Color Perception and the Art of James Turrell

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Color Perception and the Art of James Turrell Author(s): Patrick Beveridge Source: Leonardo, Vol. 33, No. 4 (2000), pp. 305-313 Published by: The MIT Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1576905 . Accessed: 29/03/2014 09:39 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

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discussesJames The author inrelation to artworks Turrell's aboutthe disputes contemporary nature of color.Theideaof chromatic Turrell's piecesas "pure is implausible to persensations" whohave ceptualpsychologists theecological approach adopted Suchpsychologists ofJ.J.Gibson. as mere viewvisualsensations of ofthestimulation symptoms inourretinae. thephotoreceptors Theirideagoesagainstthetraditionaltheoryof color.Thetenthroughout dencyof philosophers hasbeento takecolorsto history of instances betheexemplary qualities. simple,unanalyzable of provthedifficulties However, canbe ingthatthesequalities tracedbackto a set of material properties suggestthatthereis viewontheirontologinocoherent considers calstatus.Theauthor effortsto addressthis current problem, alongwiththerelevance of to criticism oftheseattempts Turrell's artworks.

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A study of sensory thresholds in a collaborative project organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in early 1969 influenced the artworkof James Turrell over the 2 decades following the study.The project came about due to the introduction of Turrell and fellow artist Robert Irwin to Edward Wortz, an experimental psychologist who headed the life-science division of Garrett Aerospace. Wortz shared many of the artists' concerns and was prepared to collaborate with them on a light-and-sound piece. Their intention in this proposed work was to give members of the public the chance to experience a ganzfeld, or "total"visual field, in an anechoic chamber [1]. They also wanted to create subtle changes in the properties of these anomalous perceptual fields while the viewer was in the space. Although this work never materialized, the ideas behind this work foreshadowed a number of directions that Turrell took in his own work in the 1970s and 1980s. In the last stages of viewing his MendotaStoppages(1969-1974), viewers experienced at first hand a sequence of visual events that the artists and scientist had discussed. During the same period just after their collaboration, Turrell also created ganzfelds in his studio. These early temporary studies were developed into large-scale installations a few years later. The last stages of MendotaStoppageswere to influence a work called Pleiades (1983), which was the first in a series of DarkPieces.The ganzfeld studies on the other hand were seminal to installations such as Cityof Arhirit(1976) and the SpaceDivision Pieces titled Laar (1976) and Iltar (1976). Viewers experiencing the DarkPiecesand GanzfeldPiecesfound themselves at times unable to discern whether they were experiencing an eye-based phenomenon, such as a retinally induced color field, or a visionbased phenomenon, such as a homogeneous field of colored light at a distance from their eyes. In psychological terms, it became difficult for them to know if the stimuli impinging on their retina were proximal or distal. These works made viewers attentive to states of receptivity and the masking effects of colors seemingly close to the eye. From a less theoretical perspective, the Ganzfeld Pieces could be seen to simulate the environment of a level snow plain under certain special weather conditions. The light in this environment presents serious hazards to drivers and pilots working in Arctic regions. In their search for various sky marks, pilots differentiate subjective color phenomena based on whether or not they appear to be properties of the sensing regions of their visual fields. These pilots would not normally attribute the color and luminosity of the distant parts of the sky to internal processes because these properties actually

appear to be "in" the external space. In similar circumstances, we might also be oblivious to our assumption that certain aspects of what we see are in the external space. However, when in experiencing Turrell's installations we note that the color of a medium becomes less saturated after a few minutes, we perceive the impermanence of the color quality as our responseto a property of the inanimate, physical realm and not a property of the realm itself. In spite of this, some scientists believe that certain characteristics of the visual conditions experienced in Turrell's installations justify a general stance on the nature of color that is described by philosophers as a direct, or naive realist view [2]. This view states that the qualities of a medium surrounding us, such as its color and luminosity, actually exist in the medium exactly as they appear to. The theory bears the name "naive"for the reason that it is often said to be the view of the layperson. The fact that there are few references to the theory of naive realism in the writings on Turrell's art is perplexing. The artist and his critics are no doubt aware that the most simplistic assumptions about the color phenomena in his installations do not necessarily conflict with modern scientific theories of perception. However, over the past 2 decades

Fig. 1.James Turrell, Ronin, flourescent light installation, 1968. (? James Turrell. Photo: Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1976.)

Patrick Beveridge (artist, researcher), 13 Goulton Road, London E5 8HA, United Kingdom. E-mail: .

