September 15, 2013

The Changing of the Light

Before we begin: some information about the Deer Shelter Skyspace

Blues sequence - early Blues sequence – early


Many people do not realise that there are distinct experiences in the Deer Shelter Skyspace.  They visit in the day time, watch the sky in the square, blue or gray, clear or cloudy, hear the resonances of silence, sheep and motorway and think they’ve done it. All that is needed is that someone has unlocked the gates. The tungsten lights at the top of the seating are almost invisible, and if they can be seen they appear to do nothing.

What else could there be?  It’s one of those philosophical questions: what happens if there’s no-one there to see it?  The answer is nothing. The Skyspace chamber gets darker, rain drips from the edges of the aperture, the sheep quieten for the night, and that’s it.

But Turrell has given an option, which needs human agency, his and ours, to reveal it.  If we choose to follow his advice and meet in the chamber at dawn or dusk we can see something significantly different. This where the tungsten lights  he constructed become important; they are essential in the creation of a deep blue square in the aperture.  As the colour of the sky above the aperture changes, perhaps from light gray to murky brown, the blue in the square appears and then slowly changes through a range of intensity which is breathtaking.  At dawn it is from darkness to light; at dusk it is from light to darkness.    

Blues sequence - middle Blues sequence – middle


But this does not happen by chance, nor does it depend on the weather. Gloom and rain is not a problem, though perhaps no-one has yet tried to experience a Skyspace chamber in a heavy snow storm. Usually at dawn or dusk the Sculpture Park is closed, which means that the gates are shut, the lights are out, there is no life in the chamber.  Sittings can only take place by arrangement, with staff alert for safety as people trek over the tussocky slopes in the dark, on foot or scooter.  More importantly, the second line of human agency, the staff, turns the lights on, to make the blues sequence happen.   The third human agency is within our power; we have to open our eyes.


Blues sequence - late Blues sequence – late



Images from Sparrowhawk Quack.

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