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Visit the Chapel of Light in Berlin by James Turrell

Feb 10th 2019 at 11:22 PM

"Let there be light!" Is written at the beginning of the Bible. Let there be light - perhaps also at the end of earthly existence. At Berlin's most famous cemetery a small chapel incorporates light into a spectacular work of art. James Turrell, the American light artist, has set up a permanent installation here.

Light Show

One hour before sunrise, the light starts to change in different colors. A separate source of light is the altar, a cube of frosted acrylic glass with recessed light-emitting diodes. The altar shines in different colors, alternately radiant blue, mint green, saffron yellow, bright red. Together with the other light sources in the room, a colorful melange is created.

The impression in James Turrell's Berlin Chapel is phenomenal. The visitor is in a room full of colored light and does not know whether he should now consider this to be great kitsch or a sublime moment. The technology is fantastic. It allows a seamless change of colors and endless variations. It is a "contribution to the contemporary Christian burial culture", as Pastor J├╝rgen Quandt puts it. The idea came to the art commissioner of the protestant national church, Christhard Georg Neubert, who invited James Turrell. The light artist traveled from Texas, looked at the matter for two hours and agreed. He gives Berlin not only a permanent installation, but also a solitaire. Only on the Japanese island of Naoshima and for the Quaker community in Philadelphia he has previously designed sacred spaces.

Towards the light

The 72-year-old himself is a Quaker, which explains his special relationship to the light, because Quakers believe that God's light is in every human being. Anyone who has ever visited one of his light rooms, which are usually set up in museums, knows their mystical quality when top and bottom are lost and a diffuse color shimmer conveys a feeling of infinity. The cemetery chapel does not play out this irritating effect to the last detail; it remains a church with a clear orientation towards the altar, which carries a cross on its front. There the church is entirely in the tradition of the Gothic cathedrals, which operate with the metaphysics of light, the divine appearance that pours over the faithful.

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