Translated by Hilary Keyes
The House Of Light - A Design Masterpiece by James Turrell In Niigata
Written by MICKEY MITSUMOTO
The House of Light is a work created by artist James Turrell for the Echigo-Tsumari Triennale and is a house where visitors can actually stay for the night while appreciating the arts.
The House of Light in Niigata - Architectural Light Artwork by James Turrell
Located in Tokamachi, Niigata Prefecture, this event takes place once every three years. It is the largest outdoor art festival in the world. Using the grounds of Echigo-Tsumari as their canvas, artists both domestic and international put on exhibitions and performances here. Taking place next in 2021, the Triennale may be difficult to catch, but you can visit in-between the festival, as certain exhibits are open year-round. One of these is the fantastic "House of Light" by James Turrell.
For more information on the festival, please see: Echigo-Tsumari Art Field
The House of Light was installed by the light artist James Turrell (*1) for the first Echigo-Tsumari Art Field Triennale in 2000. In Japanese, the work is called "Hikara no Yakata."
Built in a manner that allows viewers to appreciate the effect light has on its surroundings and the changes it causes, this fantastic work enables its viewers to fully experience light with their entire body. The House of Light is raised a couple of meters off the ground, due to the heavy snowfall in Tokaimachi, this house is the embodiment of peace and relaxation.
It is said that Turrell's inspiration for this work came from Japanese novelist Junichiro Tanizaki's essay "In Praise of Shadows" (*3). The house is also designed for those wanting to meditate. The House of Light can be toured and can be rented as a guesthouse for those who want to experience an overnight stay.
*1 James Turrell: a modern artist from Los Angeles; with works in the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa and the Chichu Art Museum in Naoshima. Works are dominated by themes of light and space.
*2 Junichiro Tanizaki: a novelist active from the late Meiji era through to the post-war Showa era. He is highly esteemed both abroad and in Japan and considered an exemplary writer of contemporary Japanese literature.
*3 "In Praise of Shadows:" a work written when electric light was not yet commonplace, it discusses themes of light and shadows and their interplay, underlining the importance of shadows and twilight in traditional Japanese aesthetics.
Incidentally, the architecture of the House of Light also takes some inspiration from an important cultural property of the Echigo-Tsumari area, the Hoshina House, a traditional Japanese home.
Light Within the Work 1 - Outside In
"Outside In," which may be viewed by visitors or guests that stay in the house. A sliding panel in the roof opens up to reveal the subtle changes in light that take place from the midday sun to sunset in this work. By laying back and watching the square window above you, you can relish the gradual changes in the blue of the sky; your position on the floor will also change what your view is like, making this an interesting work from every angle.
Feel free to lie down on the tatami as you appreciate the changing light and sky overhead.
Light Within the Work 2 - Light Bath
Photo courtesy of House of Light
This work can only be seen by those who stay overnight at the House of Light. "Light Bath" is a work wherein fiber optics throughout the house run through the bathroom and, while you are immersed in the tub, you can appreciate the interplay of light and shadow against the water.
Reservations for staying at the House of Light can be made via this form. As it is quite popular, it is better to make a reservation in advance as soon as you are certain of your travel dates. Meals from local restaurants will be arranged for guests staying in the House of Light.
In situations where there are only a few people staying in the House of Light, double and even triple bookings will be made. Part of James Turrell's vision was that the House of Light would be a place where several families can stay the night and experience the changes of light together.
In this remote meditation space, you may find that new experiences and new encounters are waiting for you.