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Copyright © 2011 by Clare Nattress

An essay exploring the relationship between arts practice and arts knowledge with specific reference to visual and multi-sensorial experiences.

An analysis of a multi-sensory art encounter via a case study of Miroslaw Balka’s How It Is.

Clare Melissa Nattress

Introduction

It can be stated that Modern art is primarily understood through vision. When referring to art, popular terms such as viewer or a spectator, notions of the gaze, and two dimensional artforms, such as photography, painting and three dimensional sculpture all rely on sight as an agent of encounter and interpretation. Moreover, the term visual perception (sight and vision) is rooted in our innate human ability to mentally absorb and process information from our surroundings. Alva Noë writes in Action in Perception that “as humans we tend to comprehend the act of seeing as the processes of snapshot-like experiences in which our eyes act like cameras to receive visual input of the environment before us” (Noë:2004:35). Similarly, Martin Heidegger, cited in Barbara Bolt’s Art Beyond Representation, discusses vision as the means by which we master the world. He suggests “that the world is conceived and grasped primordially as a picture which is modelled because man looks upon it and represents it” (Bolt:2004:19).

When considering our visual perception of artworks, key issues are raised in relation to the various experiences we encounter. Here we can question the ways in which vision has been interpreted as a primary vehicle of experience. John Dewey writes in Art as Experience that when we think about art we predominately think of art objects, which in his view is wrong. He claims that “the real art is the experience of making or encountering the object and a true work of art is a refined and intensified form of experience” (Dewey:1934:2). Taking this statement into consideration we must elucidate what constitutes an experience and question if our sense of sight is vital in order to encounter it.

With this in mind, this paper will aim to examine notions of experience and perception within a Fine Arts context, with reference to Miroslaw Balka’s Tate Modern Turbine Hall installation How It Is (2009). This artwork is significant to my investigation of the nature of artistic experience as it challenges the visual conventions of the viewer’s encounters with art. In order to explain and pursue my enquiry further a description of the work is essential.

Copyright © 2011 by Clare Nattress

How It Is was the tenth commission in The Unilever Series to be installed in the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern in October 2009. The work consists of a ramp which left open continuously, leads the viewer into a large steel shipping container and almost instantaneous darkness. The steel structure measures a monumental thirty meters long, ten meters wide and thirteen meters high. This container was mounted on two meter high supports which allowed viewers to walk underneath it prior to, or after, entering the structure. Balka’s use of darkness as a tool reduces the spectator’s visual perception when navigating the interior of the container. This poses the question: what is the viewer left with in terms of perception once our sense of sight is reduced or denied? What is the purpose of experiencing darkness and does it alter our perception of art? What is interesting here is how the viewer’s engagement with the work is not solely dependent upon looking at the art-piece, but instead, one whereby they are completely immersed, having to navigate the interior space using their other senses. Not only that, the work raises the interesting question of how the viewer interprets space in the absence of vision.

In the context of this work, the relationship between the visual sculpture and the multi-sensorial situation suggests an intriguing line of enquiry with which to consider how our individual knowledge is formed through our experience of being in the work in relation to seeing it. This relationship can question how individuals garner knowledge in such situations. To help clarify this, the theory of epistemology (the nature, origin and limitations of knowledge) will be considered in order to help explore this further. Taking my research into consideration we will also examine how multi-sensory experiences may arguably enhance a greater understanding of perception. This will be investigated through delving into the concepts surrounding how the experience is transferred between the senses, a theory known as haptic visuality and/or haptic perception. With reference to the notion of haptics, Claire Perkins explains that “the concept of haptic perception is tactile, kin-aesthetic and has proprioceptive functions. In haptic visuality the eyes themselves function like organs of touch” (Senses of Cinema:2002). In Balka’s work we can investigate this notion of haptic perception/visuality to examine how instead of identifying with an image, the spectators are more inclined to engage with its texture and feel their way through the space.

With this concept in mind, a further characteristic of the artwork that must be taken into consideration is its ephemerality. True to say that the experience of How it Is, is short-lived, brief and evanescent but conversely I will argue that when experiencing the darkness of How It Is I was continuing to be engaged in the piece and was therefore as Goldberg suggests “essentially experiencing experience” (Rosenthal:2003:77). This raises questions of when does the experience end? Can a distinction be made here between artworks like How It Is whereby the experience is centre to the works meaning, contrasting with artworks like Andy Warhol’s paintings for example, where the experience is the way in which we access a conceptual representation. In response to this, notions of ephemerality may indeed spark implications in my research but nevertheless is a key element in regard to how the work is perceived. I must state the question of ephemerality has been explored by George Bataille, but is a discourse which is subject to art practice as an outlet for aggressive impulses and therefore is not directly related to my line of questioning. In response to this, as there is little direct literature surrounding this key concern, my own conclusions will be drawn from the ideas and questions raised. First however, in order for us to examine these factors, a definition of the term experience will be addressed.

