A modern journey

“How It Is” by Miroslaw Balka
at Tate Modern

The most amazing aspect of this installation is a roller-coaster of emotions it evokes. All seem carefully planned although allowing a space (!) for interpretations.

The first part of “the journey into It” is the most specified: walking around the cold, scary and gigantic container that almost fills up the interior of the Turbine Hall brings unpleasant associations. The structure awaits those who have to pass along its tall, menacingly metallic walls. Risen on thin polls it is ready to be transported. With us inside? I don’t even want to voice where to. Not good.

Once in front of “It” the uneasiness is augmented by the Mystery. The container acquires some transcendental, otherworldly vibe. It mostly comes from the celling light. Taking the picture above I was thinking of the “Space Odyssey 2001” and specifically about the scene of the astronauts entering underground lab with a mysterious, alien structure.

My film crew (I was there shooting a doc footage) was left unimpressed. Modern art scholars I afterwards talked with did not confirm this metaphysical take either. Clearly the ramp is meant to trigger subjective reactions. Some visitors are afraid to enter the blackness, others feel pulled into it, yet others are simply curious. Higher Intelligence? Extermination devise? A rescue mechanism? A personal challenge? All possibly bundled together.

Entering the pitch black interior initiates the third, distinctively different part of the journey. In it the danger gradually disappears replaced by relief and playfulness. This most amazing flip returns our attention to that which is the most important - the presence of the other.

Such a scenario of the encounter with “It” runs from the menace (of extermination?) through the transcendence (of the unknown) to the comfort of (the social) other. It is an uplifting progression, hopeful with its “happy ending”.

Yet I tremble envisioning what would happen if Miroslaw Balka in some future work reverses the order. Devastatingly it could turn out more realistic, more in tune with what we have recently gone through as a civilization. Unless he has already done it since the only way out of the Turbine Hall is by walking back along the steel container of “As It Is.”

No comments:

Post a Comment