Aten Reign at the Guggenheim and James Turrell's Skyspaces

3:34 | Published on June 21, 2013 | 420 Views

Guggenheim curators Carmen Giménez and Nat Trotman introduce artist James Turrell's renowned Skyspaces and their relation to the site-specific installation for the Guggenheim rotunda, Aten Reign.

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Aten Reign and Turrell's Skyspaces

Turrell was not an artist for the ramp. He was definitely an artist for the void. I was very clear that it has to be a piece you see from the rotunda, and I was thinking about the Skyspace because we have a sky space. Except that in a real Skyspace, we should not have the glass on top, and that will not be possible of course.

I'd seen an exhibition he did in Wolfsburg, and I loved that exhibition. That was the first time I was really immersed in one of those extraordinary Ganzfelds; it was big so you could immerse yourself in the light. You lose a sense of the space, your body in that space. And I thought, that mixture of skylight and Ganzfeld was what will be possible in the Guggenheim.

The experience of the visitor on the rotunda floor will resemble very much one of Turrell's Skyspace works, where people gather around the perimeter of a room looking up at a hole in the ceiling that opens into the sky. And what the Skyspace pieces do, is bring the sky down to the intimate space of the viewer.

People always think the sky is blue, and that we just receive this blue. The fact is that it is possible in some of the Skyspace pieces, to make the sky any color you'd like. We award the sky its color, and because we award it its color, that means that if I change something with you, I can change your perception of the sky. And this sort of gentle nudge, or koan, that kind of tells us that, you know, we're part of creating the reality in which we live.

The piece in the rotunda relates very closely to the Skyspace pieces. However, it's not a Skyspace because classically a Skyspace has literal exposure to the sky and is an open space that is both inside and outside. At the Guggenheim, you will experience a similar opening in the ceiling, but it's filled with artificial light, with natural light blended in from above. The light surrounding the viewers on the rotunda floor will relate to and interact with the light inside of the chamber in the rotunda, creating a space that in a way looks back at the viewer, that senses the viewer and reacts to the viewer's perceptual faculties.

I also feel to be making space with light—that light is one of the biggest space-makers. The strength of a space is not the physical confines, but where the light is and where it isn't, in relationship to the viewer. That's the main thing that I wanted to do, is to have a way to create space without material other than light. I like to exhibit its quality of materiality, so you feel it to be there to touch.

We have a primal relationship to light. So, I find that I want to work with that. If you have a narrative in it, that becomes stronger than the effect of light. Which is why I tend to not use that narrative, because I want the strength of the power and the primal relationship we have to light to be the strongest.