O 2000 ISAST

LEONARDO, Vol. 33, No. 4, pp. 305-313, 2000

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philosophers have begun to stake out extreme views on the methods and beliefs of visual scientists. If, by chance, they were to discuss Turrell's art, some would argue that the colors seen in his installations derive from properties of the physical world and do not depend on the perception of the viewers at all [3]. Others would reject this extreme form of realism and assert the antithesis-that color is not a property of the world and that it is merely a brain-based experience [4]. In either case, these theories were intended to replace a model that has been handed down since the seventeenth century and that left us with an inadequate account of the ontological status of color. However, these theories may still be influenced, at a deeper level, by the radical idea that initially gave rise to this received notion of color. During the seventeenth century, colors were understood for the first time to be sensations in the optic nerves that are produced by a certain characteristic of light. This was a highly novel concept for the reason that, before the seventeenth century, colors were seen to be properties of the world, i.e. of substances or of media. Other philosophers are skeptical about whether the extreme views referred to above bring us closer to resolving the problem of the ontological status of color. Evan Thompson argues that (1) although these extreme views differ in many ways from the traditional model, they do not dispense with its underlying premise, and (2) it is here that the problem really lies [5]. There is acceptance

in the traditional view that the ontology of color is one-sided-i.e. that colors must be either "out there" or "in the head." Whereas the seventeenth-century thinkers who elaborated this model were uncertain about how to proceed further to the actual point of specifying the nature of color, the contemporary proponents of neurophysiological anti-realism and of computational realism must be more convinced that the ontology of color is one sided. Thompson believes that this underlying conviction derives from representative models of perception that were first conceived in the seventeenth century. Later in his study, he draws on evidence accumulated in comparative and evolutionary studies of color perception that undermines this belief. This evidence supports the view that the qualitative content of sensory experience depends both on perceivers and on things in the physical world.

TURRELL'SGANZFELDPIECES Turrell had begun to study certain light qualities in empty interiors 2 years before he accepted the invitation to work with Wortz and Irwin. His early works were of interest to leading artists and critics in Los Angeles because they represented perhaps the furthest point to which reductivism could be extended [6]. These pieces consisted of images of simple geometric shapes, such as rectangles, projected in bright, white light across and onto the walls of an empty room. The crisp borders of these configurations, and the difficulty of seeing

III, fluorescentlight installationat the WhitneyMuseum Fig. 2. James Turrell, Wedgework of American Art, 1969. (? James Turrell. Photo ? Warren Silverman.)

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the texture of the surface lit by the beam, made it possible to imagine that cross-sections of the wall had actually been removed and that the light was coming from somewhere outside or beyond the room. Turrell completed 24 of these projection pieces in 1967. Turrell repeated the disconcerting effect of these bright panels in later pieces using fluorescent fixtures and architectural space dividers. In the first of the second series, titled Ronin (1968) (Fig. 1), a partition wall was placed at the far end of the room. This wall covered the entire surface of the existing wall of the room except for a vertical strip at one of the corners. A fluorescent fixture was attached to the back of this partition so that light seeped out at its edge. The effect of this set-up differed slightly from his earlier works. A more diffuse beam formed an apparent film, or "veil," across the shallow space between the edge of the partition and the surface of a side wall. Turrell's later works were also influenced by these experiments with the positions of light sources and of partition walls in his studio. One series of installations known as the WedgeworksSeries (1969) came about by reducing the partition in width and using it to cover a side wall usually to the left of viewers as they entered the room. Due to this location of the partition, and the placement of the fluorescent fixtures at an oblique angle to it, the resulting light formed an immaterial plane running diagonally across the space (Fig. 2). Although the WedgeworksSerieswere based on the principle of shaving a backlit partition, this series of works also stemmed from the accidental light qualities Turrell observed in his studies for a site-specific performance piece. In MendotaStoppages(1969-1974) the artist made use of available light sources outside an unused hotel in Ocean Park, California. From 1966-1968 he had spent time sealing the rooms on the ground floor of this building from outside light and making their interior walls perfectly smooth (Fig. 3). In late 1969 he cut a number of apertures in an outer room of the hotel and studied the positions of the images projected through the apertures into the interior. The apertures were opened and closed according to a set plan during evening performances that took place in the summers of 1969 and 1970. One of the most dramatic moments of the performances occurred in the fifth stage, when a sliding door between the two rooms was reposi-

Beveridge,Color Perception and the Art of James Turrell

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II

Fig. 3. Mendota Hotel, interior of the second studio space looking toward the door into the first studio space, circa 1970. (? James Turrell)

tioned. This adjustment allowed a diagonal line of light to fall across the floor and travel up the wall to the far corner. This bright line appeared to surround a veil of light that was generated by a blue fluorescent fixture in a shop window on the other side of the street. In the final stages, audience members became less attentive to the piece's environmental characteristics and were required to concentrate instead on the difficulties of perceiving very low levels of light. At the beginning of the ninth stage, very faint images were projected into the inner room as the shutters in the next room were closed and a number of small apertures in the sliding door were opened. By the end of the ninth stage, these images had faded, and the amount of light in the inner room was nearly at a subthreshold level. Viewers found that the almost-imperceptible light became difficult to distinguish from the phosphenes generated in their visual systems by random nerve firing. The audience members' descriptions of their experiences during the final stage revealed that they had believed that the light had remained at a very low level and that up until the end they were receiving a mixture of internal and external stimuli.