Copyright © 2011 by Clare Nattress

When referring to the word experience we think of the nature of events in which someone or some thing has encountered through time. Experience is what is happening to us continuously and is me diated by our physical and psychical perceptions of the world around us. We have the ability to say that we

learn from our experiences due to the knowledge that is acquired in hindsight of the experi ence in our interpretations of them. Taking this into account, particularly with How It Is in mind, the upon an experience, whether in action (during) and on action (after) can be pin questioned later into my enquiry. When it comes to art, several key theorists gated and explored notions of experience in order to provide insight into play a crucial role in perceiving and experiencing art. Referring explains these notions further; notions of reflecting

pointed here and will be have written about, investi-

how the body and embodied mind

back to the text Art as Experience, Dewey

In an experience, things and events belonging to the world, physical and social, are transformed through the human context they enter, while the live creature is changed and developed through its intercourse with things previously external to it (Dewey:1934:257).

Dewey states that “enquiry should not be thought of as a mind that passively observes the world but rather as a process whereby humans interact with an obstacle or thing” (Dewey:1934:12). The term passive can define how in not reacting visibly to something that may produce manifestations of an emotion or feeling; we are not successfully interacting with our environment. He goes on to state it is this interaction which allows for human action to continue and develop in time (Dewey:1934:12). With relation to art and specifically How It Is, this immersive experience may indeed reduce the number of passive recipients allowing the audience to become active in the work. By this I mean, the audience are engaged in a form of physical action and are involved in being in a state of existence. From this, it can be stated that How It Is provokes an active audience due to its immersive qualities and sensorial triggers therefore the spectators are provided with the possibility of experiencing art through incorporating their body and senses.

To demonstrate my questioning of experience further, the theory of Phenomenology (the philosophy developed via the thought of Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty) will be introduced. Phenomenology is the study of structures of experience relating to consciousness and perception as experienced from the first person view-point (Merleau-Ponty:2002:1). Merleau-Ponty suggests in Phenomenology of Perception that “intentionality” is the key structure of an experience, aimed toward ‘something’ as it is an experience surrounding an object or thing belonging to the world (MerleauPonty:2002:1). He suggests that the experience toward this object or thing is with regard to its significance or meaning, represented in our minds together with the other details and characteristics that we associate with it. What is interesting here is how these ‘things’ appear in our experience but also the ways in which we experience these ‘things’. Hence, by addressing the meaning that these ‘things’ have in our experience, particularly the significance of objects, events, time, space, ourselves and others, they therefore arise and are experienced in our Phenomenology.

In recent philosophy of mind, this mode of thinking is significant in understanding how humans interact with the world around us. This recent theory has considerably evolved from René Descartes 17th Century philosophy of the Cartesian Model of vision and mastery. He believed that it was reason alone which sparked knowledge and that this could be done independently of the senses (Garber:2001:187-88). This idea that the mind and body were separate and that the mind controlled the body was flawed with regard to conscious experience and is why the notion of Phenomenology has developed throughout the 20th Century. When referring back to Phenomenology, we must take into consideration the time scale between both Dewey and Merleau-Ponty, as they share similar views with regard to how experience is formed. The two theorists consider that an experience is dependent upon our interaction with our environment through activity with things physical and social. This is supported by Michael Fried in Art and Objecthood iwho states that “one is, after all, always surrounded by things. But the things that are literalist works of art must somehow confront the beholder - they must, one might almost say, be placed not just in his space, but in his way (Fried:1998:154). Consequently, that ‘thing’ which has been formed through interacting with such objects, and the meanings that such phenomena then have in our minds, is what constructs an experience.

