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 JAMES TURRELL: Magnetic

Like Michael Heizer, Robert Smithson, Robert Morris, and the other pioneers of the Land Art adventure started at the end of the 70s, James Turrell moves immense masses of earth, models them to transform desert sites into sculptures, or rather, into cosmic theaters intended to make man hear the heartbeat of the earth, from its entrails to its celestial horizons… 

In the north of Arizona, on the Colorado Plateau, not far from the Painted Desert, it is in the chambers and tunnels of light excavated in the cone of a volcanic crater acquired by the artist nearly fifty years1 ago, that we will soon be able, perhaps (if generous donors, like Kanye West, give a few million to complete the project…) to go and listen to those antediluvian palpitations… Music of the depths brought to light to collide – and to be in communion – with the music of the celestial spheres and to echo it, to propagate it via the light captured and diffracted in the cave decomposed into luminous cells… 

James Turrell (born in 1943 in Los Angeles) is a guru-artist and a champion of light, which he has made his sole material. For him, the artistic experience must not be reduced to simple contemplation but must be “a deeply personal experience that connects us to the cosmos.”  

In his “perceptual environments” that have been embedding light since the late 1960s to better reflect it in space and intensify sensory perception, the visitor is called upon to be an “active participant.” “My desire is to set up a situation in which I take you and let you see. It becomes your experience.” “My work has no object, no image and no focus. With no object, no image, and no focus, what are you looking at? You are watching yourself watching. What is important to me is to create a thought experience without words.” 2

Perception, contemplation, introspection… does the artist (trained in perceptual psychology), who manages to fill and vibrate space with luminous emptiness, want us to live a mystical experience? With his Skyspaces, architectures or environments pierced in their top, he opens for us the doors of the sky… Happy are those who will have stayed, during a starry night, a sunny day or a night of full moon, in one of these open-sky observatories scattered in the four corners of the planet: a pyramid in Yucutan, a circular dry-stone tower in the heart of the Swiss mountains, a white marble cocoon in Uruguay (one of the newest): the choice is vast… 

  1. The Roden Crater 
  2. “My desire is to set up a situation to which I take you and let you see. It becomes your experience. “

“My work has no object, no image and no focus. With no object, no image and no focus, what are you looking at? You are looking at you looking. What is important to me is to create an experience of wordless thought. “

Some Skyspaces:
Ta Khut, in Posada Ayana, in José Ignacio, Uruguay: https://www.posada-ayana.com/skyspace
Skyspace Lech, in the ski area of Oberlech in Tannegg, 1780 m above sea level, Austria: https://www.skyspace-lech.com/contact/?lang=en
Skyspace Piz Uter, in the Hotel Castell in Zuoz, Switzerland: https://www.hotelcastell.ch/en/art-architecture/art-at-the-castell/

James Turrell
Rodencarter.com

Worth seeing: Jesus is Kind, the film shot by Kanye West in Roden Crater for his self-titled album, as well as Street Lights recorded in situ.

Stéphanie Dulout

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