«Participatory art is all the rage these days, an ever-expanding category and, increasingly, a means for museums to signal their hipness to the younger, broader audiences they so desperately want to attract. Nothing says accessible like something you interact with physically.
Such art comes in many guises. It can range from relatively domestic tasks, like cooking a meal, to intricate trompe l’oeil environments that replicate or exaggerate huge chunks of reality. Somewhere in between are essentially abstract structures that sometimes involve the use of lights or mirrors, or sometimes jungle-gym-like arrangements that you navigate one way or another, walking under or through, or climbing over, perhaps pausing to sit or lie down.
Often borrowing from science, design or architecture, they might be described as fun-house formalism. It’s not all bad, but a lot of it is fairly mindless.
You could probably trace its origins partly to Richard Serra’s disorienting torqued ellipses of steel of the ’90s. Among the most extreme and certainly the least time-consuming recent iterations are Carsten Höller’s slide-through tubes. One of the most successful is Anish Kapoor’s giant, extravagantly reflective, biomorphic stainless-steel sculpture, nicknamed “The Bean,” in Millennium Park in Chicago.
Tomás Saraceno’s “Cloud City” is a particularly prominent example of fun-house formalism...» - Roberta Smith