James Turrell: Seeing “Ganzfield”
The piece that blew me away was Ganzfield
After a 20-minute wait, I was allowed up the stairs in the big white room with a 50-foot window of soft, even color that my eyes could not focus on, because there weren’t any edges. A window of colored softness. I stood in the middle as close as I was allowed to the huge window, so that my entire field of view was swallowed into the colored softness, which changed ever so slowly, with perhaps 3 very gradual color changes in the permitted 15-minute sojourn.
I finally fully understood what Jim means when he says that edges speak to your conscious, while softness speaks to your unconscious. The colored softness spoke to my soul directly, like music, and evoked raw emotions. I remember smiling joyfully when the color turned to orange.
I also really appreciate Turrell’s various windows into colored softness, which I called “Soft TVs” (by association with my own Marble TVs). These worked on the same principle as Ganzfield, except that you couldn’t get swallowed by the softness, so that the pieces ended up being about the very interesting conflict between the sharp window edges and the colored softness inside.
I was less enthralled by Turrell’s geometric light work, like the cube of light with its shifting foreground/background, which seems more like an exploration of perception, than offering content.
Indeed, after seeing Turrell’s work, for me the question of content is unresolved.
J said that one difference between our work and his is that he doesn’t work with rhythms, or at least not on our time scale. I said that he does have slow rhythms, but it was unclear to me if they had content, what the content of the 3-minute progression from blue to orange was…
I want to spend more time with James Turrell’s work.