Published on Friday February 4th, 2011
is the title of the large and complex installation standing at the entrance of the Hamburger Bahnhof. In a rarefied atmosphere, between chirping of birds and muffled air, unfolds a magical, unstable balance between art and science. It is an experiment conducted by Carsten Höller
(Brussels 1961; lives in Stockholm), who collects and prepares in Berlin the ingredients employed in an obscure recipe for a drink called "Soma", known to ancient Hindu monks.
"We drank Soma/we became immortal/we have seen the light/we found the divine
". These verses, extracted from the oldest text of Hindu religion, Rgveda
, conduct to the legendary miraculous beverage capable of leading to the divine sphere and offer strength, luck and victory. The Rgveda
(dated 2nd millennium BC) is then the only clue to the reconstruction of the recipe that was lost over the centuries and, together, the starting point for the research on ingredients that over time have been the focus of philologists, botanists and ethnologists.
Now it's up to Carsten Höller. Through an accurate analysis, the artist completes the circle of the lost recipe which, starting from a religious-poetic text, passes through a scientific investigation to return finally, through his work, to an artistic dimension. In the installation, Höller takes the drink back at its original state of creation-imagination. Now the question is: what are the ingredients of Soma and in which quantities should they be employed?
In 1968 doctor Gordon Wasson, an American Banker and enthusiast of Mycology, the study of mushrooms, published a scientific compendium on the preparation of Soma. The indispensable ingredient then was considered to be the fungus Amanita Muscaria
, which must, however, according to the habits of nomads of Siberia who had migrated to India, only be eaten if watered from the urine of a reindeer which in turn was nourished by a similar fungus.
Then, it is not surprising to observe that Carsten Höller, artist-scientist with a degree in agricultural sciences, has gathered together in the space of art many different scientific theories and functional elements to his experiment; However the resulting tableau vivant
is breath taking. It is prepared and divided into two symmetrical parts, mirrored and populated by the same inhabitants. A fairy tale coming to life.
Therefore, there are in total twelve reindeers, eight white mice, twenty-four canaries and two flies surrounded and monitored by laboratory equipment. The objective is the recipe reconstruction of a beverage of which, like Coca-Cola, the elements are still unknown.
The observer can monitor the entire ecosystem, or look at it from the top of a platform, comfortably seated. If you decide not to lose sight of your experiment even for a second, you can book a bed that stands in the centre of the air and sleep blissfully within the museum installation in the company of reindeers.
Dark linen. One thousand Euros per night, breakfast included.
show visited on January the 30th, 2011
From November the 5th, 2010 to February the 6th, 2011
Carsten Höller - Soma
Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart
Invalidenstrasse, 50-51 - 10557 Berlin
Opening Hours: Tuesdays to Fridays 10-18; Saturdays 11-20; Sundays
Entrance Fee: full € 8; reduced € 4
Info: email@example.com; www.hamburgerbahnhof.de