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Brigitte Kowanz, born in Vienna, has become well-known for her light installations and interventions in architecture. She studied at the University of Applied Arts Vienna from 1975 to 1980. Some of her works were already exhibited at the Biennale in Venice in 1984. Kowanz had solo exhibitions in Eindhoven, Munich, Venice, Berlin and Brussels, as well as in the MUMOK in Vienna in 2011, among others. She has held a professorship for Media Design / Transmedia Art at the University of Applied Arts Vienna since 1997. Brigitte Kowanz has also received the Grand Austrian State Prize for Applied Arts 2009 among other major awards. Kowanz has created a landmark with her light installation “Museum�, which literally points to the location of the Jewish Museum in Palais Eskeles at Dorotheergasse 11. Permanent, Museum Dorotheergasse


Brigitte Kowanz "Now I see" at MUMOK


Brigitte Kowanz "Now I see" at MUMOK


Light — Language — Mirror One result was that light was then combined with signs and language in order to accentuate the scale for perception and visibility. Thus, in an allusion to the tradition of visual and concrete poetry, Kowanz created luminous poetic installations and wall works which possess analytical clarity, talk of light, and illuminate the mechanisms of language at the same time. The mutual reflection of light and language is finally joined by a (literal) mirror–in many different forms–a further medium of the reflection of visibility and perception. The interplay of light, language, and mirrors finally leads to objects and spatial scenarios in which reality and its virtual mirror image manifoldly interpenetrate. As a result, the depiction and visual description of the limitlessly flowing light also leads to the dissolution of borders between the work and its viewer(s).




Light Installation “Museum”


Light colours and Light Projections The starting point of her work in the early 80s was the rejection of the conventional definitions of picture and work achieved by the use of phosphorescent colours and coloured lights. After she–together with Franz Graf–thematized the virtual and flickering images of the world of a media society, light as a medium of time and space gained a place of central importance in her oeuvre. For this volatility and boundlessness of light Kowanz creates, in her objects and installations, projection surfaces and architectural spaces that are precisely structured and at the same time poetically charged. At the beginning, fluorescent tubes and glass bottles served as transparent containers for the light both as depictions in their own right qua objects and in imaginary light and shadow rooms.


Morsealphabet (Morse Alphabet), 1998 Leuchtstofflampen, Acrylglasrohre, Lack/Fluorescent lmps, acrylic glass tubes


Virtual Boundlessness Using selected works the exhibition makes this development clear and also shows a current perspective on the oeuvre in new, room-filling mirror installations: a synthesis and potentiation of the dissolving boundaries that has been achieved up till now takes place in a space that appears infinite but is broken up by real and virtual props. Viewers are not only atmospherically clothed in light, but, mirrored to infinity, also see themselves as a part of this scenario and its motive too. Brigitte Kowanz, who is also known internationally for her numerous projects in public space, realized two exterior installations for the exhibition — one for the MUMOK façade and one for the Uniqa Tower in the city centre. Thus the architecture of the MUMOK will become the sculptural vehicle for a dynamic, metric depiction of light affixed to its façade in progressively increasing intervals. In the process the architecture itself is being measured and its proportions thematized. In order to insert (literally) the volatility of language into the urban surroundings, the artist makes use of the dynamic light technology of the Uniqa Tower to implement a light-related text.


A visitor is reflected as he looks at the object "Morsealphabet" (Morse Alphabet) during the Brigitte Kowanz "Now I see" exhibition at MUMOK museum of modern arts in Vienna June 25, 2010. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner.





Mirrored Shaded Spaces− Kowanz has developed site-specific installations called in light of light for each of the six echibition spaces in the Galerie im Taxispalais. They range from works dating from the lat 1990s to her most recent work complexes, giving a sense of Kowans’s artistic concerns in each space with different accents on form and content. The exhibition focuses clearly on themes that have been with her since the 1970s and that she was worked on with increasing sophistication since then. These are the mutual relationships between light, language and reflectionor the polar tensions between material and light with their diverse interactions which viewers are drawn into as well. Kowanz’s conceptually conceived work is based on abstract philosophical thought presented on the basis of scientific and technological insights, but it is thought that emerges in each individual work, in every presentation in a room, with extraordinary sensuality and atmospheric density, and indeed beauty as well. Her attempts to come to terms with film, video and photography led her to addressing the phenomenon of light, which has effectively become her trade mark, at at a very early stage. The work with mirrors began in places in the 1980, but is then used consistently as ambiguous material in objects and installations from the late 1990s, pushing forward and extending questions about content. Text and language, also coded in Morse form, are further elements in the complex interplay of seeing and understanding , perception, knowledge and insight that form the

component parts of of Kowanz’s powerful works. She brings light, mirror and language together within the concept of space, which is her actual research field, in which physical space does not seem to be seperate from metaphorical and virtual space. By interrogating the co-ordinates of three-multiple perspectives and takes us into new and different thought and perception categories. The speed of light is invoked over and over again in her work, which refers at the same time to the incomprehensible presence of light, to its unimaginable, absolute value, and to the fact that it can be measured precisely, but alsoo the praidity of with which information is conveyed electronically. Brigitte Kowanz gave her recent exhibition in the Museum Ritter the challenging title Think Outside the Box. This corresponds with the work called Lateral thinking (2010), which is to be seen in the Galerie im Taxispalais exhibition. It is part of a seies of cubes consisting of mirror glass with neon lettering set into it. In contrast with early work groups, the lettering is executed in personal handwriting, whose subjective momentum contrasts with the geometry of the mirror object, and the two words are set in mirror writing: “lateral” can be read in the reading direction, and “thinking” relationship is reversed. This work seems programmatic in many respects. With the cube, Kowanz has created a model spatial unit that is complete in itself, a kind of sphere in which she causes the lettering to float in the space like enegmatic images that multiply because of the mirror construction and ta-


per spatially to the point of disappearing. The term “lateral thinking” was coined in the 1967 by the British writer Edward de Bono and means something like thinking in a n alternative way, crosswiwise, illogically and unconventionally. It stands for subjective, creative thinking and calls for a change of perspective to free oneself from habitual patterns. The lettering may refer to Kowanz herself, who constantly places her art concept in new contexts through discussion with physicists, neuroscientists or mathematicians. But as the viewer, one feels oneself challenged to allow one’s own associations to come into play, independently of the complex theories and themes that control matters behind all of Brigitte Kowanz’s works. By first investigating light in terms of its emprirical qualities, by insisting again and again that light is what one sees, she ties viewers incresingly tightly into a net of branching indications of the qualitites of light, its cosmic dimensions and manifestations in eerday life. Here she characterizes the qualities of light in an effectively tautological, self regerential way, something we are familiar with from artists like Joseph Kosuth. She uses fluroescent tubes to set up mathematical equations that relate to light or she creates coded insciptions in light made up of sequences of different length, brightness and darkness, which represent words such as Forward (2004) or Flow (2005). One of her most recent works from the Discs series a work that provides this exhibition’s title—in light of light(2011)—also follows this principle. Two circular neon tubes are

attached to a flat, polished and thus refecting stainless steel disc, conveying the title in MOrse code. But even those who do not know that Morse Codeare offered in excited visual experience: the irregular rhythm of the light and shade intervals sets the stainless steel plate into virtual motion, which because of the refracted light no longer seems flat but three-dimensionally curved. This work may remind us slightly of 1970s Op Art, but the crucial difference lies in the content, which is fimly anchored in the artist’s oeuvre. Her work with binary codes includes, as well as the idea of interconnection, the exploration and counterbalancing of complementarities, in other words apparently polar phenomena such as light and shade, which are nevertheless inseperably linked because mutually dependent. “Generally speaking, reality can be understood only as the sume of complementary images.” If Kowanz’s work is anazlyzed from the point of view of light in particular, it is at the same time shade that she deliberately concentrates on in her work, and that helps to determine significant proportions of her artistic thinking. Light is space, time and speed. But shade provides evidence of the presence of light, of things in space and of time that can be experienced. Jan Tabor expresses the following thoughts in a Brigitte Kowanz catalogue: “One writes and speaks only of light. Even though light would not be visible without shade. What is shade? A suburb of night? The forecourt of sleep, which since the Baroque period has been called death’s lettle brother? Is the shade


Arise, 2008 Neon, Spiegel/Neon,mirror


The transparent shadings created by the projections form an accessible architecture, which Kowanz calls an energetically stabalizing process, in other three dimensional presentations as well, using halogen light, mirrors and glass, which as in Lux (1998) are arranged clearly and symmetrically, so that the conditions in which the setting was created can be vividly understood. Round and angular forms, also reminiscent of light ballets by earlier light artists such as Otto Piene or Alberto Biasi, evoke not only an aesthetically sensed space, but refer in Kowanz’s context to Morse signs as a code system and resource for conveying information. Shade as a mirror image of the light image is both the alter ego of fixed form and of the human body moving in the light and also in a transferred sense a subconscious, often negated part of the psyche that we like to project on to others. It is only by integrating shade that the personality achieves completeness, as it were. Even if such psychological connotations are not to the fore in Brigitte Kowanz’s art, they do work their way in conceptually, clarifying the various levels between which she subtly moves, above all in her more recent work. Shaded areas, projections, and mirrors remove spatial boundaries and create new virtual spaces. Kowanz uses mirrors as a kind of meta medium for visual transfer, as mirrors render light visible and conceal infinitely many images within themselves through the penetration of real and virtual space. At the same time they show seeing itself. By transforming entire rooms into reflect-

ing mirror cabinets, she places viewers in an artificial, imaginary spatial structure that opens out from the inside and in which the space-time continuum meets the light-shade continuum. Kowanz calls this spatial illusion Tiefenraum (Depth Space). For her it represents a resource for thinking pictorially about the conditions of space and experiencing space, in the course of which she transfers architectural space into the idea of infinite, universal space. But even when the mirrors break down spatial boundaries, de-materialize and blur them, ultimately it is only finite space in which viewers find themselves—doubled up and multiply reflected. They animate the mirror images with their movements and gestures. When doing this they see their own seeing, arrange their viewing point and take in spatial connections. Umberto Eco defines mirrors as perceptual prostheses representing channels and media for the flow of information. At the sametime, for him “the magic of the mirror lies in the fact that its extensivenessintrusiveness not only allows us to see the world better, but also to see ourselves as others see us.”4 Kowanz’s work makes deliberate use of the mirror metaphor developed by Freud via Lacan, in which the mirror is characterized as a threshold phenomenon showing the boundaries between the imaginary and the symbolic, using mirrors not just as a visual transfer medium, but also as an entity for creating awareness. “Viewers do not just see themselves in mirrors, mirrors can also impel addressing the self and self-reflection.”5 Two mirror


objects were created in 2003 and 2009 that conveyed the word Echo, once in geometrically standardized lettering and once in handwriting, and its glowing echo fades away in the depths of the reflecting three-dimensional unit. Two things are happening here: Brigitte Kowanz is addressing the invisibility of light and sound waves, and is using the myth of Echo and Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection, to interrogate the limitations of personal room for manoeuvre in any given spatial volume, which in her artistic diction always opens up both metaphorical planes and mental spaces. Beate Ermacora

