Monday, February 08, 2010

How It Is

Just back from a brief trip to the Tate Modern, braving snowstorms and screaming schoolchildren, who seem to be swarming the south bank, lucky them to have so many attractions to visit within a short distance: Shakespeare's Globe, London Eye, Southwark Cathedral, etc. But not, presumably, Vinopolis.

In any case, said bairns were positively gleeful entering How It Is, Miroslaw Balka's installation in the Turbine Hall. From the back it looks like an upturned crate. From the front, more like a cattle car, with a steep ramp leading into the mysterious blackness. The kids screamed their heads off, while my guest and I merely peered inquisitively in, looking for signs of life.

Sniffing the air, I found it rather cool and sweet-smelling. I spotted some light-coloured shapes in the dark, identified them as people and vowed not to step on them. Venturing through the middle, we didn't actually make contact with anything until we bumped into the back wall and understood why the shapes were so low down: they were sitting against said wall.

And from the inside, it was a nice bit of people-watching, as the silhouetted forms rose up from the ramp and joined us. Very Close Encounters. Briefly, we pondered our places in the world and the difficulty of moving forward. My friend went back out and came in, offering: "It doesn't work the second time." So, first impressions are everything.

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