In the afterglow of a recent opening for the installation at workspace, after total darkness, I received a letter form a friend and collaborator about dark-sky parks and this post on BLDBLOG. Thank you Brian for sending me deeper into the black skies.
2009 is UNESCO’s international year of astronomy and The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is continuing to promote awareness about light pollution. In Scotland, there is an effort underway to create Europe’s first “dark sky park.” This park would join the only two other such parks recognized by the IDA as having the necessary protections against light pollution and an exceptionally pristine nightscape. The other two parks are both in the United States (in Utah and northern Pennsylvania) and are joined by the sole dark-sky community in Flagstaff AZ.
BLDGBLOG makes an interesting connection, especially in light of the work done for the after total darkness book, between dark skies as cultural and natural property which are directly affected by our landscape and the shape of our community.
The concept of shaping the ground to frame and enhance the sky is not new (for instance, James Turrell’s Skyscapes are an architectural attempt to achieve “light effects and perceptual events” centered on a complex reframing of the sky). Nonetheless, the idea of rebuilding and landscaping an entire community specifically for the purposes of experiencing darkness is an exciting one – as is the idea of UNESCO, official protector of World Heritage Sites, attempting to safeguard dark skies as a “natural and cultural property.
Apparently, James Turrel also worked on the campaign to create the Flagstaff community standards for light pollution. What could be a better activist cause for an artist so dedicated to the profundity of subtle sensory shifts? For better or worse, Turrel’s skyspace in Claremont can be seen from within the light shadow of Los Angeles. The sunsets through this ocular are perhaps more striking than the night skies, but the play between built environment and astral luminance is still pretty provocative. Watch this video.