Thanks to Unilever, Elaine and I have seen a number of the Unilever Series installations at the Tate Modern, including those by Rachel Whiteread (2005), Carsten Holler (2006) and Doris Salcedo (2007) efforts, of which we liked the second and third best. Today, we were invited to see the tenth commission for the series, ‘How It Is’, by Miroslaw Balka. A sense of what it’s like can be had here.
Find myself agreeing that the scale is impressive, but the effect is slightly undermined by the fact that one end of what looks like a gigantic front-loading waste skip is open to the light, so you are never really in the void. I get the links to the Holocaust, but this didn’t feel anything like that – in the sense that there was none of the sense of coercion or forced intimacy of the cattle wagons into which people were herded. The most interesting place to experience the thing, really, was underneath, where you could hear people shuffling around above – and imagine what they were feeling and saying. We talked to an interesting Indonesian diplomat there, about the massacres in his country in the 1960s.
Sat next to some intriguing people at dinner, mainly from the advertising industry, and had found ourselves introduced to Lord (Leon) Brittan and Sir Martin Sorrell when we first arrived. Talked to the former about the restaurant where they serve you in the dark and all the waiters are blind. He didn’t like the idea one bit. We talked about the links between taste, smell and sight. Then Gavin Neath of Unilever mentioned that they had carried out research where perfectly good steaks were coloured green – and people disliked the taste, not just the colour.