All notes with the topic Maya Gurantz | Notes on Looking

James Turrell: A Dissent—Part Two: Four Thoughts on James Turrell, or Where is the Body? By Maya Gurantz

1. Look While the Light and Space artists of the 1970s have occasionally been historicized as “California Minimalism,” Turrell’s recent retrospective at LACMA exposed the gap between the two practices.  The West Coast artists manipulated light, space, surfaces, finish. East Coast Minimalism explicitly considered the body. It developed in intimate conversation with post-modern dance. Robert Morris wrote about the art object as being scaled to the human body: no longer a monument looming over the viewer nor the intricate ornament glimmering in her hand. This human scale shifted the site of the artwork to what passes between the body and the object. Despite the experiential and phenomenological nature of Turrell’s work, in his realm, the body is vestigial. Each piece maintains an ideal viewing position, usually seated. The viewer is meant to sit on the chair or bench—and look, and look, and look. The light installations with their layered, textural beauty become living, trembling color field paintings. The visual information vibrates between the eye and perceiving brain without ever once passing through the body. The body becomes the eye. Not only is the body unnecessary, it is actively interruptive, destructive. A security guard cautioned me not to get my shadow on one of the works. The staging of disembodied visual pleasure falls apart the moment another viewer’s body enters the frame of vision or, God forbid, speaks. This in turn instills feelings of contempt within the viewer for the bodies and voices of fellow museum-goers: how dare these humans ruin my looking? We are not meant to acknowledge the existence of bodies. Nor be in our own body. We...