Your first sight of the vast steel container fills you with apprehension because you see its gigantic hulk from rear. The walk from the main entrance of the Turbine Hall to the place where you first encounter Balka's sculpture is as long and as drawn-out as possible. It's not until you are almost on top of it that you grasp how ugly, brooding, and threatening it is.
And it is at this point that you feel a slight disappointment. Yes, admit it to yourself: you had quite wanted all that blackness, all that sensory deprivation. You had almost wanted to embrace the fact that there would be nothing but you and the Void, just the two of you together, to test your wits and your courage against it.
How It Is joins Juan Munoz's 2001 Double Bind, Doris Salcedo's Shibboleth and Bruce Nauman's sea of voices, Raw Materials, as the most successful of the Turbine Hall commissions. They are the best because they return you to your own resources as a spectator: they seek less to entertain than to give you pause. All are invitations to the imagination, returning us to our own thoughts.
The experience is sombre, discombobulating and perhaps a bit sinister. But it is beautiful too and not least when, as your eyes slowly adjust, you begin to discern the infinite subtle shades of grey or turn back to face the entrance and see other visitors vacillating nervously on the brink before, stepping into the engulfing shadows, they are transformed into stalking silhouettes.
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