However, Turrell created one last reduction. Closing all apertures, he reduced the room to total darkness. The audience was unaware of this final change because idioretinal light is also phenomenally located in front of our eyes and thus could easily be mistaken for perceptions of quantal fluctuations in a room that is not completely light-free. These last stages of MendotaStoppages were directly influenced by the discussions that he had had with Irwin and Wortz in the first part of 1969. The notes outlined in their proposals show that they were interested in studying a whole range of sensory phenomena [7]. The idea of combining a "total" visual field with a "total" aural field, for example, stemmed in part from their interest in synesthesia [8]. Although their project was never realized, they did make some translucent plastic hemispheres in the Garret laboratories. The very diffuse light seen in these empty shells was of particular interest to Turrell. A few years later he designed installations that made viewers aware of their psychological impressions of an undifferentiated visual field, such as a clear blue sky. However, more importantly, he found ways of conveying the most perplexing aspect of

this visual phenomenon: when we experience an undifferentiated visual fieldfor example, in an aircraft-the airspace ahead of us appears to be filled with an immaterial "mist."This impression does not diminish upon entering the region. Instead, the optical texture appears to fill the airspace close to our eyes. Turrell started work on the first ganzfeld study a few months after the collaborative project had ended. He lit the smaller studio space at the Mendota Hotel in such a way that from a position outside of it, in the larger studio, the viewer would see a luminous film extending across its entrance. This piece turned out to be a mock-up for a larger installation that was first exhibited in the Stedelijk Museum in 1976. In the museum work, entitled City of Arhirit, "mists"of filtered sunlight hovered inside four wedge-shaped chambers that opened off of a hallway (Fig. 4). Natural light reflected off differently colored surfaces outside the building before entering the chambers, with the result that each of the four spaces had a different hue. The light in the first chamber, for example, was pale green because it was reflected off a lawn; in the second chamber the light was pale red because it was

Beveridge,Color Perception and the Art ofJames Turrell

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opaque film spread across the aperture. They also then discovered that the qualities of this seemingly substantive plane did not dissolve on approach. If they moved up close to the aperture, they found that the film did not yield, but opened up into a "mist"or "fog"of color that seemed to recede back into the partitioned space. Turrell developed the lighting effects he used in these SpaceDivisionPiecesin a concurrent series of pieces called Skyspaces(1975-1988). These pieces were originally inspired by a cut in the roof of the Mendota Hotel, and many are now permanently installed. They generally consist of a rectangular incision in the ceiling of an interior that gave access to the sky (Color Plate A No. 2). Turrell lit the interior space below the incision with fluorescent fixtures concealed in crevices located either high up near the ceiling or lower down on top of high-backed benches pushed up against the walls. Looking upward, viewers are almost unaware that there is an incision in the ceiling. First, the color of the glassy film within the aperture seems different from the color of the sky outside the building. Second, when the enveloping film of a clear blue sky is observed outdoors, it appears to be very distant indeed. In these interior spaces, however,a small cross-section of this film appears to be just a few meters above the observers' heads. The segment is drawnup in the same horizontal plane as the border of the aperture. Thus, it appears to fill the aperture and enclose the space rather than open it up. Fig. 4. James Turrell, City ofArhirit, filtered ambient sunlight, as installed at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1976. (? James Turrell. Photo: Stedelijk Museum.)

reflected off a brick wall. The impressions of these individual colors faded after a few minutes in each room. However, on entering the next chamber, the viewer would find that the afterimage he or she experienced from the light from the previous space would intensify the color of the new space for about 10 seconds. As viewers walked through Cityof Arhirit,the awareness that they were immersed in these "mists"of color became threatening when they realized that the perspective cues in the room were no longer visible. In a later reconstruction of one of these rooms, the illusion of a solid surface also seemed dangerously deceptive (Color Plate A No. 1). In fact, to prevent people from leaning back onto non-existent film surfaces, Turrell had to resort

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to using physical barriers in his subsequent pieces. However, these barriers acted as more than precautionary measures. In these subsequent works, called SpaceDivision Pieces (1976), Turrell had large rectangles removed from the centers of barriers to form apertures from one space to another (Fig. 5). The space within the entrance was then filled with light emitted from dimmed spotlights directed away from each other onto the two side walls (Fig. 6). This light was scattered in all directions, and some of it ended up in the partitioned space. Thus, the inner space contained only light coming from the outer room. Nevertheless, the uneven distribution of light between the entrance/viewing space and the partitioned space resulted in viewers seeing, from the entrance, an