Arise, 2008 Neon, Spiegel/Neon,mirror


Brigitte Kowanz "Now I see" at MUMOK




Clarity comes into its own Problematic reality. Art is a direct reflection of the world as we experience it. It is an act of translation into another medium, the transformation of pre-existing realities. Its symbols may be abstract or representational, and its codes may be readily legible or highly cryptic. Art makes things simple in terms of form as formulation—and difficult in terms of statement as content. Brigitte Kowanz is interested in light installations that operate as spatial images and in architectonic interventions that abstract a graduated reflection of meaning via the mysterious numbers of a code. At the same time, her numerous artworks featuring mirrors or elements that are reflective in a wider sense relate obliquely to a crucial element of her activities as an artist -the use of a reflection of the real space {either in the unconscious or more literally) as a stage, an arena. We can be sure that this is not an example of the narcissistic affinity for projection art identified by Rosalind Krauss—art that is about the artist, with its levels and layers consisting of personal concepts. It has more to do with Robert Smithson's remark about the problematic nature of internal reality- i.e. invisible (molecular) reality—and of external—i.e. visible (reflective) reality. Virtual continuum. Kowanz's conceptual, formally exact, media-critical art,which incorporates a wealth of words, formulates certain light symbols which have always had a semantic function. The reflections and penetrations (the penetration of the gaze as a metaphor for insight) and the oscillating interplay deployed by these carriers of

information turn the space itself into a symbolic form. In Morsea/phabet (Morse Alphabet) from 1998/2010, an abstract view into a dynamised circular form, a presentation of the symbolic order of the world, is created with the aid of the old insignia of modernisation, of enlightenment and electricity, which is still used to represent the coming of ideas and the capacity for insight. Semi-permeable mirrors, normal mirrors and light are brought into highly focused, minimalist relationships with each other in such a way that they open up virtual spaces, spaces created by light and reflection. These light codes are generally composed of elementary basic shapes: the circle and the rectangle. They relate to the Morse alphabet: the dot and the dash, in and out, short and long. The symbols of this early binary code are arranged in a circle between the mirrors. Reflections of reflections create an endless virtual space that interrupts the real space—but also reflects it. The Morse code is an original binary code- the optimal precondition for modern data transference that has left a deep (albeit invisible) mark on the way we communicate today. Endless deep space. Almost all of Kowanz’s artworks manipulate the immaterial medium of light. They deal with light in a wider, metaphorical sense—light as the limit of the real in space and time. In doing so, they also embrace shape, numbers and speech. Radiant, expansive light, potent symbolic words and clear numbers stand for themselves. They represent the real, symbolic and imaginary conceptions of time. As Rainer Fuchs


aptly remarked, the constant is tautology. “The artificial light, the speech and symbol motifs that characterise Brigitte Kowanz’s ceuvre relativise ontological forms and presuppositions in the way they are deployed and formulated, and they are also consistently subject to the variable factorsand shifts in context that are their theme.”1 In her Tiefenraum (Depth Space)in lnnsbruck, Kowanz acts out this endless repetition of the infinite. The room becomes a mirror cube that people can walk around in, like the legendary mirrored spaces of the Italian artists’ groups N, Tor MID from the 1960s, or those of the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. With Kowanz’s artwork, as with these historical cubes, the two opposed walls open up the real space to create an endless depth of space, within which the viewer repeatedly encounters himself or herself. As the mirrored walls reflect one another, reality is undermined by virtuality. This process creates imaginary transference spaces. Time and space become entangled and perceptible. The states of observing and of being observed coincide. Inspiration. What—Why. Numbers and the cosmos peculiar to them have always fascinated human beings. They impose a clarity and strictness that is sometimes entirely alien to the world of language. Pure numbers have no ambivalence, no connotations, no associations—they represent amounts, proportions, values in their most pure and abstract state that become part of a causal relationship only when they are combined with things or with physical entities. The beauty of numbers is in a tragic

aspect of their nature that is not immediately apparent. Although typography designs always include numbers, it is not the beauty of numbers that is concerned here but their shape—which may well be supposed to play a not insignificant role in connection with the fine arts. At the same time (and this is what can be deceptive about numbers) numbers only give rise to a meaning when they are anchored in a linguistic system—which is, of course, a formal system. It is a consistent—and indeed inevitable—consequence of the logic of numbers that numbers have a formal and contentual connection to higher forms of world interpretation. Music, for instance, is based on mathematics and on the logic of numbers. On a typographical level, the nature of a world interpretation arises from an interaction and alternation of numbers and words. If, as with Kowanz’s most recent group of stainless steel and neon wall object artworks, language, like the world of numbers, can be used as the basis of a constructive worldview, then it follows that, conversely, the world is a construction of words and numbers—or, as the Morse code expresses wonderfully in the age of algorithms, a binary relationship of numbers: 1 and 0. After all, the representation only becomes real or interesting when Brigitte Kowanz applies her view of all things as symbolic artistic forms as a worldview. It must be applied to a real form—a crate, a box, a set of tubes or a stainless steel circle that provides a fixed frame and precisely delimits the arena of operation. This


