Japanese / English

Past Exhibition


James Turrell

Projection Work

2005.9.5 - 9.22

The impact of all the Cross-Corner Projections is a function of their interaction with space. The bright light seems to exert a nonphysical pressure―a perceptual pressure as it were―on the size and shape of the rooms they are projected into. The way the space is perceived is affected by the light―a relationship that varies depending on the color of the projection. Also, the lens systems of the machines can be used to focus the projections―a feature that allows Turrell to adjust the apparent location of his images. He can focus the solids a short distance in front of the walls―or in perceptual terms, a short distance behind the walls―and, although in literal terms the light is on the walls and out of focus, its ambiguous visual quality complicates the spatial dynamics of the images. Also, the perceived location of the light is a function of the viewer's position inside the viewing room. By moving around, the viewer can change the sense that the light is either inside or outside the physical space. Even more interesting, the perceived location of the light can be moved―to a surprising degree―by simply electing to place it in one position or another. The viewer, by thinking the image either inside or outside the space, can produce a kind of dimensional shift―something analogous to the displacement produce by such classic ambiguous figures from perceptual psychology as the Necker Cube, which flips in its spatial orientation. Geometric figures like the Necker Cube tend to reverse spontaneously, but they are to some extent under conscious control. The viewer can choose to perceive them one way or the other, a quality that Turrell considers central to the effectiveness of the Projection Pieces. The Cross-Corner Projections create solid-like forms that seem to occupy a hypothetical region in front of the walls. They seem to hypostatize space itself, despite the fact that in perceptual terms the "region" of light itself remains labile. By walking up to the walls, the viewer can see the image for what they are. By stepping away from the corner, back into the center of the rooms, the viewer watches the image again take on solidity. This reciprocity is a fundamental part of the works. Turrell emphasizes that "in all the Projection Pieces, it was important that the quality of illusion be both convincing and dissoluble." In this early statements, he uses the word "illusion," but more recently has objected to it. "It's not exactly correct to speak of these images as illusion," he argues. "They allude to what they are." In a similar statement, he points out that they actually conform to their appearance: "People have talked about illusion in my work, but I don't feel it an illusion because what you see alludes to what in a fact it really is―a space where the light is markedly different." But, of course, it is just this marked difference that is more crucial to the experience. To be sure, that Projection Pieces look "like" light in the space, but that situation presents such an unusual perceptual array that the term "illusion" comes readily to mind. Moreover, of all Turrell's works, the Cross-Corner Projections come closest to having a quality of illusion, although it is important, even central to their experience, that the viewer never be completely fooled by them. The images resemble three-dimensional forms, but they can never be resolved into fully three-dimensional images. They occupy a fluid or mental space outside normal Cartesian 3-space. The forms seem to float between different states of being. As point out earlier, Turrell emphasize how important it is that viewers be in change of how the forms are seen, and here the Cross-Corner Projections depart from the connotations of trickery involved in the term illusion. The crisply defined area of light change depending on how viewer s think about them or move in relation to them, and, in these terms, it is the viewers who empower the visual experience, contributing to an art that is perceptually malleable. The Cross-Corner Projection Pieces have qualities of recoverable illusion and multiple states of being that never completely fool the eyes of observers.

Excerpt from James Turrell The Art of Light and Space by Craig Adcock