Monday, July 15, 2013

The Nature of Light...

   While I was flipping through channels the other night, I caught the end of a Charlie Rose interview with James Turrell on PBS.  Turrell is a contemporary artist that works solely with light.  He made an absolutely astonishing statement.  (This quote is from a EGG interview he did but he said essentially the same thing in the interview I saw.)

I mean, light is a substance that is, in fact a thing, but we don't attribute thing-ness to it.  We use light to illuminate other things, something we read, sculpture, painting.  And it gladly does this.  But the most interesting thing to find is that light is aware that we are looking at it, so that it behaves differently when we are watching it and when we're not, which imbues it with consciousness. - James Turrell    

   I must admit that this idea absolutely floored me.  That light has consciousness!  I'm not sure if I can wrap my mind around such a thing.  I'm also pretty sure that most physicists would have a really hard time with such a statement as well but let's play "pretend" for a moment.  What if light did actually respond to us.  What implications would that have for the photographer?  Forget photography, what impact would it have on everything we think we know about the world?  All of a sudden the idea of achieving "enlightenment" takes on a whole different meaning. 

   I do know that Albert Einstein did not believe in the theory of an expanding universe in his life time, a theory which is pretty much main stream today.  So, who knows.  I'll let the physicists and Mr. Turrell battle it out but I know one thing for sure, stumbling upon that interview with James Turrell has got me thinking and imagining in a whole new way.  I don't think I'll ever look at a beam of sunlight in quite the same way again and isn't that the whole reason we are open our minds to possibilities even if they seem, well, impossible?  After all, all revolutionary theories seemed impossible when they were first floated...walking on the moon? fiction!  This idea of a conscious light also puts a whole new spin on the contemplative photographers idea of "received" images doesn't it?  Just something to think about....


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