Copyright © 2011 by Clare Nattress

With this in mind, we must consider these views as a means to think about and with Balka’s work How It Is. It is clear that the experience and presence of the audience in How It Is vital. Balka himself has stated “that upon entering the darkness of the container the spectator will complete the work” (Sainsbury:2009:57). With respect to this, we can therefore suggest that Balka would only consider those who enter the structure to gain a full experience of the piece, and those spectators who solely engage visually with the container would fall short of a true experience. What can be questioned here is if the primary visual encounter of the piece differs from that of secondary visual documentation of the container with regard to the experience we have. With respect to this notion of primary and secondary experience, performance art raises similar questions as Peggy Phelan writes in Unmarked – The Politics of Performance.

I consider the ontological claims of live performance art as a means of resisting the reproductive ideology of visible representations. Defined by its ephemeral nature, performance art cannot be documented (when it is, it turns into that document - a photograph, a stage design, a video tape- and ceases to be performance art) (Phelan:1996:31).

In response to this we can suggest that the experience of the work demands that it is in a primary nature rather than seen via documentation, which undeniably alters the perception of the work. Susan Sontag asserts has argued in Against Interpretation that “inevitably the modern style of interpretation seperates form and content in a manner that damages an artwork and one’s own aesthetic appreciation of the piece” (Sontag:2009:9-10). This reiterates the importance of primary experience especially in immersive multi-sensory artworks like How It Is. It is clear that, when documented, the visual image does not transfer the multi-sensorial qualities and more importantly cannot be experienced with the body of the perceiver, which is vital in order to fully experience the work. As Walter Benjamin discusses in Illuminations, artworks that are seen in reproduction loose an ‘aura’ which can be experienced with the original piece (Benjamin:1999:229).

Arguably, this may be why such installation artists like Christoph Büchel are unwilling to allow their work be photographed in exhibition. Büchel’s exhibition Last Man Out Turn Off The Lights at Tramway (2010) is one which demands to be experienced with the body as reviewer Rosamund West describes;

Details of the installation will only be discovered through visiting, as the artist intended. Exploring Büchel’s work is a strange and affecting experience, provoking many contradictory reactions from moment to moment, excitement-dread-pleasure oddly coexisting and leaving us confused, drained yet oddly fulfilled (The Skinny:2010).

This notion of secondary experience may indeed cause problems for ephemeral works and multi-sensorial experiences as Barbara Bolt explains in more detail;

Without photographic, video or written documentation ephemeral and performance works have the same status as Chinese man’s drawings. They are erased with the passing of time and the dimming of memory. They can make no claim to a legitimate place in arts discourse. Documentation enables such a claim to be made (Bolt:2004:27).

The key concern here is how the spectator’s primary experience of the work is the work and not a byproduct. With relation to the work How It Is, we can similarly suggest that it is imperative to experience the container visually, but it is the multi-sensory embodied immersion through the darkness which ultimately completes the work. When thinking of the body we can pinpoint again to the notion of haptic perception. In The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems, J.J Gibson has not only suggested the close link between haptic perception and that of bodily movements but how haptic perception is an active and perceptive investigation of our surroundings (Gibson:1966:1). From this we can identify how Balka has described the three bodily gestures which are likely be carried out by the spectators in their encounter of How It Is. He suggests that the “How' of the work is the viewer’s movement in identifying and exploring the structure and its perimeter, the 'It' is the contemplation at the foot of the ramp forming knowledge of how to move forward in the safest manner, and the 'Is' is the immersive element of the darkness which surrounds you once inside the container (Stone:2009).

What is valuable here is how Dewey’s interpretations of how an experience is formed can be applied to the manner in which the spectators of How It Is are focused toward entering the structure. This intended

Copyright © 2011 by Clare Nattress

focus created by the artist, provides a situation for the spectator whereby upon entering the container they will unavoidably interact with their environment. This interaction becomes heightened due to the instantaneous embodied darkness which the viewer is immersed into. Phenomenologically speaking, as the spectator moves forward into the container and their eye sight is reduced, they un

avoidably become aware of their own body in space. Paulo Herkenhoff in the text How It Is has stated that “Balka has used darkness as a place that drives the visitor towards knowledge, the understanding of oneself in self-confinement, and what it means to exist” (Sainsbury:2009:50). When we think of an experience it is predominately our visual encounter to which we process and digest that experience. True to say we are not deprived of our sense of sight in How It Is as we are reacting visibly to the darkness that we see. However, as we cannot visually interpret any form or object using our eyes, our other senses are strengthened and our individual encounter comes down to our bodily existence. This clarifies that as our sense of sight is reduced; we are therefore left to navigate the interior container using our other senses.

