Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Inspired by James Turrell - "Other Seeing"...

   In an earlier post I talked about the amazing artist, James Turrell that works entirely with light.  (You can read that post here if you missed it.)  Turrells assertion that light is a "thing" was mind blowing for me.  He has a new light exhibit at the Guggenheim that explores his concepts, Aten Reign: other seeing.  I find the concept, well, (pardon the pun!) illuminating!

   Through his light installation, Turrell allows us to see the iconic center void of the Guggenheim rotunda in a whole new way.  In fact, it is no longer a "void", it is a pulsing, light filled space that takes on an identity of its own.  As with most of Turrells installations, it can be a bit disorienting but that's the whole point.  "Other Seeing" is suppose to to alter your present relationship with the world.  Turrell does it through the experience of changing colored light, the contemplative photographer does it through intense and personal engagement with the landscape.

   Turrell's installations are meant for silent contemplation.  Raised a Quaker, Turrell understands the concept of personal and silent prayer.  My Grandfather was a Quaker and I attended Quaker meetings with him.  I think it was this early experience that made contemplative photography such an easy match for me many years later.

     For those who are use to a scripted "service" when they attend church, the silent act of just being which characterizes Quaker meetings can, like Turrell's installations, be a bit difficult to adjust to.  I think this metaphor is entirely appropriate for a photographer who is trying the idea of contemplative photography for the first time.  Sitting in the landscape in silence for long periods of time can be awkward in the beginning but once you get comfortable with this state of being in relationship with the landscape it is amazingly meditative, as are Turrell's installations.

   Turrell acknowledges that many people will not, perhaps cannot, sit still for 10-20 minutes in the rotunda to experience this "other seeing".  We, as a modern culture, have developed very short attention spans, perhaps the result of t.v. and other instantaneous technological pursuits.   I heard that Milton Bradley has had to re-invent their famous Monopoly game to make it play faster for this new generation that can't sit still and focus on one thing for long periods of time.  What a sad state of affairs!

   So much of this blog has been about impediments to perception, personal filters and perspectives that block our ability to go beyond looking, beyond seeing, to be able to enter into a more intimate relationship with the world around us...to behold it with all our senses.  This is, for me, "other seeing"... the deeply intuitive sight which is the result of an active but silent engagement with the landscape. 

   Whether light, in its "thingness", has consciousness (as Turrell asserts) or not doesn't really matter.  The world, I truly believe, is aching for us to pay attention to it.  It holds a rich wisdom and a profound insight that the vast majority of us overlook in our busy lives as we are flitting from here to there.  It is only when we slow down, no,when we actually sit still and listen does this wisdom begin to filter into our consciousness.  When we can put our photographers egos away for a moment, when we can stop looking for the "perfect photograph", when we are able to calm our chattering minds, we will find that the world around us has much to teach us...STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN!

   Visit the Guggenheim's website through the link below to read about the exhibit and watch a video of this remarkable installation...

Aten Reign: other seeing

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