Carsten Höller and John Baldessari at Fondazione Prada, Milano: Reflections on Museum Visitors in the Digital Age.

Carsten Höller and John Baldessari at Fondazione Prada, Milano: Reflections on Museum Visitors in the Digital Age.

On the last floor of the iconic Tower of Fondazione Prada in Milan you can find two installations: one by Carsten Höller, the other from John Baldessari. Both are striking artworks, which play with the public in totally different ways.

Carsten Höller created a visionary rooms where gigantic poisonous mushrooms hang from the ceiling, slowly rotating. The visual effect is stunning, especially when people walk between the mushrooms, thus creating an upside-down world.

This means the installation is very Instagram-friendly.  If you have a look at the photos taken at Fondazione Prada you’ll see roughly one in three or four is taken at theCarsten Höller installation, and most are selfies of portraits of other people.

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In the next room you can find the Baldessari installation, Blue Line (1988).

“Blue Line consists of a panel to which are attached black and white reproductions of the painting The Body of Christ Dead in the Tomb (1520 -1522) by Hans Holbein the Younger. The title of the work refers to the “blue line” painted on the edge of the panel. In this work Baldessari deals with two themes: mortality and memory. The first is dealt through one of the most impressive images of the divinity that man has ever painted; the second is by secretly filming the visitor as he looks at the work.
The film appears on the wall in a different room a few moments later: the person who looks is in turn observed, and can then observe himself as he looks.” (from the Prada Foundation Facebook Page)

The installation is brilliant. Watching yourself observing and interacting with the artwork is striking, and gives you a unique perspective about yourself. Problem is, Baldessari artwork is not at all Instagram friendly, and this means getting much less attention from the public.

The new museums visitor is digitized. She wants to get images (not necessarily of herself) of a certain visual quality. Both installation are about interaction, but only visually effective interaction gets attention. This is our world, and this is what we have to cope with.