Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Carsten Höller: Decision / Cahoots / Pizza Pilgrims

The whole social media buzz around the Carsten Höller: Decision exhibit meant that when we went to London, it was on top of my list. As it is the middle of the summer holiday, London is even busier than usual, so we pre-booked tickets to be on the safe side.

It was a typical British day in London - grey and rainy. Arriving in the rain made me glad that we were spending most of the day inside where it'd be a lot drier.

We got to the Southbank Centre, collected our tickets, and ran across to the exhibit in the pouring rain, trying to avoid the growing puddles. 

Like the name of the exhibit, a decision had to be made right off the bat: path A or B? Whichever path you chose was equally dark and disorientating as the other. It was like being stuck in an air vent and you had to feel your way through to the end - whilst trying not to smash our face into an unseen wall, or each other. 

In the little booklet given to you, it explains that Carsten Höller wanted a special entrance to his exhibit to take the visitor away from the outside world and into his surreal world. 

At the light of the end of the tunnel you stumble onto a spinning mobile of sliced mushrooms. The whole exhibit is an interactive one, so you get turns in walking around and spinning the mushrooms, which is the most mesmerising thing to watch.   

Carsten Höller: Decision - London-1

Carsten Höller: Decision - London-2

Carsten Höller: Decision - London-3

A fairly large spread of pills on the floor comes up next. A single pill falls from the ceiling every 3 seconds, and has done since the start of the exhibit. I would love to see a time-lapse of this section of the exhibit from the very first drop of the pill, to the very last drop.   

Carsten Höller: Decision - London-4

Carsten Höller: Decision - London-5

The most complicated clock you will ever see in your life. Don't ask me how you tell the time with it.

Carsten Höller: Decision - London-6

Carsten Höller: Decision - London-7

Two hospital beds slowly roam around the room. You can even book to stay in one of the beds for the night. The idea behind it is the unsettling nature of waking up in a different and unfamiliar place to where you fell asleep. Creepy. 

Carsten Höller: Decision - London-8

Carsten Höller: Decision - London-9

Carsten Höller: Decision - London-10

Along the back of the room Oculus Rift VR goggles line the wall. When you slip them on you are transported to a landscape of a snowy forest, and slowly the picture adjusts so your left eye sees a different image to your right, and your vision goes all over the place. I equate the sensation to kind of like when you wear contacts and they haven't settled down properly, so they're roaming all over your eyes, and you see everything in a weird double-image hazy outline. 

Carsten Höller: Decision - London-11

Carsten Höller: Decision - London-12

Next stop was one of my favourites - and everyone else's it seems! The upside down goggles. It literally does what you'd think it does: it turns your vision upside down. Honestly one of the most fun things to experience. It was like being a child and learning how to master basic things like walking. Try high-fiving someone - it's so difficult and so incredibly amusing.

Supposedly after a while, your brain will automatically correct your vision so you see things the right way up. There's been many experiments on our brain's ability to adjust distorted vision. It's even at work in our daily lives - like how some people can effortlessly read things upside down.

Carsten Höller: Decision - London-13

Carsten Höller: Decision - London-14

Accurate portrayal of me after Cosmo.

Carsten Höller: Decision - London-15

Carsten Höller: Decision - London-16

Unfortunately as it was a rainy day, a section of the exhibit outside which involves being up in the air was closed. Which was a bit of a shame, but it didn't take away from the whole experience.

We then waited in line for over an hour to slide our way down back to the real world. But again the rain spoiled our fun - both slides had big leaks so they turned out to be more like water slides. The staff declared the slides closed for repairs and gave everyone waiting in line the chance to book another day to return to the exhibit for free, or alternatively credit vouchers for the Southbank Centre.

So we had to resign to taking the longer way down using the stairs.

We decided to go for a drink at Cahoots before dinner.

..which is possibly the coolest bar I've been to. Near Kingly Court, the only clue to the entrance is a vague little sign saying 'to the trains'.

When we got to the entrance a man dressed in 1940s gear poked his head out. I asked if there was space for two on a Friday night (very optimistic for London, I know), and he looked around and said he could probably let us in, handing us two 'tickets'.

Cahoots - London-1

A soundtrack of trains and tube announcements play over the speaker as you make your way down to the bar, and I felt like I was just making my way to any old tube platform.

Cahoots - London-2

A vintage-style ticket office doubled as the cloakroom.

Just before we got into the bar, we were given newspapers, which on closer inspection, turned out to be menus.

And if you look around, it looks like everyone's reading the newspaper, just like everyday commuters.

Cahoots - London-4

We finally made our way to the bar, which was unsurprisingly packed for an early Friday evening. We both ordered drinks - I ordered a fruity cocktail (which was delicious - but then again so are all cocktails) and Matt got a beer. Being London, drinks weren't cheap. Cocktails were around £8-15 mark, and there were special cocktail drinks for larger groups to share.

Cahoots - London-5

Half the bar is designed to look like an old train carriage (with handrails along the ceiling and luggage racks), and the other half an old tube station platform (with signs and maps of different tube lines).

When we found a place to sit, a woman with a polka-dot swing dress and pin-up curls handed us a can of popcorn and some tap water.

Cahoots - London-6

Cahoots - London-7

Cahoots is a late 1940s themed bar, and the attention to detail is amazing. The decor, furniture, and the staff all dress to reflect the time. All the food comes in ration tins or cans, and the staff regularly circle around to fill up water using a large thermos vacuum flask.

The bar actually used to be an old WWII air raid shelter, and with its authentic decor and the themed drinks, I did feel quite out of place in my 21st century clothing and iPhone.

The owner describes the vibe of Cahoots: “Our concept is: it’s 1946, London is being rebuilt after the Blitz. A group of scoundrels stumble across a disused Tube station used as an air raid shelter and start organising underground parties to try and rebuild the spirit of London.”

Cahoots is a really awesome little place to go to whether it's for a date or with friends or family, but it is quite small so I'd suggest booking in advance to make sure you get a table!

Cahoots - London-8

After finishing our drinks and having one last gawp at how cool the bar was, we dragged ourselves away as our stomachs were grumbling.

We went to Pizza Pilgrims, only a stone's throw away from Cahoots.

Pizza Pilgrims - London-1

Pizza Pilgrims - London-2

I ordered the Aubergine Parmigiana (I checked the spelling of that about 8 times) and Matt ordered the Nduja. We didn't have to wait very long at all, the pizzas came out very quickly and were gone just as quick.

The pizzas sadly marked the end of our day in London, and we headed back on the train feeling very full.

I'm always sad to leave London because I feel like there's a million things to do (/things to eat,) and I want to do them all.

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