Thursday, August 20, 2009

celestial vault

This August I'm here in The Hague. Last Sunday we walked through the woods at Oxenburgh to the Kijkduin dunes, a few kilometres from the city. A leisurely stroll, we stopped now and again to take photos of ducks slicing through the weed covered canals, water reflections and rose hips at their fullest. 

Out of the woods and near the dunes, we climbed a short flight of steps to reach what looked eerily like some kind of tomb. Apparently we’d been there before, some years ago. How had I missed this? There was no inscription, it was puzzling. Marcel said it was an art piece – oh, ok. It was slick and monumental, and did not move me particularly. I stood and looked at the view in front of the tomb - it was impressive – to the left you could see all the way to the Hook of Holland and to thee right the beach resort of Sheveningen. 

Further on was a short tunnel leading to a wide bowl with an identical tomb like structure in the middle. A man sat on the rim of the bowl pulling out weeds while his dog looked on. Was he the guardian of this place? It seemed strange to be pulling out weeds when all around the ‘tomb’ were shards of glass.

Then it all clicked into place. Not so much sculptures, these are places to gaze at the sky and experience changing light and colour. These two pieces are ‘The Celestial Vault’ created by one of my favourite artists, James Turrell. Lying with your head resting on the stone plinth, your view is shaped by the manmade landscape in the 'bowl', and the restriction of your head - your field of vision is severely limited. We were there with the sunlight drilling into us so we didn’t stay too long on the plinths. From the top plinth you could see the horizon to horizon view and upside down the sky became more magnified and majestic. With blood slowly traveling to my head, the focus was not what was on land and tangible, but what was in the sky - intangible and ever moving. In the bowl, the angle of the plinth was parallel to the coast and the sun directly in my eyes made it impossible to experience the full effect. The plinth resting in the bowl shape gives the illusion you are looking at the sky as if it were indeed a dome. Given less harsh sunlight, I can imagine this being a wonderfully meditative place. My field of vision was somewhat wider than the photo below, but this gives some idea of my view from the top plinth.

No comments: