Text: Inge Friebe
Photos: Zentrum für Internationale
Lichtkunst Unna, James Turrell Museum Bodega, Colomé

02. Dec 2009

A year of the superlatives for the American light artist

“I explore light as one would a new continent”, proclaims the 66-year-old artist. For him light is “enlightenment, revelation, spirit”. When art historians see Turrell’s work in the context of American Color Field Painting, and like to compare works such as his “Tall Glass Pieces” with pictures painted by Mark Rothko, one should also remember that the artistic path he has followed is closely linked to the technological developments of the last few decades. The current state of this technological development is something he feels is incredibly exciting: “I so wish lighting technology had been that developed 30 years ago”. Light-emitting diodes, for instance, he considers a fantastic invention. “They provide clear, concentrated light, exactly where you want it. To date they are the most efficient, durable, environment friendly way of transforming energy into light”. The Wolfsburg Ganzfeld Piece – as this type of art piece is referred to – is the largest installation Turrell has ever realised in a museum space to date. The term Ganzfeld has its origins in the psychology of the thirties. It describes a space whose boundaries lie beyond the field of vision. In this space the brain receives no changing signal from the eye except light and colour. Ganzfeld experiments involved test persons being submerged in a low-stimulus environment to enable them to attain a level of unchanging consciousness and thus to facilitate their perception of their inner selves. The light-filled, meditative environment that has been created in Wolfsburg using state-of-the-art lighting technology is a direct reference to the above-mentioned parapsychological experiments. Being in such a space puts enormous strain on one’s sense of balance. They say that anyone staying longer than twenty minutes in the space risks impairing their vision and becoming seriously confused. […]

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The full version of the article can be found in PLD No. 69.

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