Near the edge of the sky

Near the edge of the sky
Near the edge
Matt Niebuhr

I just finished reading “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” – from the chronicles of Narnia…(with my kids). Upon reaching “the end of the world” – Asland pulled back the sky to let Lucy and Edmond return to “our world”… for they had completed their journey and were prepared for the next in our own world – never to return to Narnia….

The Sky Pesher (pictured above) (James Turrell) feels a bit like that for me – like I may just be able to peel back the sky – It is a wonderfully quiet experience.

Below is an excerpt from -an Interview with James Turrell by Richard Whittaker

JT: I make spaces that apprehend light for our perception, and in some way gather it, or seem to hold it. So in that way it’s a little bit like Plato’s cave. We sit in the cave with our backs to reality, looking at the reflection of reality on the cave wall. As an analogy to how we perceive, and the imperfections of perception, I think this is very interesting.

And there is the making of Plato’s cave literally-at New Grange in Ireland, or Abu Sembal where you don’t have a pointing sculpture like Stonehenge. Instead you have an architectural space that is arranged to accept an event in light on the horizon. When that event in light occurs on the horizon there is an event in light, inside that space.

This then became the camera obscura, which appeared in many European towns. They would have these, and eventually even created panoramas and dioramas. The “camera lucida” and the “camera obscura” were what artists used to actually make this Western painting space.

We made this eye that sees for us, like the camera, and this is very much a part of how we organized our culture. Of course it became this holder of truth. I mean in a court of law you take a photograph, and you can use it as evidence. But, if you think about it, there are many factors: first of all, where you point the camera, and whether you choose a lens that’s a telephoto, which flattens the space, and sees through the distance, or a wide angle that sees a much wider area than we see. Then there is the setting of the aperture. All may be in focus, or just a part with the rest out of focus. Do you choose to put in a film that represents light from the sun as white, tungsten light as white, or fluorescent light as white; or do you use color, or infrared? Then, of course, you get this photo that you can change in development, and crop. Then you can present this photo as “proof of reality,” when every step of the way you’ve created the reality.

This idea of how we create our reality through this, and in ways that we’re not necessarily aware of, is very important. It contributes to this prejudiced perception that we have. And though learning to represent three dimensions in two, has been a great help to our culture in planning and modeling and all that, there are some losses that are interesting.

There is that experiment where a window is made to appear in perspective, so it looks like a trapezoid, and then it’s put on a stick against a very flat background- evenly illuminated, and a few feet away- and then it’s rotated. We can’t tell whether it’s going back and forth, or whether it’s going fully around. Our guessing is less than fifty percent correct. But then, for this experiment, so-called primitive people, both in New Guinea and in Africa, were tested, and they were unable to see the illusion. They were only able to see what was actually happening. When it was spinning, they saw it as spinning, and when it was going back and forth, that’s what they saw.

So certain ways of organizing information can cause some loss. Learning is one path, one way, and we have learned one way, but this also creates a prejudiced perception that we’re not totally aware of.

More to think about with windows are for light….


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