TURRELL'S ART AND THE CONCEPT OF SENSE DATA The optical phenomena in Turrell's installations raise questions that are central to theoretical issues about the nature of color. It is unclear whether the visual textures seen in his pieces, such as the colored "mists"in Cityof Arhiritor the films seen from the entrances to the SpaceDivision Pieces,are perceptions of very diffuse light in these spaces [9]. Alternatively, these textures might stem from physiological illusions. In circumstances of sensory deprivation, it is well known that visual sensations obtrude on our awareness. Nevertheless, the textures that make up an impression of a "mist" or "film"in Turrell'spieces are colored, and they make us contemplate questions about the nature of visual sensations. If we consult philosophers, we discover that they are divided over whether they should divest the physical world of

Beve'rdge,Color Perception and the Art ofJames Turrell

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the qualitative aspects of visual experience. Some believe that the appropriate level of explanation for color is a neurophysiological one. They claim that experiences of color correspond to neural states and that acceptance of this premise can resolve issues that have been neglected since the time of the Enlightenment [10]. However, there are other theorists, such as the philosopher FrankJackson, who still uphold the traditional view, regardless of its shortcomings [11]. They would claim that the film colors in the SpaceDivisionPieces,for example, are pure color impressions that possess extensity without depth. They might also point out that these pieces make us attentive to other characteristics of sense impressions, such as their brute, indubitable nature. However, other contemporary philosophers refute the idea that we see chromatic sensations devoid of some visual context. Thompson, for example, argues, We ... do not see colours withoutseeing something as coloured and consequently the fundamental element of colour perception is the seeing of a coloured thing, not the colour sensa-

tion. This point is no less true for the supposedly"pure"aperturecolour percepts, for even here we still perceive colours as situatedin some visual context and as partaking of other visual qualities, such as being luminous (glowing) and as filling spatially extended areas [12].

light in the earth's atmosphere. When the sun's rays penetrate the earth's atmosphere, they are scattered first by gaseous particles and then by the rough surfaces of the earth. This scattering sends light into spaces sheltered from the sun's rays-for example, into the airThe most widely accepted interpretation space below an overcast sky. The light in of Turrell's art is that we see light filling these spaces is understood to have an the empty spaces of an interior [13]. omnidirectional flux. This flux acts in The idea above, that we see color only as such a way that at every point in the air a quality of things, is also relevant to the there is an intersection of rays coming literature on his work. from all directions. The ideas expressed in the extract Gibson considered the ecological above are supported by the theory of value of this flux. He proposed that livperception developed in James J. ing organisms use light that converges Gibson's second book, TheSensesConsid- from all directions to guide their moveeredas PerceptualSystems,and on the writ- ments. He noted that the structure of ings of the phenomenologist Maurice the reverberation of light in sheltered Merleau-Ponty [14]. Gibson states that spaces is not affected by changes in the sensory awareness refers to diffuse feel- intensity of the light source. This structure is composed of the angles of interings of physiological change in our body, and, in this sense, it is distinct cept at every point in space. These from perceptual awareness, which is un- angles of intercept are based on the enderstood to be the extraction of a pat- vironment; for, at every point, the differtern in the forms of energy to which our ent intensities of light coming from difsense organs respond. This definition of ferent directions are determined by the perceptual awareness stems from careful diverse light-reflective properties of the considerations about the behavior of surfaces in the environment.

Fig. 5. James Turrell,Laar, 1976.Ambienttungstenlight, as installedat the WhitneyMuseumof AmericanArt, 1980. ( JamesTurrell. Photo ? Warren Silverman. Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California.)

Beveridge,Color Perception and the Art ofJames Turrell

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However, there are also circumstances in nature in which we encounter unstructured ambient light. When the air is filled with a dense fog, light does not reverberate between surfaces, but only between the droplets or particles in the air. Gibson describes these conditions as follows: At any point of observation there would be radiation,but withoutdifferences in different directions, without transitions or gradations of intensity, there would be no structureand no array [15]. The surfaces in Turrell's installations are carefully prepared so that they do not give rise to gradations of intensity in the light that they reflect. In these installations, we experience homogeneous fields of light. In the pieces that use natural light, we might also sense changes in their luminosity, hue and saturation. According to Gibson, change in the physical properties of light that generates activity in the nerve cells of our retinae is felt, not seen. Gibson stresses that we do not perceive the stimulation of the receptors in our retinae. In his final book, Gibson argues that light in our environment, unlike the environment itself, is imperceptible: Halos, highlights on water, scintillations of various kinds are manifestations of light, not light as such. The only waywe see illuminationis by way of that which is illuminated, the surface on which the beam falls, the cloud, or the particlesthat are lighted. Wedo not see the light thatis in the air or that fills the air [16].

