Tate Modern  Turbine Hall
12 June – 10 March 2002

The second commission in The Unilever Series, created for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern by the Spanish artist Juan Muñoz, opened to the public on 12 June 2001. Muñoz created a new installation that dramatically alters the 155 metres long x 35 metres high (500 x 115 feet) space. The work presents the viewer with a series of intriguing scenarios, which play on perspective and illusion, visibility and invisibility.

The installation’s title, Double Bind, comes from a theory developed by the social anthropologist Gregory Bateson, and refers to intercommunication between people. The work, said Muñoz, ‘explores how contradictory and misleading most of what we say to each other is and how much misunderstanding is included within language and communication.’

The installation is divided into two parts. On the upper, bridge level of the Turbine Hall, the visitor sees, beyond a balcony rail, a patterned floor, through which two elevators rise and descend, locked in perpetual motion. The floor appears to be pierced with a series of large black holes or shafts, some of which are illusions. Below, the atmosphere darkens. Pools of light fall from the shafts, while the elevators glide into the subterranean gloom. Moving further into the lower space, it becomes apparent that the shafts above are inhabited by a cast of sculpted figures. Their expressions and actions remain unclear, as does our own role in their private drama.

Juan Muñoz was born in 1953 in Madrid and died unexpectedly in August 2001, aged forty-eight. He is renowned for sculptural works in which he situates the human figure within elaborate or complex architectural settings. These are created using elements such as patterned floors, staircases and balconies. Then, by a highly considered placement of the figures, Muñoz entices the viewer into an engagement with the implied dramas unravelling within. The architectural features, such as the shafts and the balcony in Double Bind, also serve as metaphors, particularly the balcony which, in Muñoz’s art, operates as a form of threshold, between spectator and performer, past and future, and subject and object.

The first commission in The Unilever Series was undertaken by Louise Bourgeois and was displayed in the Turbine Hall for the opening in 2000. Unilever’s support, totalling £1.25 million, will allow Tate Modern to commission a new large-scale work for the Turbine Hall each year until 2004.

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