Those are indeed my leg and feet

I had been looking forward to Doris Salcedo’s Unilever Series project at Tate Modern. As an urban intervention I thought her contribution to the 8th Istanbul Biennale, an empty space between two buildings filled with chairs, was simply brilliant. I’ve only seen pictures, but the actual installation must have been awesome.

For the Unilever Series Salcedo has created a crack in the floor of the Turbine Hall. It begins as a tiny hairline at the entrance, but gradually it deepens and widens, occasionally splitting in two, until it reaches the other side of the hall. From above the crack looks like a lightning strike.

It is fun to see how the crack functions as an attractor. People trace it from beginning to end. They kneel to peek inside to check the crack's depth. Children jump across. People pose for a photo with a leg on either side.

The work’s title, Shibboleth, makes reference to a bible story, which tells how the Gileadites went about exterminating their enemies, the Ephraimites, who could not pronounce the ‘sh’ sound, by killing anyone unable say the word shibboleth. The installation is supposed to speak of borders and otherness and to reconnect the building to its colonial and postcolonial roots or so it says in the flyer.

I doubt whether many people will read the flyer. I guess the one question on most people’s minds is: How did they do it? In that sense the crack, intended to speak of boundaries and to invite reflection on divisions and otherness, unifies all visitors under a question.

Doris Salcedo: Shibboleth is at the Tate Modern until 6 April 2008.