This paper is also about the origins of the belief that runs counter to Gibson's view above that "we do not see light that is in the air or that fills the air."It is generally understood that Turrell intends to convey the idea that we do see light in the air. Craig Adcock describes Turrell's achievement as making it possible for us "to see light as light rather than illumination on objects" [17]. He also points out that Turrell's "quest for the pure light" is related to modernism's reductive aim [18]. Adcock's interpretation of Turrell's work is aligned with the view expressed by many philosophers throughout history that the basis of perception is "pure experience"-a sort of direct and infallible awareness of things variously described as impressions, ideas, percepts or sensations. More recently, these entities have come under the general term "sense data" [19]. Sense data are considered by some, at present, to be nonphysical, mental entities that bear the properties that the perceived external object (if there is one) appears to have [20]. The current definition rests on assumptions that were first made during the time of the Enlightenment: that there is a series of correspondences between perceptions and the physical objects that we are seeing.. Sense-data theories have been attacked in recent philosophical analyses of the key ideas underlying them [21]. The main claim of these analyses is that the scientific discoveries that led to the rise of natural philosophy did not prove

Fig. 6. James Turrell,Laar,1976.Ambienttungstenlight, as installedat the WhitneyMuseum of American Art, 1980. (? James Turrell. Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California. Photo: John Cliett. Courtesy Barbara Gladstone.)

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the correspondences, but instead inadvertently created uncertainty about whether the phenomenal properties of objects derive from properties of the physical world that exist independently of us. Turrell's projects also leave us with this dilemma. Our senses testify that the visual qualities of his empty spaces are what they appear to be. However, at the same time we also feel that these qualities are inseparable from us as perceivers. To clarify this, I will explain how these conflicting elements first arose. REALIST AND ANTI-REALIST

EIEMENTS IN EARLY

MODERN COLOR THEORIES The color theorists of the Enlightenment conceived of color as the power or disposition of objects to produce sensory experiences of color in perceiving creatures. This power of objects was not considered to be an "inseparable"property of objects. This attempt to categorize properties of objects on the basis of whether or not they are "in"the objects themselves is characteristic of a tradition in seventeenth-century philosophy and science of distinguishing between "primary"and "secondary"qualities. Despite disagreements over which properties fell into which category, the primary qualities of objects were understood on the whole not to produce sensory experiences. According to Isaac Newton and philosopher John Locke, primary qualities were the properties of an object that were inseparable from it. For example, Newton proposed that mass is a primary quality, but weight is not because a massive object becomes weightless in the absence of a gravitational field. A closely related idea is that the primary qualities of an object are its intrinsic or non-relational properties-those that it could in principle possess even in the absence of any other body (the example that Robert Boyle used to illustrate this concept was the case of a single material atom existing alone in the void). The view of color as a "secondary," "relational" or "separable" property is traced back in many accounts to Newton's experiments with glass prisms. In the paper in which he describes these experiments, Newton proposes a one-toone correspondence between degrees of refrangibility of light and disposition to exhibit colors [22]. However, he did not claim that the rays of light were colored in themselves [23]. Although the proposed one-to-one correspondence was central to Newton's

Beveridge,Color Perception and the Art of James Turrell

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Fig. 7. Newton's experimentumcrucis. Rotation of the prism on the left while keeping the prism on the right stationary makes the complete spectrum cast on the second board move up and down, so that different colors fall on the aperture and pass through. Violet is refracted the most (to R), red the least (to R), green and other colors intermediately [38]. (Reprinted by permission of Cambridge University Press.)

theory, it was not strictly proven in the experiments. Having observed that when a single color resulting from the passage of light through a prism was passed through a second prism no further splitting of light took place, he drew his famous conclusion that light is a heterogeneous mixture of rays with different indexes of refrangibility (Fig. 7). He was less aware at the time that, in speculating about the nature of light, he had taken for granted that the colors split by the prism were an accurate phenomenal indicator of the refractive properties of these rays.Yet, there is evidence that Newton did become aware of this problem at a later date. He eventually questioned whether the main tenet of his theory-that differently refrangible rays of light have dispositions to produce sensations of colors-explained the colors of objects. Realizing that his theory might not explain the colors of objects, he went so far as to propose a second correspondence between the color an object is perceived to have and the light that is reflected from that object [24]. However, recent attempts to demonstrate this second correspondence have proved his first correspondence to be flawed. These recent experiments show that changes in illumination do not bring about a one-to-one change in the colors of objects. The relative independence of perceived color from its illumination leads to the inevitable conclusion that it is not locally reflected light that has the disposition to exhibit colors, but the actual surfaces themselves. The lack of clarity over whether color is a dispositional property of light or of

