November 10, 2015

The Art of Seeing

When people say things like, "I couldn't believe my eyes!", it's as though they could ever trust the images that are bouncing around inside their eyeballs—or the messages that are being sent from the optic nerve to the brain.

In reality, what we see isn't always the same as what's there. Sometimes we see something that isn't there. Sometimes we don't see something that is.

Artist James Turrell likes to play with this idea, proving that our sight can't be entirely trusted in the only way possible—by showing us visually.

At one of his gallery exhibitions, you walk into a red room with a white light...

...but it turns out it's actually a white room, illuminated by a red light.

If you stare at the light long enough, gazing into the recesses of the wall before you, you start to see it change color.

Or do you?

Perhaps it is the room that is changing.

Perhaps it is your eyes that are changing.

If you bounce from room to room too quickly, you might get confused, because there is no "red" or "pink" or "purple" or "green" room. At any time, any of those rooms could be any of those colors.

And if you wait long enough, and if you look closely enough, you might see them all.

Kayne Griffin Corcoran is a great place to experience Turrell in LA not only because of their rotating exhibits of his work (like their current show of his Elliptical Glass works, as seen above) but also because of the permanent Skyspace that doubles as their conference room.

Like Turrell's other sky spaces, it's designed for optimal viewing at sunrise and sunset, when daylight is waxing or waning, changing the color of the sky...

...and the interior light installation fluctuates between different colors...

...changing your perception of the color of the sky as seen through the aperture in the ceiling. Sometimes it looks blue, gray, green, and even orange.

If you're familiar with the light show effect, you gaze upwards for the full cycle of the sun's rise or set. Others wander in confusion, wondering what everybody is looking up at.

Is it the sky? Is it a video of the sky? Why does it look like that? How does it look like that?

Sometimes even your camera doesn't understand it, translating purple into black and blue into green. Or maybe it's only the camera that sees it accurately, and our eyes tell our brains it's purple when it's really black.

The longer you watch, the less you know.

Related Posts:
James Turrell Turned My Eyeballs Inside-Out
A Cell for All Perceptions
Photo Essay: Hiking Through a Dream Home in the Hills
Dark Matters

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