The multi-sensory elements involved in the experience of the work How It Is, such as sound, touch and sight are key in my line of enquiry to determine if multi-sensory encounters expand the dimensions of experiencing art, and if our weakened vision sparks implications to the experience we have. This raises the question of imagination and what the mind constructs in this absence of vision but also how our imagination allows us to map through the space of the container. In order to consider this further, such notions of sensory experience in art have been examined by Julia Kristeva cited in O’Sullivan’s Art Encounters Thought Beyond Representation;

In an installation it is the body in its entirety which is asked to participate through its sensations, through vision obviously, but also hearing, touch, on occasions smell. As if these artists, in the place of an ‘object’ sought to place us in a space at the limits of the sacred, and asked us not to contemplate images but to communicate with beings. I had the impression that [the artists] were communicating this: that the ultimate aim of art is perhaps what was formerly celebrated under the terms of incarnation. I mean by this a wish to make us feel, through the abstraction, the forms, the colours, the volumes, the sensations, a real experience (O’Sullivan:2006:51).

In response to Kristeva, she suggests that artworks that require us to only interpret them through visual stimuli provide us with a different experience to works that engage with many of our senses. Notably similarly to Balka’s intentions, she explains that the artist’s (in which she was referring to) were not asking their viewers to contemplate images but to communicate with beings and with one’s entire being within the work. I agree that the idea of the body in its entirety participating through its sensations will inherently provide us with a different experience as we undoubtedly become aware of ourselves and our bodies in space.

To elucidate these reasonings further, such arguments surrounding visual stimuli and sensory experiences have been considered in detail throughout Martin Jay’s Downcast Eyes. When speaking of Heidegger’s text Being In Time, Jay states that Heidegger’s ideas surrounding the basic state of sight provides us with an understanding of a sense of ‘being’ which belongs to everydayness. He goes on to explain, similarly to Michael Fried in Art and Objecthood, that “our encounters with the world through our curiosity and inquisitiveness is a way of letting the world be encountered by us in perception” (Jay:1993:271) Moreover, the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre when speaking of his three main manifestations in his critique of sight speaks of how vision has implications with regard to experience;

The third is the failed attempt of vision to impose concepts and ideas on the recalcitrant meaninglessness of the material world, which is more directly available to our other senses, or better put, is a primordial reality prior to the very differentiation of the senses. Vision is thus insufficient as a means to conceive the subject, or what he will call the “for itself”, and no less problematic in its attempts to conceptualize the object, or the “in-itself” (Jay:1993:286).

What I would question is whether sight has to be integrated with our other senses in order for us to contemplate and apprehend our experience of the world. This questions if such limitations of our sensory abilities mean we become reliant on other clues from our visual stimuli. To explain further, as an extract from Merleau-Ponty clarifies in Downcast Eyes, each of our individual human senses creates its own perceived world but at the same time contributes toward an integrated world of experience (Jay:1993:310). Considering this, does this mean that the visual engagement with How It Is solely constitutes as an experience for the spectator? Or, is it not until entering into the darkness of the container

Copyright © 2011 by Clare Nattress

that the spectator will ultimately have an intensified and ‘real’ form of experience? In order to investigate this, the artists’ intentions and my own reflective engagement with the piece will be addressed.

Miroslaw Balka’s artistic practice explores themes of personal and cultural experience often rooted in the history and his upbringing in his native Poland. How It Is is a product of Balka’s mappings and references to the Holocaust. According to Balka the structure intends to evoke that of gas chamber and

cattle cars, while the darkness inside is richly associated with the claustrophobia, fear and deprivation of hope that Jewish people experienced in the Nazi concentration camps in Auschwitz. Critics such as Richard Dorment, writing for the Telegraph in October 2009, have stated that Balka’s intention to evoke such feelings of what it is like to be in a concentration camps fails, he states;

If Balka’s intention was to make us conscious of what such container- like enclosures must have been like for the victims of the Nazis, then I think the piece fails. Nothing can do that. We can get out; they couldn’t; we have light; they didn’t; we are safe; they weren’t (Telegraph:2009).