Eins Unendlich, 2011, Neon, mirror

Vergessen (forgetting), 2001 Neon, Spiegel/Neon, mirror


makes this method, this application always a kind of consciousness. Without form, a framework, order, a delimited arena and specifications, this process of becoming conscious of the world and of nature sinks into formlessness, chaos and anarchy- and, as a rule, this would mean that it would fail to do justice to our experience. Problems of recognition. In spite of this, we are quickly able to learn these encoding or recoding systems, and to read the message. This makes me doubt that Kowanz’s artworks are concerned— overtly or otherwise—with the knowledge-power complex, as has sometimes been suspected. Instead, they are concerned with the numinous beauty and immaterial significance of light- light as the carrier of information, pure or otherwise, along the lines of the concept disseminated by Mcluhan 40 years ago.2 Taken a step further, this has political implications. Her manipulations of light reverse the flow of information. They emphasise time—position and expansion. Her artwork is concerned with a dilation of the space-time continuum, and, ultimately, with the limits of human consciousness. Where locations for open space exist amid this extraordinarily dense tissue of information (with its appearance of engendering meaning), the holes in the system are revealed, increasingly drowning the yearning for a deeper penetration of all being. Whoever does not wholeheartedly participate in the weaving or surfing of this web will fall through the net. Today, we use glass

fibre-optic nets to contain the light impulses of the global market and of the media, but in the future, light will be still more important as a carrier of information than it is today. Instantaneous media images are radical manifestations of light in the digital age. “Realtime” is energy equals mass times the speed of light squared -with the vanishing of mass, images appear (deceptively) immediate, with a direct impact. Significantly, however, Brigitte Kowanz’s theme is light as a carrier of information without a political or sociocultural payload or explosive potential. On the contrary, her artworks are generally meditative, without uncertainty or sensationalism. They are characterised by a radical severity and a sensitive force. However, Kowanz deals with political dimensions in a mediated way—through the requirement for a commentary, which creates an explicit socially active element. Kowanz’s artworks describe, as it were, the classic concept of quiet simplicity and noble grandeur, which stirs our feelings and challenges us to create an interpretation through its predominating calm. In a further step, classical modernity, reflected in this mirror, is intensified and emphasised. Like the Doppler effect, these reflections in Kowanz’s artwork3—reflections that never become comprehensible to us—create a displacement of the spectral lines in the direction of motion. When proximity becomes the measure of reality,4 then a healthy distance is the measure of all things. Without it, the essential verifying of reality becomes


Brigitte Kowanz, Now I See

Brigitte Kowanz Wall Art, The Armory Show


impossible. In absolute proximity, the real is no longer visible—it is merely the logical origin. Here, the imaginary gains the upper hand over the symbolic. One feels drawn in by this “ logical origin” of Brigitte Kowanz’s, physically set aside within it—and, more than this, she places viewers alone with themselves in a clear spotlight that defines the real and actual as pure information. Because the light is also never left to itself, Kowanz’s linear architectonic spatial delineations also predominantly develop and accentuate an immaterial quality of the location, as the title of the 2003-2005 Cologne architectural intervention in the DKV—Deutsche Krankenversicherung AG goes to show. These interventions, which Kowanz has been creating since 1996, lay out the principles of her work in an exemplary and coherent way. As the artist herself says, light always comes into its own in these artworks, even though it is never left to itself. At least in the character of the work, she must allow this to hold true. The handwritten signature of Another Time Another Place (2004-2005) in the railway station of Baden near Vienna stands, in linguistic terms as in other things, both for immanence and for a subjectively motivated being-elsewhere (or the process of transferring elsewhere) -which, however, can only produce unbounded creative energy by means of a light construct that is tied to a specific location. In her interventions, Brigitte Kowanz surprises the viewer with a clarity that emphasises the constructive elements of space whilst at the

same time evoking the concept of a field of force, a subtle energy that brings the question of all being—in nature and in culture- into a proximity to space that is both liberated from forms and inscrutable. Gregor Jansen


