Last night, I dragged Arlene to the MACRO for the inauguration of ENEL/Carsten Höller’s Double Carousel with Zöllner Stripes.  Before we even get  into a discussion of big business-funded contemporary art projects, Höller’s amazing sense of humor and zucchero filato, let me re-state where we were headed.   We were about to jump into the  MACRO, Rome’s Museum of Contemporary Art in imbedded in the Nomentana neighborhood* whose recent overhaul by architects Odile Decq & Benoit Cornette  ~ not to be confused with the MAXXI,  over-discussed, prize-winning Museum of the XXI century in the Flaminia neighborhood.  To simplify, MACRO is Rome’s less-talked about contemporary art museum,  aka  “that other museum” with a collection that blows my mind.

Every year, ENEL Contemporanea awards a contemporary artist to complete a public, on-site piece which incorporates energy.  (ENEL, for the curious is Italy’s part-state, part-private energy company– and I am a big fan of big companies forking out big money for contemporary art.) This year, the award goes to  Höller, German, Sweden-living artist often considered part of the “relational art” movement.  Part of a band of brothers that includes Maurizio Cattelan and Rirkrit Tiravanija, relation art/aesthetics is about convergence– where the work becomes social environment where audience becomes participants and community likewise the museum becomes a participatory space. It is celebratory collective consumption which means you just need a sense of humor, something that Höller has been bringing into art most notoriously with his interactive sculptural slides.

Höller’s MACRO piece is pretty self-explanator:y two functioning carousels sit side by side in a field of zöllner stripes, a rectilinear herring bone design/simplified houndstooth.  Each carousel (a kind of scary monument to youth forgotten) has 14 and 16 swings made for the audience to take a spin.  The ride is slow with a subtle dizzying sensation distracting from you from the museum environment.  As well, the feeling of experiment creeps up.   The carousels meet as a swing from each gently graze each other-  highlighted in Höller’s accompanying film were sets of monozygotic twins are split to autonomous carousels and the perfunctorily come together at the carousels’ intersection.

Höller’s purpose?  To be honest, I think Höller is taking us for the proverbial spin, and deliciously so.  Most of us expect art to blow us away with beauty (Double Carousels does, with its gorgeous lights and hour-glass shapes), and most of us want art to be easy and dare I say, understandable.  Here’s where Höller is playing games– Double Carousels is an easy ride but since it’s “art” many people are hesistant to take a seat.   Once you hop on, you’ve become a test subject and art exhibit.

I encourage all of you take a spin, Double Carousels is worth the 1 euro bus ride.   For those unsure, Höller’s carousels are  free to everyone, and do not require the purchase of a museum ticket– though I do suggest you take a look at the MACRO’s collection.  Through February 26, 2012.

MACRO, via Nizza 138

* MACRO also has a seat in Testaccio