In my primary encounter with the work, representations surrounding the Holocaust didn’t initially spring to mind. Saying this however, Balka’s references were conveyed non-propositionally. We must remember that individual interpretations of the work will be subjective and the meaning perceived will depend largely on the beholder. My age alone may have been a factor as to why I did not relate the work to the Holocaust which happened more than forty years before I was born. Therefore, to pinpoint here, even if the work ‘fails’ in this sense it registers the necessity to bear witness to the atrocities of HaShoah, particularly for younger generations like myself in order to provide knowledge of cultural context and historical events. Whether conveyed or not, it is Balka’s use of darkness and our inter-subjectiveness of darkness that is key in analyzing the experience of the work. It can be stated of course that darkness doesn’t always convey fear or depression, but is also a place for contemplation and reflection. After all, How It Is was intended to be encountered without sight, undeniably pushing forward the boundaries of what can be experienced.

Upon entering the Turbine Hall the monumental structure was visually overwhelming, the two meter high support structures alone towered over my body. Its dominant presence became even more apparent when walking underneath, the echoing sounds of those walking above my head triggered feelings of vulnerability to the weight of steel encompassing me. Upon entering the structure I felt less apprehensive than first predicted due to the number of people entering alongside me. Even though the idea of strangers sharing a darkened space with you seems discomforting, their presence was somewhat encouraging as the spectators all moved further into the blackness together. It must be said, I would be more fearful of entering the container (that’s if I would enter the container at all) if I was the only person in the Turbine Hall to experience the work. Once I walked into the darkness my arms became outstretched and I navigated the interior space slowly being aware of myself in relation to other people. I ran my hands along the velvet lined walls in order to grasp a sense of orientation within the space and slowly moved further into the depths of the container. My sense of touch became prominent in order to help navigate the space, my arms became my eyes that allowed me to avoid any potential obstacles or people, and my sense of hearing enabled me to determine where my fellow spectators were located in relation to myself.

The experience of the interior space became a process of thought in action as you became aware of your movements and behavioral processes. The darkness provides knowledge of being conscious of your own cognition (a way in which I as a self shape my responses to the world) and the spectators, as Hannah Higgins writes in Fluxus Experience, “are directly linked to their physical environment through a sensory encounter with it” (Higgins:2002:36). This notion of ‘being’ in which Phenomenologists talk of can be directly linked to the concept of Ontology (being and existence) and Ontological thought. Higgins quotes, the term implies the ideas relating to the nature of being and existence whereby we are engaged in our “wholeness of our being”. In other words multi-sensory experiences allow us to gain an understanding of one’s self in ways that connect us to everydayness and to the world. Higgins suggests this occurs through the specific sensations experienced in the body of the perceiver (Higgins:2002:38). With correlation to How It Is, , Merleau-Ponty speaks of sensations in his Chapter The Sensation as a Unit of Experience in Phenomenology of Perception;

I might in the first place understand by sensation the way in which I am affected and the experiencing of a state of myself. The greyness which, when I close my eyes, surrounds me, leaving no distance between me and it, the sounds that encroach on my drowsiness and hum ‘in my head’ perhaps give some indication of what pure sensation might be. I might be

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said to have sense-experience precisely to the extent that I coincide with the sensed (Merleau-Ponty:2002:3).

The sensations in which Merleau-Ponty talks about can be considered in relation to the sensations we experience in How It Is. The greyness which surrounds him is the blackness which surrounds us, and throughout this darkness we are experiencing a state of ourselves. Referring back to Kristeva’s quote, she believes that arts aesthetic function is a bloc of sensations which is made up of forms, colours, volumes with the aim to give us, the audience, ‘a real experience’. So, does this mean we have to be

totally engaged with our experience, of that which is happening, in order to have a ‘lived, real experience’? This idea of reflection in action has been discussed further by Schon in the text Reflective Teaching. When speaking of reflection Schon states;

Reflection can be seen in two time frames. First, reflection can occur before and after an action (reflection- on-action). The reflection can also occur during the action as well. Frequently, practitioners have reflective conversations with the situations while they are engaged in their efforts (reflection-in-action). According to Schon reflective practitioners reflect both ‘in’ and ‘on’ action (Zeichner:1996:14).

Taking this text into consideration, the two time frames of reflective engagement can be linked to how we engage with How It Is. What I would argue is, the darkness of How It Is enables us (the spectators) to be able to reflect upon our experiences in a continual loop, enabling us to grasp re flectively, and therefore facilitate a ‘real’ meaningful experience. This would suggest that the experi ence of the darkness becomes a process of thought in action and the question of how we infer space without vision can resolve within that process.

