Crate Expectations

December 21, 2009

Ok, it’s not a great picture, but I shouldn’t have taken it in the first place. That’s because we’re in the dark here and there should be no light. I used no flash, but there would have still been a faint orange glow from the autofocus. Sorry Tate Modern. And I apologise sincerely for this post’s poor title (though I like it… so not that sincere… but sorry anyways pun-haters).

This is the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern. And there’s always something worth seeing, whether it’s a big red horn or a large crack in the floor. Oh, I know my art and the right terms.

The large crack was called Shibboleth. I’d come across that word once before, in an episode of The West Wing. I had an understanding of sorts; that the word was a test, the right pronunciation showing whether or not you belonged to a certain tribe or another. At the heart of the West Wing Episode and the crack in the floor there is something being conveyed about racism and intolerance.

But,  when I go to the Tate Modern I don’t think like that. I see a big crack, and I hop from side to side and then try and stick my foot as far down as it will go. It’s fun. Then I read about Shibboleth, the work of art, and I become thoughtful. But not for long. I’m not sure you should have to read about a work of art to understand it. Sure, it helps. It Illuminates. But the reading and the experiencing seem like separate things.

That’s how I felt when I was in the big metal box yesterday. I just wanted to leap in, into the darkness, and run around.

It’s called How It Is. It’s by the Polish artist Miroslaw Balka. It’s a… Oh, why should I try to describe it when the Tate’s website does it so much better:

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.

I wasn’t uneasy. I was happy and excited. I loved it. It’s a huge metal box that you just vanish into. No edges, no end, until you bump into them in the darkness. It’s so huge I couldn’t help but make a cheap joke in there about feeling like a midget illegal immigrant. I shouldn’t have of course, because when you read again, you read that the work has been inspired by such realities. And, like Shibboleth, the work is associated with the darker moments of recent history and the terrible crimes race can commit against race.

I’m going to stop reading.

The work is great fun. Go and see it. Or not, since you will be in the darkest place you have ever been.

Go and see it. Run into it. Be daring. Go in as far as you can, til you hit a wall you never knew was there. Then kiss someone. Or kick someone. Or go boo.


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