March 12, 2003

the thingness of light

fragments and phrases from the James Turrell lecture sponsored by the Mattress Factory and the Center for Art in Society at Carnegie Mellon

transcribed from notes written in the dark, while watching a video projection of the artist's talk which was going on in the filled auditorium next door... after a false fire alarm and flashing lights had emptied the building... so I never actually saw James Turrell tonight - just his image in light - one room removed.

please think of this as glimpses and suggestions...

The thingness of light

his early discovery that "I could sell colored air and blue sky"

the way we see light in a dream - the light itself has this thingness

we have prejudiced perception, thinking that hot is red and cold is blue, when the opposite is true. (Melting steel goes from red through blue to white as it gets hotter.)

light is a plastic medium

painting in three dimensions - hypothetical space

in early work the projected light itself became the source

light has always been a subject of painting, but I wanted to create a non-vicarious experience of light

if you isolate light from the outside

you see light holding the space

the thingness of light was finally coming to pass

the play of light with another light behind it holding the space

spaces within the space of the sky - read Saint-Exupery

truth in the light from a t.v. - walking past apartments and seeing the light from the t.v. coloring the space. different channels express different colors.

doesn't distinguish between natural and artificial light - you have to burn something to get light, and what comes out depends on what's being burned

you can only hold onto a color for 6-8 seconds and then it begins to fade - retinal fatigue.

the creation of indeterminate (not infinite) space

you can train someone to sense color through the skin

a John Cage concert in 1961 at Pomona College was instrumental in making him want to be an artist

matching sound quality to light quality

there never is no light, no sound

interested in creating work which triggers vision

when light is reduced and the pupil opens we see better, feeling color, we touch with the eye

cutting the architecture (rectangular opening in the ceiling) the volume of the sky comes right down to the opening

observatory in Jaipur, camera obscura effect

Tanizaki's book, In Praise of Shadow

a bath in a building in Japan where you become the source of light when you go into the water

being in a space that is itself seeing - being in a camera obscura

Roden Crater and directions to a construction crew: we're changing the shape of the top of this crater and by doing this we'll change the shape of the sky

challenging, because light doesn't scale - it falls off in proportion to the inverse square of the distance

but kept working at it and it began to work

when you lie down and look up, the shape of the sky changes - it's malleable

we make closure

not only can we change the color of the sky, we can change its shape...

Posted by EGP at March 12, 2003 11:14 PM

Good stuff. I copped a line for Cowhand.

Posted by: Mark at March 13, 2003 2:04 PM

Thanks, Liz, I enjoyed your commentary.

Posted by: Karen at March 13, 2003 9:22 PM