How It Is

If you visit Tate Modern on the shores of the Thames, the Turbine Hall installation this year is a huge metal construction by Miroslaw Balka called:  How It Is.   Imagine a massive, ten or twenty times over size, container (as in container ship) and then add on a bit more. It sits on stilts so you can walk under it and when you get to the front there is a steep slope upto to the entrance.  Once inside the darkness swallows you up.  The floor and walls are lined in some kind of black velvet which absorbs sound as well as light.

As you walk further in, the darkness is absolute.  And you walk until you make contact with the back wall.  And the wall and space in front of it are indistinguishable.  It is a strange feeling, sucked into blackness, and you sense that you have walked a long way in a huge structure.

Yet if you turn round and face the door you see the light from the entrance. It is big and wide and the walk back is straight forward because it is clear where you are going.  It is hard to imagine that the slow walk forward is exactly the same distance as the few steps into the light.  The whole experience is  strange and disquieting which, I guess, is what the artist intended.

It is a bit like work really.  Stumble forward in the dark, have no sense of direction or sensation of how far you have come and you feel almost literally ‘lost’.  The experience of leading becomes directionless, vague and uncomfortable.  But if you have a clearly visible goal the journey appears far more managable.  You step forward with confidence, avoiding obstacles and not moving in a straight line, but maintaining the sense of direction. The only issue is getting to the entrance before someone slams the door!

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