A Roller Coaster For Wimps: You Walk Instead Of Ride

An art installation on the Rhine offers all of the expectation but none of the heart-pounding thrill of an amusement-park ride.

As a neurotic kid growing up in New York, I was at once fascinated and repulsed by the Cyclone, Coney Island’s legendary roller coaster. The structure looked like it was made of matchsticks, and while the climb up the wooden rails seemed exhilarating enough, the speedy drops skirted too close to death for my comfort. I would have been happy to go to the grave without having experienced a roller coaster, but that was before I laid eyes on Tiger & Turtle-Magic Mountain, a fabulous roller coaster set on a former industrial site in Duisburg Wanheim, Germany. What’s so special about it? You walk it.

The permanent installation, by Heike Mutter and Ulrich Genth, offers all the expectation—but none of the heart-thumping, nihilistic thrill—of a traditional roller coaster ride. Instead, visitors are invited to climb the narrow steps, make room for others to pass, and stop to enjoy the view of the Rhine. "The sculpture," the artists write, "subtly and ironically plays with the dialectic of promise and disappointment, mobility and standstill." At the risk of being puke-inducingly trite, that sounds awfully like the roller-coaster metaphor of life.

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