the surfaces of objects is also present in things do not appear to be colored beLocke's An Essay ConcerningHuman Un- cause they are colored; rather they are derstanding. In Book II of this work, colored because they appear to be so. Locke distinguishes between ideas and Color, unlike the primary qualities of qualities. The former term refers to the objects, is specified only in relation to immediate objects of perception or the sensory experiences of the perceiver. It is due to the presence of this subjecthought, while the latter refers to the tive element in Locke's color theory that to these in our power produce objects mind [25]. Secondary qualities are then modern scientific researchers consider defined as a particular type of power his theory to be a form of subjectivism/ anti-realism.However, Thompson argues that produces sensations of colors, sounds, tastes, etc. [26]. However, Locke that Locke's theory merely sets the conwent on to write that these qualities "are ceptual stage for the modern debate benothing in the Objects themselves, but tween subjectivism and objectivism [29]. the powers to produce sensations in us by their primary qualities, i.e. by the THE COMPARATIVE Bulk, Figure, Texture and Motion of their insensible parts" [27]. This last ARGUMENT The modern debate would never have proposition-that secondary qualities are powers that have primary qualities as arisen without the belief that the proa basis or ground-obviously raises the cesses culminating in perceptual experiquestion of why the distinction was set ence occur in different scientific domains. This belief has always been up in the first place. The argument that perceptions of col- understood to have a firm empirical baors, sounds and tastes can be explained sis. Yet, the acceptance of this belief in in terms of the physical properties of contemporary scientific research also objects is currently referred to as the entails an adherence to a particular Causal Thesis [28]. The idea in this the- model of perception embedded in the sis is that a causal chain of events brings causal chain [30]. This model is called a about the perception of sensory phe- representative theory of perception. It is nomena. In the case of color, these based on the idea that representation is events are as follows: The primary con- at least partly achieved by resemblance stitution of a given object causes it to re- between the properties of ideas and the flect light of long wavelength, and light properties of external objects. of this composition has the disposition The main criticism of representative to cause sensations of red. This thesis is models is that they provide no specificaunsound because it is impossible to tion for the ontological status of color, prove that colors can be traced back to for, although the physics of light and sub-microscopic texturesof surfaces. We surfaces might trigger physiological acinterpret color along these lines only if tivity in the retina, the question of we ignore the other component of whether colors are representations of Locke's doctrine, which states that things in the external world or proper-

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ties of the things themselves is left open. This criticism does not apply just to the early scientific theories. In the second half of the twentieth century, the computational theories that emerged almost simultaneously in the works of Edwin Land and of David Marr have provided us with mechanisms whereby we could distinguish illuminance from reflectance [31]. Despite general acclaim, their theories contributed little to the philosophical problem because they also considered perception to be a process of representing some aspect of the physical world in an internal medium. Furthermore, the strong realist tendency in these models-viewing color as a physical property of surfaces-is beginning to be opposed by scientists who are trying to place certain aspects of color science in a wider comparative context [32]. The ecological studies of these scientists focus on luminous environments in which the medium itself is colored. Regarding perception of the sky as blue-that is, seeing color where there is no surface present-proponents of Marr'sand Land's approach state that this is merely a case of misperception. Mohan Matthen has argued, for example, that the color seen in such circumstances is an "artifact"of the mechanism for detecting surface color. This claim is supported by a further assumption that it is evolutionarily advantageous for living organisms to represent "surface spectral reflectances" in an internal medium [33]. However, from psychobiological and evolutionary perspectives, this last assumption has no firm basis. Thompson summarizes the conclusions drawn from a number of studies: Both acrossand within animal species there are fundamental differences in colour vision, and these differencesdo not appear to converge on any single type of environmental property... The environmental properties detected in colour vision include not just surface spectral reflectances, but also ambientlighting conditionsand gradients in a sourceof illuminationin both aerialand aquaticmedia [34]. Evidence of there being different "types"or "dimensionalities" of color vision across animal species [35] supports a thesis that does not verge to realism or to anti-realism. The main tenet of this thesis is that color is part of the reciprocity that has evolved between living systems and their environments. The perception of color derives from the delicate balance of energies passing

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back and forth across the tiers of an ecosystem. This balance arises due to the states of interdependence of organisms and their environments. The idea that the roles of particular species in an ecosystem are determined by their interactions with other living things at both physical and chemical levels, as well as at a perceptual level, is relevant to the philosophical problem of the ontological status of color. The modes of presentation of objects are closely related to Gibson's concept of affordances-the opportunities for interaction that objects have in relation to animals. Thompson points out that these characteristics do not exist independently, they exist only in their mutuality with living things [36]. In this sense, properties such as color are relational, rather than intrinsic. The argument seems to rest on firmer methodological grounds. The criticism leveled at the neurophysiological and computational studies is that they are focused primarily on phenomena that are seen only in laboratory settings. I believe that the emphasis in locating qualitative content of sensory experience in the ways the bodies of animals have come to interact with things in an extradermal world, on a number of different levels, provides us with a more compelling or plausible account of the nature of color. Finally, Dorothea Jameson and Leo Hurvich believe that phenomena such as ambient lighting conditions and gradients hold important information about weather conditions and time of day [37]. Their findings are also perhaps relevant to criticisms of Turrell's art suggesting that his pieces are not about perceptual phenomena that stand in for objective scientific properties, such as wavelengths of light. It is more of likely that our perceptions nonsurface color arise due to an internal need that we share with all other creatures for a sense of orientation in both space and time. Acknowlegments I wish to express my thanks to John Gage and John Haworth for reading and commenting on this article while it was in development.

