Seeing the sky, wherever you are

July 31, 2021

Imagine a group of mortals gathered in a room to stare through a rectangular opening that is covered in glass. They have gathered just before sunset. Not to see the sun set, but to see the sky while the sun sets. To see the colors of the sky.

What they watch is not mediated by a film director or an advertiser. But their view is “designed” by an artist. Their view is mediated by the lights in the room that have been carefully setup to control the colors they see, the colors of the sky.

The room lights that seem irrelevant when the sun is glowing bright in the sky, slowly but steadily, become prominent as the sun’s day at sky office comes to an end. The room is filled with warm light, which makes the sky look blue, even on a rainy day. This is James Turrell’s Meeting at MoMA PS1 in New York City, which was open for many years, including in early 2020 when I visited it 1.

Here is a work of an artist that brings people together to quietly observe the sky. To observe how the color of the sky changes. To observe how the color of the sky changes as the color of the lights in the room changes 2. It is almost meditative to be able to disconnect from our surroundings and to just observe the sky.

Is this why people visit places to see the sunset? Places where they don’t live. Places where they don’t work. Places where they are tagged as tourists. Places where they have the time and space to get off the road, stand-still and just watch the sun and the sky. To see the sky turn from blue to red to pink and orange. It is beautiful.

It makes me wonder why we don’t spend more time staring out of the window, from the comfort of our homes, to watch the sky. During sunset or even later when the faraway stars try to fill the gap that the sun leaves behind. We don’t have to travel anywhere to benefit from this view. We don’t have to carve a hole on the roof. The windows we already have, they are all we need 3.

Just as Turrel’s work brings people together, we could bring our friends together, not to party, but to watch the splendid skies.

Update on June 13, 2022: Fixed typos



  3. I hope you are not living in a windowless apartment.↩︎