Miroslaw Balka: How It Is - The Unilever Series

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Tate Modern 13 October 2009 – 5 April 2010

You approach the structure from the back...a massive container...It looks like something out of Sci Fi film...only there's no music (I heard music, though). The sound is fantastic. You first hear it from the outside. Lots of running and the occasional scream (from visitors). And then you walk up and into the thing and you hear the sounds of visitors experiencing the artwork through the darkness--through the darkness.

The steel is beautiful from the outside. The inky darkness inside...is black, blacker than night. It feels velvety even before you touch the walls, which are furry. I walked into the back wall, my nose hitting the side. Moving inwards, there's darkness...though figures can be visible when they're very close. Walking outwards, there's the light of the Turbine Hall--the experience is profoundly different.

Some Keywords:

  • inky
  • the texture of experience
  • touching darkness
  • disappearance
  • human cargo
  • internal/eternal
  • the void
  • containers

From Tate's website:

The latest commission in The Unilever Series How It Is by Polish artist Miroslaw Balka is a giant grey steel structure with a vast dark chamber, which in construction reflects the surrounding architecture - almost as if the interior space of the Turbine Hall has been turned inside out. Hovering somewhere between sculpture and architecture, on 2 metre stilts, it stands 13 metres high and 30 metres long. Visitors can walk underneath it, listening to the echoing sound of footsteps on steel, or enter via a ramp into a pitch black interior, creating a sense of unease.
Underlying this chamber is a number of allusions to recent Polish history – the ramp at the entrance to the Ghetto in Warsaw, or the trucks which took Jews away to the camps of Treblinka or Auschwitz, for example. By entering the dark space, visitors place considerable trust in the organisation, something that could also be seen in relation to the recent risks often taken by immigrants travelling. Balka intends to provide an experience for visitors which is both personal and collective, creating a range of sensory and emotional experiences through sound, contrasting light and shade, individual experience and awareness of others, perhaps provoking feelings of apprehension, excitement or intrigue. source


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