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Soma. Dokumente/Documents

Carsten Höller (*1961 in Brussels) traces the myth of soma, a healing drink made by Vedic nomads in northern India during the 2nd century BCE. It promised knowledge, immortality, and access to the divine sphere. The exact psychoactive contents of this drink are not known for certain. One of the substances favored by researchers is the fly agaric, a common, poisonous mushroom.

This publication focuses on a collection of written research on soma; the sources date from the early eighteenth century to the present day, and represent a variety of scientific disciplines and approaches. Soma, then, is the subject of the excerpted material that serves as the basis for Höller’s artistic work, while at the same time, the material inquires into the exactitude of scientific knowledge.

This beautiful little school book like publication is the official catalogue for the exhibition SOMA by Carsten Höller in Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart - Berlin.
Since the photographs could only have been taken after the set up of the exhibition, we had to produce the catalogue in two parts. This technical task became one idea of the concept: One part for the colourful glossy images of the instalation, and the other one (first printed) for the facsimiles and translations of the scientific texts.
I chose a very traditional layout, taken from scientific books of the sixteenth century.
The texttypeface is the redesigned FF Karbid Pro.
Inspired by the subject and the idea of the exhibition—the experiment with the spectators’ cognition—the footnotes seem to be high on Soma, and you really need to concentrate to find their way through the texts and manuscripts.
Like in ancient scientific books, strange little drawings are escorting the text.
To give the drawings a certain mood, I had to redraw some of them.

My regards go to Dorothée Brill from the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart.
Thanks so much to Clemens von Lucius from the great Hatje Cantz Berlin team.
This project was really a lot of fun to work on.

Hatje Cantz, 2010
German, English, ISBN 978-3-7757-2764-8
128 pp., 49 ills., 30 in color, 17,00 x 24,00 cm, softcover