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James Turrell’s Psychedelic Immersion Sphere

An exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery in London is taking visitors on a mind-bending journey.

John Ryan
John Ryan on November 18, 2010.

While the current exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery in London features many of the light works of Californian artist James Turrell, the main attraction is undoubtedly Bindu Shards, described by the artist as a “perceptual cell.” After signing the requisite waivers, visitors are placed one-at-a-time inside the large metal sphere and treated to an ecstatic 15-minute light show of shifting and flickering color.

As Jonathan Jones, art writer for The Guardian, describes:

Then I see a cityscape of vertiginous skyscrapers, with no earth below. All these forms and volumes that pulse and metamorphosise are defined by colours that change convulsively – the most intensely saturated greens and reds you can imagine, colours that seem solid, then burst into microscopic patterns of oranges, blacks, gold and misty white; all these colours bubble and whir at breakneck speed, as if you were in a particle accelerator.

But the most important part of the experience is that you do not know what is inside and outside your head. I saw a space, or rather an ever-changing succession of spaces, but these were independent of any actual material reality – they existed only in my head. What the perceptual cell does is bombard you with flashing lights to trigger the mind’s eye by exploiting a perceptual phenomenon called the Purkinje effect. The whole of space seems compressed into your skull.

Guardian: “Warning: art that will blow your mind”

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