Night at the Museum—Literally: Carsten Höller Invites You to a Sleepover

In collaboration with a sleep researcher, Höller promises dreams of flying.

Fondation Beyeler. Photo: Mark Niedermann.

In the hit 2006 film Night at the Museum, divorced sad sack Larry (played by Ben Stiller) gets a job as a night watchman at New York’s Museum of Natural History, where he finds that, under a spell cast by a magical Egyptian artifact, the exhibits come to life. 

Well, there may be no magic behind it, but one display in the current exhibition at Basel’s Fondation Beyeler takes on a life of its own after dark. Carsten Höller’s Dream Hotel Room 1: Dreaming of Flying with Flying Fly Agarics (2014), created with sleep researcher Adam Haar, is offering you, the visitor, the chance to slumber in the museum. What’s more, the duo is promising some pretty sweet dreams to go along with your nap.

“Art offers us structure to explore other realities, ripe with generative impossibility, unfamiliar meaning and fertile doubt,” Haar wrote. “Dreaming does the same.” The art-and-science hybrid aims to induce a state of lucid dreams, and offers a journal where visitors can record their nighttime visions.

A dark space with a bed, enclosed by curtains.

Carsten Höller with Adam Haar, Dream Bed (Dreaming of Flying with Flying Fly Agarics), 2024. Photo: Mark Niedermann. Courtesy of the artists.

Visitors lounging on the bed will witness spinning toadstools above them, lit by red light at a wavelength that is meant to induce lucid dreams. Through measuring heart rate and breathing speed, the bed will detect when the visitor is sleeping, at which time it will gently rock in a way that will induce the sensation of flying. 

This is all based in “Dream Engineering,” Haar explained on his website, pointing out that the flashing red lights that will be used at the Beyeler have been associated with dreams of thunderstorms and pulsating train cars. Meanwhile, the words “flying with fly agarics” will be projected over the bed, and the sleeper will hear the same words, as part of a technique called Targeted Dream Incubation, which can encourage specific themes in dreamers. 

Mostly, slots are one hour to a customer, but once a week the “Dream Bed” is available for Friday overnight stays.  

Höller has a long history of using beds in museums. In the Guggenheim New York’s 2008–09 exhibition “theanyspacewhatever,” he provided a sleepover opportunity, as well as in a 2014 show at Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) in Vienna and Mexico City’s Tamayo Museum in 2019.

Carsten Höller. Photo Courtesy © Pierre Björk

Carsten Höller. Photo Courtesy © Pierre Björk

The project is part of an exhibition that revives the genre known as Relational Aesthetics, and is “a weird one,” as Artnet News critic Ben Davis put it in his review. “Even the frickin’ title changes over time! It was being called ‘Dance with Daemons’ when I was there, but is constantly renamed,” Davis wrote. As of now, the show is called “I Can’t Tell If This Longing Is My Own.”

Whatever the show is called when you are reading this, it’s on view through August 11 at Fondation Beyeler, Baselstrasse 10, CH-4125 Riehen/Basel.

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