Referring back to my primary experience, when I was thirty meters into the depths of the container I turned around to see a window of bright light at the entrance. I stood against the back wall and watched the other visitor's silhouttes, of who were behind me, move into the darkness with their arms outstretched like I did. I initially felt reluctant to move back towards the light as I knew that the spectators advancing towards me were not aware of my presence. As I did not want to startle anyone I slowly crept

by them and headed toward the light at a faster pace to what I entered. Upon leaving the container, I continued to reflect upon my experience. I remember I felt very exposed to my surroundings and my eyes took time to adjust to the well-lit Turbine Hall. Even now, I relfect on how the darkness made me self-aware and the effects of movement and experiential blindness on sensory stimulation.

It can be said that this embodied experience of darkness is inter-subjective (comprehensible to, relating to, or used by a number of persons) as many of us share similar cultural preconceptions, instilled in us from a young age, of darkness and what it represents. To explain, we all have a familiarity of darkness particularly its association with unnerving fear, vulnerability and claustrophobia. This fear may inherently effect our individual encounter with the work creating either apprehensions or excitement for people who want to explore the mystery and the psychological impact of the unknown. With inter-subjectiveness in mind and how it relates to experience, we can question if our experience of How It Is is private or if it can be seen as shared between the multi-spectators of the work. Jacque Derrida has spoken of how our bodily and pre-reflexive experiences of art (the moment- the event) are inherently personal and inaccessible to consciousness as all we ever have is the trace. If so, what I would argue from this is whether an inter-subjective knowledge of darkness allows a level of shared experience that can be transferred and recognized between the multi-spectators, despite their many subjective perceptions of the work. Without doubt, moving into How It Is surrounded by strangers allows you to contemplate and become involved in other people’s experiences of the work.

This relates further to other experiences which are designed to be encountered without sight, such as blind theatre and dining in black-out restaurants. In July 2010 an Israeli theatre company cast a series of actors with Ushers syndrome whom suffer from deaf-blindness. As they can’t use words as cues the actors memorize their lines and rely on vibrations felt from music as their cues of when to speak (BBC News:2010). In another instance, restaurant Dan le Noir in London allows diners to enter a blacked-out restaurant and experience eating their food in the presence of other people in complete darkness (The Sunday Times:2005).

True to say, in the experience of darkness all of our other senses are awoken which makes one rethink everything in terms of perception and reflection. In response to this it is clear that blind theatre, blackedout restaurants and artworks such as How It Is all challenge the visual conventions of the audience and transform how vision is seen as the primary vehicle of experience.

Copyright © 2011 by Clare Nattress

Conclusion

In this paper the relationship between arts practice and arts knowledge with specific reference to visual and multi-sensorial experiences have been explored. Firstly, I have discussed how Modern art is primarily understood through vision and how our sense of sight is our primary agent of encounter and interpretation. Through an analysis of Miroslaw Balka’s multi-sensory artwork How It Is, I have examined the ways in which this work challenges the visual conventions of art as a primary vehicle of experience. Moreover, I have addressed how the viewers engagement with the work is not solely dependent upon looking at the art-piece, but instead, one whereby they are completely immersed into darkness forcing them to use their other senses. The immersive qualities and sensorial triggers involved in the work allowed me to invesrigate how spectators can experience art through incorporating their body and senses in lieu in solely engaging visually with the work. From this, I considered how our individual knowledge is formed through our experience of being in the work in relation to seeing it.

Throughout my analysis I have determined what I believe constitutes an exeprience and questioned if our sense of sight is vital in oder to encounter it. In reflection of my primary exerience of the work, I have discussed why I believe Balka's use of darkness is a tool in forming a real and meaningful experience and ultimately how multi-sensory experiences enchance a greater quality of perception. In reflection to my own experience, I feel that in moving through the darkness I experienced a state of myself and was

able to reflect in action forming knowledge of my own cognition and conscious experience. With respect to this, how to move and my own phenomenal exeprience became a part of the same process.

It must be stated that Balka's work for me did not evoke that of a gas chamber or cattle cars and the darkened container, even though it gave me slight apprehension, did not induce feelings of claustrophobia or deprivation of hope that Jewish people experienced in the Nazi concentration camps in Auschwitz. Saying this however, as perceivers we do not have to recognise such events or the language of art history to understand the paradoxes that makes How It Is so effective. The container does not only draws us into its dark depths making us understand the future consequences of our own movements, but allows us to explore the possibilities of 'being'.

True to say, Balka has used darkness as a place that drives the visitor towards knowledge, the understanding of oneself in self-confiment, and what it means to exist.

Copyright © 2011 by Clare Nattress

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