Roden Crater & James Turrell, Sculptor of Light
April 10, 2003 11:53 PM   Subscribe

Monsoon Dawn, Roden Crater

I've always wanted to make light something that you treasure. Not just light reflected in glass, or in a scrim, or on the surface of some object. But light objectified. We generally use it to illuminate other things. But I wanted to force people to pay attention to the thingness and revelation of light. This is a place that will do that.
James Turrell [more inside]
posted by y2karl (14 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Roden Crater is the the largest, most ambitious earthwork of this and the last century. Turrell has moved over one million cubic yards of cinder, built an immaculately poured, 854 foot long concrete tunnel that ascends to the East Portal and then to Crater's Eye (a viewing chamber), two additional circular viewing spaces, and a compass-like viewing platform in the crater's bowl. When one stands up on the rim of the crater and looks out over the Painted Desert, inhaling a vista that stretches in all directions as far as the eye can see, one's view is obstructed by no visible trace of man. It affords views of myriads of astronomical events, including the Saros conjunction, a rare solar or lunar pattern. Some Saros conjunctions happen once every 870 years. It is designed and built of materials and methods of construction so as to be impossible to date when excavated by future archeologists. The crater has been graded and sculpted so, that when you stand at its center and look up, the sky looks as if it were a mere hundred fett above your head, so close that you could touch it.

James Turrell is a sculptor of light. Some works: from the Guggenheim, Lunette, Varese, Night Passage and Afrum I; in Northumbria, close to the Scottish Border and Hadrian's Wall, at beautiful Kielder Water and Forest Park stands The Kiedler Skyscape; from Art Tower Mito in Japan, Toward Unknown Light; Roden Crater from above and a panoscoptic view of Danae. Here are three interviews: Into The Light, Light Like Life, Greeting the Light and a conversation with Esa Laaksonen. An exhibition by James Turrell will show at the Henry Gallery of the University of Washington until October 2003.
posted by y2karl at 12:02 AM on April 11, 2003


All I can say is, wow. I cannot wait to go over everything here. Thanks y2karl.
posted by josh at 12:53 AM on April 11, 2003


Thanks for all that work Y2karl. This is a keeper.

Another Turrell (maybe it's buried in your links somewhere, apologies if it is; there's so much to look at here): The Irish Sky Garden
posted by Dick Paris at 1:09 AM on April 11, 2003


Offline, see "Flying Into The Light", a long piece about Turrell and Roden Crater in the January 13, 2003 issue of The New Yorker.
posted by liam at 5:01 AM on April 11, 2003


One of my favourite artists, but pictures don't do his work justice -- you have to experience it in person. Saw a great show at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh recently - it's still on if you hurry.

Can't wait to see Roden crater one day.
posted by cbrody at 5:35 AM on April 11, 2003


"When one stands up on the rim of the crater and looks out over the Painted Desert, [...] one's view is obstructed by no visible trace of man."

Apart from the one million cubic yards of landscaping, the 854 foot long concrete tunnel, and multiple viewing platforms of course.

To truly appreciate the beauty of nature we must change it with a bulldozer and hundreds of tons of concrete. Otherwise it would be too hard to appreciate the sky. Or something.
posted by y6y6y6 at 7:10 AM on April 11, 2003


Roden Crater is on my list of must-see places. I might combine it with a visit to the Lightning Field which is just a hop skip and a jump away.
posted by kozad at 7:34 AM on April 11, 2003


"When one stands up on the rim of the crater and looks out over the Painted Desert, [...] one's view is obstructed by no visible trace of man."

Apart from the one million cubic yards of landscaping, the 854 foot long concrete tunnel, and multiple viewing platforms of course.

To truly appreciate the beauty of nature we must change it with a bulldozer and hundreds of tons of concrete. Otherwise it would be too hard to appreciate the sky. Or something.


operant phrase: looks out over. The landscaping to produce the vaulting effect is within the crater and the construction, for the most part, is underground. Art within, nature without. To truly appreciate the beauty of stretched canvas, we must not paint, you say?

The viewing spaces have been built with materials found on site-volcanic obsidian, shale and sand. The concrete that lines the tunnels is mixed from red and gray cinder ash. Each material contributes a color and texture to the experience of this place and conditions how light appears in the apertures. All of these spaces have been built into the volcano. From outside, as one drives toward the crater or, perhaps, flies over it, there is almost no visible sign that Roden differs from other nearby craters or cinder cones.

In the bowl of Roden Crater where Turrell has built four viewing platforms, one lies down and tilts back one's head to regard the sky. Vision is bounded below by the contour of the crater that Turrell has re-graded, shaping it to an ellipse that creates a spatial effect of depth. This phenomenon is known as celestial vaulting and puts us into contact with the sky in almost palpable terms. This sensation has an impact upon perception, imprinting and transforming how we see. Thus, when one stands on the rim of the crater and looks out across the great landscape vista, one perceives what the philosopher Georges Didi-Heberman has called "voluminosity."...


Well, thank goodness we aren't making any snap judgements this morning!
posted by y2karl at 7:47 AM on April 11, 2003


If only this guy had a fraction the vision of the Painter of LightTM.

I kid, I kid. Sheesh...

Great post, karl.
posted by gottabefunky at 7:53 AM on April 11, 2003


The real painter of light: Joseph Turner

And the filmer of light: Stan Brakhage
posted by languagehat at 9:22 AM on April 11, 2003


Thanks y2karl. I absolutely love Turrell and have been following the Roden Crater project for years. Not only is Turrell exhibiting at the Henry Art Museum (which is a gem), but a permanent installation is being built to celbrate the museum's 75th Anniversary. Skyspace opens in July. You really can't comprehend what Turrell is up to until you've been immersed in his work first hand.
posted by donovan at 10:47 AM on April 11, 2003


Here are two more Turrell links;

Skyspaces, from the University of Stuttgart, a very stylin' site with a cool mouse over animation, and from BBC, Seeing The Light With James Turrell, from which comes this tidbit:

Furthermore when Turrell exhibited in New York last year, several people were so convinced by the illusions of light that they tripped over the beams and fell to the floor. One such casualty sued Turrell for the broken wrist that she sustained.

Whilst concerned for her safety, Turrell has recalled her testimony with a smirk:

‘Her testimony was that I had created a blue wall, but when she leaned against the blue wall it wasn’t there. It was made of light.’


I saw that they were installing a Skyspace at the Henry, donovan, and I can't wait to see it.
posted by y2karl at 11:05 AM on April 11, 2003


ah, Turner. "Rain, Steam, and Speed" is my absolute favorite, and I visit it whenever I'm in town.

Roden Crater looks amazing. I can't link to it because Conde Nast still hasn't gotten their act together, but there was a fascinating New Yorker profile on Turrell a few months ago.
posted by Vidiot at 11:24 AM on April 11, 2003


I remember coming upon a Turrell exhibition at the Whitney more than 20 years ago and thinking it was a big joke. Especially the pieces like Afrum 1, a slide projector or two turned on and shining into a corner, or on the ceiling. Over the years it's become obvious to me that Turrell was definitely serious, though, as he continues to get more and more complex projects going.

In his recent book Great White Fathers, John Taliaferro suggests that "long before the term 'earthwork' entered the artistic lexicon, it was [Gutzon] Borglum who reawakened the potency and glory of using ... geography as a medium."

Taliaferro was talking about Stone Mountain, Georgia, but Borglum of course outdid his work there with the later carvings on Mount Rushmore.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:07 PM on April 11, 2003


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