Anyone who has ever witnessed a James Turrell artwork ― no, that Drake video doesn’t count ― has experienced the uncanny way the artist transforms a physical space into something yawning, otherworldly, spiritual.
Using the divine power of light, he converts the real world into an abstract artwork that swallows you whole. The act of looking changes from a passive experience to an active mode of encounter, through which forms mutate and grow before your eyes.
The latest space to receive the Turrell treatment is the memorial chapel of Berlin’s Dorotheenstadt cemetery. The 20th-century space was remodeled by architect Nedelykov Moreira, endowed with sweeping, crisp lines and smooth, minimalist spaces. Basically, Moreira created the perfect Turrell canvas.
Like many of Turrell’s artworks, the sky serves as a conductor. When the sun sets, around 9 p.m. during Berlin summers, a light show takes off, complimenting the sunset with a hallucinatory flow of LED lights, hidden in the architecture.
The chapel begins by glowing a brilliant blue, changing color every two minutes for a full hour. During this time, while the sun sinks from the sky, the interior space becomes a seemingly infinite expanse of pure color and light. The experience captures, as Turrell expressed in a 2015 interview with The Spectator, “how we experience light in a dream, very suffused and radiating off people, filling space.”
Whether or not you consider yourself a religious person, this piece will surely make you see the light.
If you find yourself in Berlin, be sure to check out James Turrell’s installation, on view every Saturday and Monday, beginning 30 minutes before sunset. Buy tickets here.