Magazine article Art Monthly

Jeppe Hein

Magazine article Art Monthly

Jeppe Hein

Article excerpt

Jeppe Hein Barbican Curve Gallery London February 9 to April 29

London's galleries and museums seem full of art that puts an emphasis on having childish fun right now. First Carsten Holler brought his epic slides to Tate Modern's Turbine Hall, then Tino Sehgal had us all (well, those who felt inclined to join in) playing energetic games with school kids at the ICA, and now Jeppe Hein has created a mini roller-coaster especially for the Curve gallery at the Barbican.

Distance, 2007, is an adaptation of an earlier work first shown at the Ludwig Forum in Aachen in 2004, and consists of a labyrinthine steel structure that weaves and loops around and back on itself throughout the 80-metre length of the Curve. When a visitor enters, a sensor triggers a football-sized white ball to begin its journey around a track within the framework, first climbing somewhat laboriously up a vertical tower before being launched out into the space. As the ball then makes its progress around the construction, it dips and twists, turns and repeats, carving out and reiterating the neat engineering that Hein has devised.

The viewer's role from then on is to stand on the sidelines, watching 'your' ball, if you are able to keep track of the one that was released upon your entrance, as if watching a child at a funfair, willing it to go around the track without incident. At times this paternal urge turns sour, and the desire for something to go wrong, for the machine to be imperfect, rises to the surface. Hein appears to have pre-empted this emotion for at various points his rollercoaster slows the ball right down and even lets it painfully roll slowly back a little along the track, as if it has run out of energy, before gravity eventually forces it onwards, causing a small leap of joy. With these acts, Distance calls to mind Fischli & Weiss's epic chain reactive video work, The Way Things Go, 1987, where the artists similarly allowed the domino effect at times to become agonisingly slow before it picked up the pace once more.

Previous works by Hein have been more specifically interactive, at times with the audience unwittingly forced into playing their part, so it is mildly disappointing that Distance contains no further surprises up its sleeve beyond the viewers' first involuntary act of setting the rollercoaster in motion. …

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