Reading George Fox

Incarnating the Immaterial

"Light is not the bearer of revelation—it is the revelation."[1] James Turrell’s Aten Reign, currently at the Guggenheim[2], embodies light’s power, such that even the most insensitive observer can’t help but be moved. As a lighting designer, I’ve devoted over half my life to studying light’s ability to connect and separate, to enliven and to deaden, to reveal and to conceal. Like all our senses, sight operates in potent unconscious ways: certain colors provoke specific emotions; bright and changing sources command our attention[3]; without contrast, intense hues fade over time and alter the color of differing hues[4]; we all have two blind spots corresponding to our optic nerves—our brain automatically fills them in so we experience a continuous visual field[5]. My career involves taking these physiological and psychological facts and using them to manipulate audience members. As Jennifer Tipton[6] said, “1% of the audience notices the lighting; 100% are effected by it.” The genius of Turrell’s work is the enabling a lay person to perceive this force. Even if visitors do not know how Turrell accomplishes this, they feel consciously compelled to lie there and experience the event. They are moved and held. In the insanity of New York City,…

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