Brigitte Kowanz, 'Now I See' installation


James Turrell Alten Reign Guggenheim 2013



'Ad Infinitum' by Brigitte Kowanz.


James Turrell Bullwinkle, 2001







James Turrell Stuck Red and Stuck Blue, 1970 construction materials and fluorescent lights Collection Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Museum Purchase, Elizabeth W. Russell Foundation Funds.


James Turrell: A Life in Light “It s not the job description of any artist in any way to substanttate someone else's taste. It's the last thing on our minds What I want to do is unfold my mapping of a new continent. I hope that people enjoy it but that really doesn't have anything to do with what I'm up to in my work." James Turrell is an american artist who has spent much of his carreer working with the medium of light. He does notpaint is effects, as many artists before him sought to do, but seeks instead to create or capture specific experiences of light itself. Sometimes he uses artificial lighting, halogen bulbs or projectors to conjure the effects that he desires. But he also works with ambient natural light, creating spaces and structures that recieve, trap, or direct the rays of the sun, moon and stars, in all kinds of optically intoxtcating ways. He uses coloured light from the sky as a painter uses pigment. Andrew Graham-Dixon


“We usually use light to reveal an image. I wanted the light to be the revelation. It has to do with what we value. I want people to treasure light�



Biography James Turrell was born in 1943, in Los Angeles He studied experimental psychology at Pomona Cotrege in Claremont. California, receiving a B.A. 1n 1965. Having become interested in art, he enrolled at the University of Califorma and created his first hght piece, Afrum-Proto, the next year, in which light projected into the corner of a room seemed to form a three-dimenstonal. Illuminated floating cube. Turrell was given his first solo show at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1967. The following year, he began making constructions in which light shining out from behind one or more sides of a partition wall dissolved edges and changed the viewer's perception of space in a room. He went on to participate in the Los Angeles County Museum's Art and Technology Program, investigating perceptual phenomena with the artist Robert lrwin and psychologist Edward Wortz. After receiving his M.A. in 1973, Turrell began work on his first large Skyspace, an aperture cut into the roof of a building that causes the visible plane of the sky to appear flat at the level of the opening. In the UK, James Turrell has created a Skyspace at Kelder Forest in Northumberland. His latest Skyspace, at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, was revealed in the Spring of 2006. A solo show of Turrell’s work was held 1n 1976 at the Stedehjk Museum in Amsterdam. That same year, Turrell created his first Space Division piece, in which an openimg onto a space filled with ambient hght is seen first as a flat surface and then as a window onto a fog-filled room of uncertain dimensions.

Retrospectives of Turrell’s work were held in 1980 at the Whitney Museum of Amencan Art, New York, and in 1985 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. James Turrell ‘s work can now be seen at the new MOMA -Museum of Modern Art in New York. There cannot be any doubt about Turrell’s commitment to exploring the big questions. In 1974, Turrell located Roden Crater, in northern Arizona, where he has worked for the past thirty years, to refine the site into a monumental observatory for perceiving extraordinary qualities of natural light and celestial events Andrew Graham Dixon


I'm interested in taking this cultural artifice we call art out into the natural surrounding. To think that we are in any way apart from nature is our greatest conceit. James Turrell

