Carsten Höller

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Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin
5 November 2010 - 6 February 2011

How do we achieve enlightenment? What role is science given in our society, and what role myth? Do we need to find alternative categories for experience and alternative approaches to awakening consciousness? These questions were all raised by Carsten Höller in his show Soma.

Höller explores the myth of Soma - a drink with healing properties known among Verdic nomads in North India in the 2nd millennium BCE that promised enlightenment and access to the divine sphere, which was commonly used in rituals. The drink's main ingredient is no longer exactly known to us; ethnomycologists and philologists generally posit the fly Amanita mushroom as the substance responsible for its effects. Set against this backdrop, Höller has devised a fantastical scenario that stands at the crossroads between art and science, laboratory and dream, supposed objectivity and heightened subjectivity.

An oversized, three-dimensional tableau vivant unfolds before the viewers' eyes as they look down from a tribune. In the middle of this set-up, a hotel room is perched on a mushroom-shaped platform, giving guests the opportunity to spend the night in the museum and to dive into the world of Soma.