By Shameelah Khan
Light and Space
Walking through Naoshima “art” Island, I had been carrying a world of existential weight on my shoulders. Stuck in a never-ending postmodern loop; my anxieties were destructively washing over me. I needed answers. I had been distant from God and from myself. I knew that. The Island sang a song of strangeness; otherness. It was an invitation to explore the whims of an older, more traditional architectural Japan. My first point of entry was the famous pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama. It’s bold silhouette against the wide ocean. The Island’s narrow streets, made for walking and cycling, were accessorized by the charm of cafes, installations, bathhouses, colourful boutique galleries and a backdrop of scenery and sky. If there was ever a place to find my answers, this was it, this was the time.
But I was floating, still… waiting to be held again.
From a bird’s eye view, the Chichu Art Museum, by architect Tadao Ando, was a surreal scene from a sci-fi film; a futuristic design, constructed to seize light. Belinda Aucott, in her article The Quiet Icon writes, “This immersive space, which elevates the visitor’s experience to a ritualistic or spiritual rite of passage, is a hallmark of Tadao’s conceptual approach. Chichu transforms the concept of an art museum to that of a meditative crypt – inverting the iconic value of a museum into a solemn and dignified shrine.”
The Museum is a clean sophisticated space constructed of light, nature and openness. The experience of it was not just about the spiritual, but also the sacred process of ritual. When entering the Museum, we took our shoes off, similarly to the way in which I would before my prayers. There was a cleansing about the energy fluttering off its pristine walls. There was a light about the sanctity of the Museum space. Tadao comments:
“I was born and raised in a traditional residential neighbourhood of downtown Osaka. My home was a dark place with little light and high windows. In the dim interior, I appreciated what little light we received. I would often fill my cupped hands with light coming into my room. Since then, this is the type of architecture I’ve wanted to build; an architecture which values light and reminds me of the same feelings I experienced as a child.”
Housing artwork, that I had never dreamed of seeing in person, by Claude Monet, Walter De Maria and my ultimate favourite of the visit, James Turrell. Each of these, as you can imagine, had left me in complete awe as an abundance of natural light touched oil on canvas, from the expressionist tales of Monet or the Minimalist art of De Maria- in particular the piece Time/Timeless/No Time, a grand structure situated in the Museum.
However, it was in the work of Turrell, that I began to breathe under water, submerged in the spaces of Oneness, light and making my way back to my Divine source. Turrell’s installations Light and Space is a breathtaking experience. According to Turrell, his medium is pure light. He says:
“My work has no object, no image and no focus. With no object, no image and no focus, what are you looking at? You are looking at you looking. What is important to me is to create an experience of wordless thought.”
As if stepping into space itself, I was walking into nothingness, the “no-thing” as Shakespeare writes. I was forced to ask myself “who am I?” standing inside emptiness, with nothing but vast space ahead of me, carefully constructed by Turrell as almost never ending. I had left earth, praying that I would not leave my body and that all my known and unknown fears about life and love would not dismantle itself right there. And that beside me, someone, anyone, would remind me that I was not alone in my ache for answers, for search and for sorrow.
In reference to Turrell’s work, I was reminded of the spiritual cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky and his Sculpting in Time. For Tarkovsky, spirituality was not so much about Religion, but instead, the way in which we move through “life on Earth” – and what of the spirit? I thought.
In quite the opposite way to Turrell, Tarkovsky uses the elements: the gentleness of rain, air, light and fire to carefully compose his profound dreamlike work. Kona, on Tarkovsky, writes:
“The unknown is you and everything that passes through you for which there is no language except that of the spirit. No matter under what ideological baggage we attempt to hide, whether we call ourselves religious or non-religious, or whatever fancy label we invent to suit our whims, Tarkovsky makes us aware of our individual responsibility towards life around us in the deepest sense possible. That type of responsibility can only be spiritual because it is a commitment that transcends the limits that time imposes on human beings.”
When the exhibition came to its close, I sat under the framed sky, allowing light and sky in, carefully taking in the profound silences of the experience. I had definitely found some of the answers I needed. A reminder of love, of pain and all the memories in between. It may be that the notion of sci-fi is really a reminder of how small we may be in the grand architecture of our lives.
From self, I moved to other…I was never alone. We are not alone. We are in this life.Together. Submerged.
In this issue:
10 Must-Watch Sci-Fi Films — Sam Aberdeen
Science Fiction Novels by Black Female Authors — Kelly Ansara
A tree, a bud and a flower — Radiyah Manjoo
An Odd Journey: Odd Dimension — Amir Bagheri
All The Stars — Chukwuka Osakwe
The Island — Ibañez
TIMBUKTU — Abdulrahman M. Abu-Yaman
Sci-fi Space Series — Alun Robert
AGI & Wakanda — Singular Poet
An Odd Interview with Joya Mooi — Amir Bagheri
Afronauts: An Afrocentric past for an Alternative Future – Nicola Pilkington
Odd Dimensions — Amir Bagheri