Wednesday, March 22, 2023

James Turrell, Kijkduin: Celestial Vault Panorama in the Dunes, Stroom Den Haag, The Hague, 2020

A small accordion catalogue that includes photographic documentation and a brief explanation about this wonderful 1996 earthwork by the well-known American earth artist James Turrell and the directions for viewing this work in the dunes outside of The Hague, Netherlands.

The work consists of a bowl shaped ellipse with walls approximately 5 metres high and 30 metres wide & 40 metres long. In the center of this artificial crater is a large bench on which visitors are encouraged to lay with their heads looking towards the sky. A little further up, on the top of a slightly higher dune, is a similar bench. 

The catalogue relates how "In the bowl of the dune, you can see how the sky is a dome that changes shape. Along the carefully calculated bank of the slope, the eye is irresistibly drawn upward and you feel the nearness of the sky as though you could actually touch it. You notice how the space seems to bend into a dome that rests on the edges of the bowl...outside of the realize, perhaps for the first time, that the sky you are familiar with actually has a form. It is not infinite space that you see, but a finite vault."

Turrell constructed this piece after reading the work of the Dutch astronomer Marcel Minnaert (1893-1970) who wrote extensively about this phenomenon in his book 'Light and Colour in the Open Air' (1937). Minnaert found that the dome-like appearance was determined by the position of the head, and although "...he was unable to find a physical explanation for this. His conclusion was that this must be a psychological phenomenon: the form of the sky is the result of your own observation."

6 double-sided pages, individual pages 8.25" x 3.5" and when fully opened 1ft 10 inches.

reverse side 

back cover

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