Dhatu, 2009 Ganzfeld




Perceptual Cell Series The relation of exterior light to one's internal awareness is explored further in Bindu Shards (2010), a fully immersive visual and auditory work to be experienced by one person at a time. Bindu Shards is part of the ongoing Perceptual Cell series, which Turrell began as a student in the 1g6os and continued from 1968 through 1970 as a collaboration with the artist Robert Irwin and two psychologists. Turrell resumed work on the Perceptual Cells in the late 1g8os. In Bindu Shards, the visitor lies on a sliding bed within a sealed chamber during one of two pre-prgrammed cycles of light and sound, eachfifteen minutes long. The cell stimulates an experience described by the artist as "behind-the-eyes" seeing, in which there is no object of perception. This produes the "Purkinje effect," a transitional patterning that is perceived similarly by each observer, during the change from light to dark. By combining intense colors with binaural beats of sound, the artist strives to alter participants' brainwave frequencies. Art critic Jonathan Jones has described the experience of Bindu Shards: All these forms and volumes that pulse and metamorphosise are defined by colours that change convulsively- the most intensely saturated greens and reds you can imagine, colours that seem solid, then burst into microscopic patterns of oranges, blacks, gold and misty white; all these colours bubble and whir at breakneck speed, as if you were in a particle accelerator.


Bridget’s Bardo, 2009 Ganzfeld


Through light, space can be formed without physical material like concrete or steel. We can actually stop the penetration of vision with where light is and where it isn't. Like the atmosphere, we can't see through it to the stars that are there during the day. But as soon as that light is dimmed around the self, then this penetration of vision goes out. So I'm very interested in this feeling, using the eyes to penetrate the space. James Turrell


James Turrell Afrum I (White), 1967 Projected light, dimensions variable Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New YTork, Panza Collection, Gift 92.4175 Š James Turrell (Photo by David Heald Š Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York)


Bridget’s Bardo, 2009 Ganzfeld


Ganzfeld Series The Ganzfeld series could be described as the pinnacle of Turrell's artistic intention of making light "tangible" to the eyes. In these works, Turrell floods interior spaces with colored light, creating environments where viewers feel absorbed into dense, hazelike atmospheres, and where perceptions of outer boundaries and the definition of surrounding space are thoroughly masked. The pieces are based on Ganzfeld experiments a type of scientific experiment using sensory stimulation, originally devised in Germany in the 1930s; this technique was later used to test extrasensory perception (ESP). Recent installations from the Ganzfe/d series use light projected into space to map imageless and formeless new landscapes. Dhiitu (2010) yields an emptiness filled with pigmented light that allows the viewer to feel its physicality. Light like this is rarely seen with the eyes open; it is the light apprehended with the eyes closed during lucid dreams, deep meditation, and near-death experiences. The artist has described the work as "like stepping into the paint."


It's like the jot or the spin that you see when you begin meditation: you stare at it or look at it like a visual mantra, and then it dissolves and will come back as you center on it again. This work takes that effect and breaks it apart... It is physiologically what we are. That's why it is so invasive. James Turrell

James Turrell, Aloka’s Flower (2009), photo by Florian Holzherr


Holograms Developed over the last thirty years, Turrell's holographic works further extend the theoretical properties of light by creating the illusion of tangibility. In the Holgrams, reflective and transmissive planes of light are manipulated in the same manner as in the early Projection series of the 1960s, where light first became Turrell's primary medium. A hologram is a recording of light waves reflected from a stationary object on a handmade transparent emulsion applied to glass. In Turrell's Hograms, the object is replaced by a glowingplane of light. The resulting image on the emulsion has full parallax, and thus appears to have depth from almost any viewing angle. The images vary in color, size, and transparency, as well as shape, brightness, direction, and depth of the light plane. There are complex coloration effects in the edges and variations in light intensity across the planes of light. The image produced by the hologram can appear to be either in front of the holgraphic plate or behind the film. James Turrell: A Retrospective Michael Govan


My work is about how we construct reality. The real illusion is that we aren't aware of how we give reality to things. We have awarded them concreteness or reality and are unaware of how we've done that. James Turrell Raethro (Pink), 1967 Projection Pieces


Afrum (White), 1966 Projection Pieces




An exhibition on light


An exhibition on light