References and Notes 1. Their proposal is recorded in M. Tuchman, ed., A Reporton the Art and TechnologyProgramof the Los Angeles CountyMuseum of Art 1967-1971, exh. cat. (New York:Viking Press, and Los Angeles, CA: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1971) pp. 130-131. 2. The ganzfeld studies made byJJ. Gibson and his colleagues in the 1950s are discussed in "A History of the Ideas Behind Ecological Optics: Introductory Remarks at the Workshop on Ecological Op-

tics," in JJ. Gibson, Reasonsfor Realism:SelectedEssays of J.J. Gibson, E. Reed and R. Jones, eds. (Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1982) pp. 90-101. For an account of the philosophical implications of these ideas, see JJ. Gibson, "New Reasons for Realism," Synthese17 (1967) pp. 162-172. 3. Contemporary arguments for realism about color appear in D. Hilbert, Colorand ColorPerception: A Study in AnthropocentricRealism (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford Univ. Center for the Study of Lan1987); and in M. guage and Information, Matthen, "Biological Functions and Perceptual Content," Journal of Philosophy85 (1988) pp. 5-27. 4. See C. Hardin, ColorforPhilosophers.Unweaving the Rainbow (Cambridge, MA: Hackett, 1988); and C. Landesman, Color and Consciousness: An Essay in Metaphysics (Philadelphia, PA: Temple Univ. Press, 1989). 5. The most significant characteristic of the "received view of color" is its "inherent Janusfacedness." R.J. Mausfeld, R.M. Neideree and K.D. Heyer, "On Possible Perceptual Worlds and How They Shape Their Environments," Behavioral and Brain Sciences 15 (1992) p. 47. Thompson uses this description by R.J. Mausfeld to clarify his own argument. See E. Thompson, Colour Vision-A Study in Cognitive Science and the Philosophy of Perception (London: Routledge, 1995) p. 140. 6. Turrell's early projection pieces dispensed with the use of the gallery wall as a "support" for the artwork. These pieces, along with other developments that led to the emergence of a novel form of light art, are discussed in the second chapter of C. Adcock, James Turrell:The Art of Light and Space (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 1990) pp. 48-60. 7. See Tuchman [1] p. 134. 8. See Tuchman [1] p. 134. 9. In an interview by Julia Brown, Turrell expressed his belief that we have veridical perceptions in these installations: "What you see alludes to what it really is-a space where the light is markedly different." This passage suggests a realist view on these epistemological questions. See "Interview with James Turrell," in J. Brown, ed., OccludedFront,James Turrell,exh. cat. (Los Angeles, CA: Museum of Contemporary Art and Lapis Press, 1985) p. 22. 10. See Landesman [4] and Hardin [4] pp. 96109. 11. F.Jackson, Perception(Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1977). 12. See Thompson [5] p. 45. 13. See Brown [9] pp. 22-23; Adcock [6] pp. 2, 144. 14. JJ. Gibson, The Senses Consideredas Perceptual Systems (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1966); and M. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenologyof Perception, C. Smith, trans. (London: Routledge, 1962). 15. J.J. Gibson, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception(Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1979) p. 52. 16. See Gibson [14] pp. 54-55. 17. C. Adcock, ed., James Turrell,exh. cat. (Tallahassee, FL: State Univ. Gallery and Museum, 1989) p. 7. 18. See Adcock [6] pp. 208-209. 19. A list of works that question the introduction of a general concept and its current use is compiled in A.R. Larcy, A Dictionary of Philosophy (London: Routledge, 1996) p. 316. be20. The arguments for a correspondence tween colors and local stimuli are discussed in

