and kohl brushed in odd areas (across your temples, outlining your hairline); the latter uses lots (and lots, and pots) of gold. They’ve called it Droid, presumably in reference to C3PO: the model, bless her, winds up resembling one of the dodgy Hot Gossip dancers prancing about to Sarah Brightman’s “I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper” in a surfeit of bronzer and gold Lurex.

Gold lipstick often does that, alas, even when you have make-up mastermind Pat McGrath involved.

Twitter: @AlexanderFury

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