Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Bones and Darkness.

London has a dark underside. For all the flash commercialism of the modern city, mysteries are also encouraged and superstitions up held. The relics of St Terese have arrived in Westminster cathedral and thousands of worshippers have been queueing to venerate her bones. There's a medieval feel to this side show ritual that leaves me slightly uncomfortable.

Meanwhile on the South Bank Miroslaw Balka's How It Is has been unveiled at the Tate and after our National tour I walked down with some of the students to see it. The work is overwhelming, immense and sinister. You walk up a ramp, away from the light, and into the darkness of a huge black cargo crate which swallows you up. Eventually you feel the far wall and turn to face the silhouettes of other travellers entering or leaving the space. The sensation is melancholic and potentially devastating, like the loss of sight, comprehension or hope itself.

The piece is named after Samuel Beckett's novel, but conjures up a whole host of associations from the cattle trucks that transported victims to Auschwitz to the dancing shadows in Plato's Cave. It's sombre, solitary and beyond reason but within the vast space there is some form of solace and release. The return to the light offers relief and realignment. It's difficult not to be profoundly moved.

Through metaphor, Art has an incredible power to carry meaning in a way that the literal reality of a corporeal presence simply cannot.

No comments: