Step Inside JAMES TURRELL's House of Light in Japan
Back in the year 2000, Tokyo gallery Art Front Gallery (AFG) and Japanese curator Fram Kitagawa conceived the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial to connect art and nature. Spread across 187,800 acres of communities, rice fields, vacant houses, and closed schools in Niigata, Japan, the Echigo-Tsumari Art Site, as it is now called, became the most ambitious and largest-scale art installation in the world.
One of the first and most impressive works realized for the triennial was James Turrell’s House of Light in the mountainous city of Tōkamachi. Turrell was instructed to make a “meditation house" and was given a copy of Jun'ichirō Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows by Kitagawa for inspiration.
Every day, just before dawn and dusk, a retractable roof opens on the traditional Japanese wooden house which was co-designed by Turrell and architect Daigo Ishii, unveiling a treat for all the senses. Colors of pink, purple, blue, green, and yellow light the interiors of the main tatami-covered communal space and cast the viewer’s gaze upwards towards the open sky. All you will likely hear is the entire body-felt sound of silence and the occasional bird flying past.
Downstairs at ground level, Turrell designed a Light Bath that can only be described as unlike anything you have ever seen before. At night, lit with a fiber-optic tube, the bath gives the illusion that one is able to touch the lights in the water. When the sliding wooden doors open in the morning’s natural light, trees appear and offer the experience of shinrin yoku or forest bathing.
Unlike a typical work of art, the House of Light invites guests to stay year-round and experience the magic of Turrell’s masterpiece all to oneself. With accommodation for up to seven guests, wifi and a modern kitchen and bath, the house can be booked several months in advance for a once-in-a-lifetime experience amongst friends, family, or total strangers who made the spiritual trek alongside you.
Text by Collecteurs Editorial
Photography: Jessica and Evrim Oralkan