Given limitations of architecture through the presentation

Given that the building was originally
intended as a deer shelter, it is interesting that Turrell wanted to create a Skyspace in this particular
architectural structure. Traditional ideas of architecture as a form of shelter
have been contradicted and the spatial limitations of this have been removed. Contrary
to the way that Mantegna emphasised the purpose of the bridal chamber through
his painting, Turrell has altered the building so that it is no longer a
functional deer shelter. Mantegna has allowed the privacy and shelter provided
in the room to remain intact with the use of an optical illusion that allows us
to imagine infinite and immeasurable space. Turrell, on the other hand, has
managed to remove the limitations of architecture through the presentation of a
literal infinite space, while also making the building completely dysfunctional
as a shelter. In addition to this, Turrell’s Skyspaces have the ability to create the illusion of enclosure and
division, while also allowing us to contemplate a continuous space: ‘In the Skyspaces (…) we complete the closure,
this missing part, with our perception whether it is a seeming flat glass plate
at the top of a Skyspace or a dome
structure in the crater space, there is a sense of closure’ (Turrell, 1992, p.
57). This may be the result of our unconscious and comfortable familiarity with
the division of space and separation of the inside from the outside. This is
emphasised further through the presentation of a Skyspace, as the viewer is experiencing it from the inside of an
interior space. We do not expect to see an aperture in the ceiling of what
appears to be an enclosed space intended for shelter. Furthermore, the gap
where a small section of the ceiling has been removed appears to be almost like
a framed painting of the sky. Robert Venturi discusses these pre-conceived
unconscious ideas of architecture when he states that ‘since the inside is
different from the outside, the wall – the point of change – becomes an
architectural event. Architecture occurs at the meeting of interior and
exterior forces of use and space’ (1977, p. 86). In his Skyspaces, Turrell has challenged these natural expectations of
divided space. He demonstrates that the interior space is actually the same as
the outside space, meaning that there is no ‘point of change’ in this instance.
He has blurred the boundaries between interior and exterior through artistic
means, allowing us to observe and contemplate a world without the spatial
limitations that Schmarsow described: ‘He has endeavoured to change the
familiar relationship between vision, illusion and art’ (Svestka, 1992, p. 5).
Considering Venturi’s statement further, it is possible to question the space
missing from the ceiling as architecture itself. It is appearing as a
juxtaposition of something and nothing, confusing the viewer as to whether it
should be understood as a painting, a sculpture, a piece of architecture or
just a spatial void. Similarly, the experimental composer and theorist John Cage
(1912-1992) asks the listener to understand the aural void as music in his
composition 4’33” (1952), four minutes and thirty-three seconds
of silence. Like Cage, Turrell asks a
lot from us. He forces us to look where we do not normally see (Turrell, 1992):
‘It triggers the shock effect of an aesthetic crossing of limits in the
direction of infinity at the moment in which the eye becomes aware that the
surface is not a surface but spatial depth’ (Neumeyer, 1999, pp. 251-252). The
success of this effect and resultant understanding of the work will be
different from person to person, depending on their experiences of space,
architecture and imagery. 


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