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the section titled "Sense Data as Colour Bearers" in Hardin [4] pp. 96-109. 21. Skepticism of the adequacy of color theories that derive from the Newtonian model is expressed in J. Westphal, Colour:Some Philosophical Problemsfrom Wittgenstein (Oxford, U.K.: Basil Blackwell, 1987) and in D.L. Sepper, Goethecontra Newton: Polemics and the Projectfor a New Science of Colour (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988). Relevant extracts from these studies are discussed in Thompson [5] pp. 33-37. 22. Reprinted in H.S. Thayer, Newton's Philosophy of Nature:Selectionsfrom the Writings(New York and London: Hafner, 1953). 23. I. Newton, Opticks,Or a Treatiseof theReflections, Refractions,Inflectionsand Coloursof Light (based on 4th Ed. of 1730; New York: Dover, 1952) pp. 124125. 24. See Thayer [22] pp. 77-78. 25. J. Locke, An EssayConcerningHumanUnderstanding (London and Vermont: Everyman, 1993) Book 2, Ch. 8, Sect. 8. 26. See Locke [25] Book 2, Ch. 8, Sect. 9. 27. See Locke [25] Sect. 10. 28. The splitting of Locke's theory into separate components-"An Analytical Thesis versus a Causal Thesis"-comes from J. Bennett, Locke, Berkeley, Hume: CentralThemes(Oxford, U.K.: Oxford Univ. Press, 1971) p. 102. 29. Thompson [5] pp. 25-26. 30. Thompson [5] p. 26. 31. E.H. Land, "Recent Advances in Retinex Theory and Some Implications for Cortical Computations: Color Vision and the Natural Image," Proceedingsof theNational Academyof SciencesU.S.A.80 (1983) pp. 5163-5169; D. Marr, Vision:A ComputationalInvestigation into the Representationand Processingof Visual Information(New York:Freeman, 1982). 32. In the abstract to a paper on the retinex theory, Land wrote, "A retina-and-cortex system (retinex) may treat a color as a code for a three part report from the retina, independent of the flux of radiant energy, but correlated with the reflectance of surfaces."See E. Land, "The Retinex Theory of Color Vision," ScientificAmerican237, No. 6, 108-128 (1977). 33. See Matthen [3] p. 25.

34. See Thompson [5] p. 182. 35. The dimensionality refers to the number of dimensions required to represent the various discriminative abilities of the animal's visual system. This number also coincides with the number of lights of different and specific wavelengths required to match all the colors that the animal experiences. For an explanation of the scale of complexity, see the section titled "Physiology and Psychophysics" in Thompson [5] pp. 51-56. Small mammals generally tend to be dichromats, whereas many species of fishes and diurnal birds are either tetrachromats or possibly even pentachromats. For an overview of these variations, see G.H. Jacobs, ComparativeColorVision(NewYork: Academic Press, 1981). Other studies in visual ecology suggest some of the reasons why many species of birds and fishes possess additional degrees of freedom for making chromatic distinctions. The visual sensitivity in the near-ultraviolet range in several species of diurnal birds is probably for aerial navigation. For a discussion of pigeons' abilities to discriminate in this range, see J.F.W. Nuboer, "A Comparative View on Colour Vision," Netherlands Journal of Zoology36 (1986) pp. 370-371. The biological role of the pigments found in several species of fishes is discussed inJ.S. Levine and E.F. MacNichol, "Color Vision in Fishes," ScientificAmerican246 (1982) pp. 140-149. 36. The definition of affordances as relational properties is in Thompson [5] p. 224. For a more in-depth discussion of the concept of affordances, see Gibson [15] pp. 127-143. 37. D.Jameson and L.M. Hurvich, "EssayConcerning Colour Constancy," Annual Reviewof Psychology 40 (1989) pp. 1-22. 38. Image from Sepper [21] p. 11. (Cambridge Univ. Press. Reprinted by permission.)

Glossary

ganzfeld-from the German for "complete, or homogeneous, field," a ganzfeld is a visual field produced by a set-up in which the entire retina is stimulated by homogeneous light. It has no contours or forms and is totally undifferentiated. illuminance, illumination (at a point on a surface)-quotient of the luminous flux incident on an element of the surface containing that point. naive realism-a theory of direct perception that claims the perception of physical objects is unmediated by the awareness of the subjective entities and that, under normal conditions, these objects have the properties they appear to have. If a fruit tastes sour, the sun looks orange and water feels hot, it means that if conditions are normal the fruit is sour, the sun is orange, and the water is hot. Tastes, sounds and colors do not exist merely in the heads of perceivers; rather they are qualities of the perceived external objects. proximal stimulus-the physical energy that acts directly upon a receptor-for example, patterns of light that stimulate the receptors in our retina. realism and anti-realism-a realist asserts that something is somehow mind-independent; an antirealist denies it. No supportable position is reached at either end of this dichotomy. reflectance-ratio of the reflected radiant or luminous flux to the incident flux. synesthesia-the phenomenon in which stimulation of one sense modality gives rise to a sensation in another sense modality. traditional theory of color-the predominant view of color since the seventeenth century. This theory proposes that we have direct apprehension of the properties of subjective sense data and that these represent some aspect of the physical world. The theory claims therefore that the qualitative content of sensory experience is internal or proximal.

anechoic chamber-a room heavily insulated against outside noise stimuli and thus non-reverberant. Causal Thesis-Locke's view that, in a perfected and completed science, all our secondary quality perceptions could be explained in terms of the primary qualities of things we perceive. distal stimulus-a stimulus a distance away from the receptor on which it acts. This stimulus is in the external environment-for example, a surface from which light waves are reflected.

Patrick Beveridge is an artist and freelance researcherwho lives in London. This article is a distillation of a research project carried out at the Royal College of Art from 1993 to 1995. Manuscript received 17 October 1996.

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