I came to the installation works wanting to bring the light of day into a landscape. I did not want to make a mark on the surface of the earth. I wanted to employ sunlight, moonlight and starlight to empower a work of art. Instead of competing with the sunset, I wanted to use it, to take it in. I created spaces with a similarity to the camera obscura. I wanted the spaces entered to be an expression in light of what was outside. I formed an interior space to be sensitive to that which occurred in the space outside–a sensing space.


Similarly, my work is not so much about my seeing, as it is about your seeing. There is no one between you and your experience. It is a non-vicarious art.


You may ask yourself in the dream from where the light of the dream comes. The dream light has more clarity and lucidity of colour than light through open eyes. At times this seeing that we are able to generate from inside, as in the dream, merges with the seeing from without.


First, I am dealing with no object. Perception is the object. Secondly, I am dealing with no image, because I want to avoid associative, symbolic thought. Thirdly, I am dealing with no focus or particular place to look. With no object, no image and no focus, what are you looking at? You are looking at you looking.


When I went to Japan, especially to Suwanose, an active volcanic island, I felt to be on a living surface. The earth was a living skin. The aerial view reveals the vitality of the earth and the passing and re-emerging of cultures. Geology reinforces that view with the movement of continental plates, with subduction and volcanic re-emergence. I remember earthquakes in California, but on Suwanose the ground shook daily. Volcanoes, of course, connect to the centre of the earth with molten magma. The moment I saw the chain of volcanic islands south of Japan, I knew I wanted to find a volcano myself. Volcanoes and islands have a terrestrial thingness to them. Likewise, my interest in the perception of light is in giving it thingness. It exists just as a physical object has presence. I make thingness of perception by putting limits on it in a formal manner. There is no object there, only objectified perception. By putting into question physicality and objectness, the work may reveal more about physicality than any physical object.

From "Early Flight" a story by James Turrell from his book, Air Mass


My art is about your seeing.


The best magic of all is the magic that is real. I am interested in working straight with that power.


My art deals with light itself. It's not the bearer of revelation — it is the revelation.


I want to create an atmosphere --- one that can be consciously plumbed with seeing, like the wordless thought that comes from looking into the fire.


When you come from the enclosed space of the tunnel into the crater area, there is an opening up, and you can hold one it. It's like blowing a bubble on a bubble-pipe slowly and gradually having it get bigger & bigger. If you just blew it out gradually it would burst. The same thing happens here with celestial vaulting of the sky.


I like to accord light the "thingness" that it should have. Generally, we look at light as a form of revelation of something and are interested in light as a revelation. Rather than light's illumination of other things, I'm interested in its thingness, it's object-making, thing-making kind of ability.


The sky is actually part of our neighborhood and part of our visual sense of territory, which is wonderful. It was odd to me that we had to go to the moon, a lesser satellite, and then declare, "Now we're in space." I mean, we're in space now. But the fact is that we don't feel like we're in space now and that is a big effect. Because of fear of darkness we light the night sky and cut off access to inhabiting and living in this bigger territory. That is a profound psychological enclosure.


I am interested in those ideas that extend us out and change the reality of the sense of territory that we as humans have.


I like to explore that which we perceive and actually investigate why we perceive it that way or what it is about, taking it to the second derivative.


When you reduce light and the pupil opens feeling comes out of the eye like touch.


My work is as much about your seeing as it is about my seeing, although it is a product of my seeing.


I have an interest in the invisible light, the light perceptible only in the mind … I want to address the light that we see in dreams…


My work is about space and the light that inhabits it. It is about how you confront that space and plumb it. It is about your seeing. ... I am really interested in the qualities of one space sensing another. It is like looking at someone looking. ... As you plumb a space with vision, it is possible to "see yourself see." This seeing, this plumbing, imbues space with consciousness.'


Light is a powerful substance. We have a primal connection to it. But, for something so powerful, situations for its felt presence are fragile. I form it as much as the material allows. I like to work with it so that you feel it physically, so you feel the presence of light inhabiting a space. I like the quality of feeling that is felt not only with the eyes.




© Exploratorium