Tate Modern's new Turbine Hall piece is perhaps not for those afraid of the dark. It's also not for those afraid that their eardrums might be burst from the cacophonous din made by the screams of schoolgirls.
Miroslaw Balka's How It Is is a huge metal box that fills the eastern section of the Turbine Hall. Raised from the ground, the box is closed and inaccessible from one end, while at the other a gentle ramp leads upwards to the interior, where a pitch darkness into which your fellow gallow-goers grope awaits.
As the second Unilver Series effort in a row to take inspiration from cult literature, How It Is shows its literary leanings less in a less laboured fashion than the novels strewn about Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster's dystopian fantasy a year ago. The title is taken from a Samuel Beckett novel about an unnamed man wading endlessly through mud. It could also be said to evoke the Irishman’s oft-repeated claim that he could recollect the moment of his own birth; turning to face the distant light at the box’s furthest depth, any feelings of trepidation (which are actually more acute if you take a wander beneath the structure) have long been jettisoned, replaced by a warmth, almost maternal, sense of envelopment. There are further meanings to be wrung from this piece, too, not least, given the artist’s nationality, those connected with the locked metal trains of Final Solution.
Yet for most visitors the experience is likely to be punctuated by the screams of teens and their even younger counterparts. Is this a bad thing? The sounds work almost like sonar in the depths of the box, the echoes pinging around and offering clues as to the dimensions when eyesight fails. After the past two years this is a throwback to the kid-pleasing (or at least kid-spooking) Carsten Holler slides. And whether or not you appreciated that piece will probably dictate what you make of this one.
How It Is runs until April 5th 2010. Entry is free.