No Brow art show speaks with James L. Marshall

Originally aired October 29, 2013.

I owe here a debt to writer Phip Murray.
In 1969, the American artist James Turrell purchased a block of land that housed the abandoned Mendota Hotel. Turrell set to work on the building, adding walls, painting entire rooms white (including the floor) and smoothly plastering the surfaces, assiduously preparing the space for a series of light and perception experiments – the Mendota Stoppages – which the artist undertook between 1969 and 1974. To experience the work, audiences would arrive at the Mendota Hotel customarily at 9pm or 10pm – though sometimes later – and participate in a light performance that lasted anywhere from two to four hours. Turrell would guide the audiences through a series of rooms to experience ten sequences of different light performances, which were choreographed by Turrell through opening a series of apertures – often doors, windows or louvres – to let in diverse external light sources, such as light from a street lamp, the emanations of a neon sign or the headlights of a passing bus. This reflected light articulated different light and space manifestations, some vivid and well defined, others ambient and barely perceptible.

Currently on show at Bus Projects in Melbourne, Australian artist James L. Marshall has referenced – amongst other things – Turrell’s near-mythical work in his own ‘Mendota Block’. Though instead of contemplating the purity of light, Marshall combines it with tropes from horror and sci-fi cinema, covering the gallery space in blood-red light, installing a skeletal pentagram, and looping the flames from the second Terminator film. Adjacent to this space is the text reading ‘Out Of Body Experience’ and a collection of electrophotographs – or Kirlian photographs. The installation as a whole attempts a shift in an audience members conscious experience, and similarly finds influence in experiments with sensory deprivation and LSD.

Andrew spoke with James about all these things.

Songs: Goblin - Suspiria soundtrack; Tom Dissevelt - Vibration; Cabaret Voltaire: Kirlian Photograph

Mendota Block closes November 2