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Space Science Technology

Artist Turns Volcano Into Naked-Eye Observatory 55

Posted by samzenpus
from the staring-at-the-stars dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Unlike most Bond villains, 70-year-old James Turrell has turned a 389,000-year-old extinct volcano into something other than a secret hideout; he's turned it into a naked-eye observatory. From the article: 'Inside, the crater's naturally lit viewing rooms are precision-engineered to observe specific celestial events. While outside, Turrell has reformed the rim of the crater to create a beautiful "vaulting effect" of the sky in a way that we almost never see it. "I'm very interested in how we perceive, because that's how we construct the reality in which we live," Turrell says, "and I like to tweak that a little bit. I make structures that arrest and apprehend light for our perception."'"
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Artist Turns Volcano Into Naked-Eye Observatory

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 27, 2013 @12:34PM (#43833305)

    Poor sentence structure here. Is he a Bond villain? Is he not? We need to know, surely.

    • He'd be the first Quaker to be a Bond Villain if he was.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 27, 2013 @12:48PM (#43833403)

        My demands!? My demands!? Hahaha, Mr Bond. Surely you jest!

        I demand that we should sit quietly together and contemplate creation, and yes, be good to each other and... I think that on the whole that pretty much covers it, when you really get down to it.

        Oh yes, yes. Sorry I forgot HAHAHAHA AND THEN YOU DIE

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Unlike most ACs, I can parse English.
    • by LiavK (2867503)
      I saw him speak several years ago. He came across as one of the most humble, thoughtful, engaged, humorous people I've ever met. Great cover for a Bond villain.
  • under "Property Features" in the Realtor.com, but nothing ever turned up. I wonder what an extinct volcano went for in 1979.
  • Something about artists observing naked virgins falling into volcanoes?

  • That is all.
  • by Deluvianvortex (2908365) on Monday May 27, 2013 @01:07PM (#43833499)
    Roden Crater has been 'closed' for quite some time. Previously, the only way to get in was to drive into the hills, backpack about ten miles from the nearest road, approach on a new moon at midnight, and blend into the construction crews as they arrive in the morning to get them to give you a tour of what they're building (they like giving tours). That, or donate about a million dollars to the project. Then you can shake Mr. Turrell's hand and have him fawn over you like you're some golden child (which you just might as well be if you're forking over that kind of dough for what amounts to being a science museum) I don't think its ever actually going to open. If it did, it wouldn't last long, and I'm betting that Turrell, like every other major artist, has realized if they just pander to the rich, their art can stand the test of time (especially considering all this is, is just environmental art). So why is Mr. Turrell talking about something he has no intention of having the wider world to know about? Because he needs money. He's basically just begging. confession: I am a BFA
    • Well if he's nice enough to let backpackers on his property without shooting them on site, thats good enough for me. He seems at least willing to let the poor view his work along with the contributers. I think his end goal may be to drive a road out there and let people on the interstates hit it as a tourist attraction.

      Fair enough.

      • Or even to sell it to someone eventually that would do the same. Sorry for the double post.

      • No, you'll get arrested for trespassing if you do that these days. He is asking for money, he doesn't care about the poor, or the rich, he just wants to 'finish' his pet project before he dies. He cares about money, but only because otherwise he wouldn't be able to do this.
        • Well that is a bloody shame. Maybe the ownership of the project is already out of his hands and he just wants the publicity to see it completed. Like if he already sold it, but needed a bit more money to complete it.

          Too bad he sold out.

          • Yeah but its not going to BE completed. It makes too much money in its incompleteness. As long as he (and by extension, the committee overseeing it) has something to do, they can forever stretch it into 'private tours for the rich and famous' and 'lucky art students from special universities' and never have to open it to the general public. As long as it stays the way it is, its a unique place that you can only get to if you're either really dedicated or super rich. It is an experience closed off to 99% of
            • Well I would pass on it in my current. But if I was filthy rich, I might pander to his sense of ego just for giggles. So your ideas have merit, which were never under dispute.

              But it doesn't make much logical sense to do what he's doing in my opinion.

              Lets say he opened it to the public right now with a donation box out front and people put a dollar in. He may start raising money immediately. But as you said. It is your opinion he doesn't want it complete. I could agree that may be the case. Not really just b

              • Its not just the money. He wants the minimum possible number of people there. He wants people who know not to touch the sculptures. He wants people who understand the art, and doesn't want to have to explain everything like its some science center for children. Part of the draw is the mysticism the place holds, something that will be wholly lost on people who didn't major in art, children, and the general populace.

                he doesn't want to have to pay for repair costs, anti-graffiti, security, etc. As long as h

                • Honestly I can to some degree respect that. I think there are vastly more people who would appreciate him and his art on the level your illustrating than a few rich folk. But I can respect wanting to keep it private as well.

        • by Walczyk (1116023)
          He's amazing artist, and I can't think of another like him. He has such a mastery of light, the sheer feeling of bewilderment his art will impart on you is worth it. It's worth learning about his art, and trying to experience what you can, and it's worth donating to Roden Crater to see it finished. Obviously we all can't do that, maybe he should start a kickstarter :)
      • "Tresspassers will be shot" is one thing as a sign. If you actually do shoot them, you go to prison or get executed for murder. As any lawyer will tell you--even in Texas--there has to be a threat of deadly force by the tresspasser to legitimately shoot them. And in case you're wondering, a tresspasser who responds to deadly force with deadly force and wins, is off scott free for self-defense, even if they were trespassing at the time: take it from a guy who knows some folks who like to hike and can't alway
        • Interesting. I figured that some jurisdictions were lax in this regard. Like the Mexican border. Not advocating anything. I personally wouldn't take the risk of ending up in a volcanic vent where theres going to be very little evidence.

          But maybe. Depends. I would probably call the guy and ask nicely. Or send him a nice letter first. Before making assumptions about him. Plus the idea of doing day labor at the "sight" is even easier and more straight forward.

      • by aiht (1017790)

        Well if he's nice enough to let backpackers on his property without shooting them on site, ...

        Well, it's not necessarily him being nice; he could hardly shoot them on site if he didn't let them come on site in the first place, could he?

    • by PPH (736903)

      Destination art.

      He should put in a private airstrip (he's a pilot, so he may already have one) and let the rich folks fly in to look. For a fee, of course.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        Destination art.

        He should put in a private airstrip (he's a pilot, so he may already have one) and let the rich folks fly in to look. For a fee, of course.

        if you're that rich and into that sort of stuff, you're more likely to go see "authentic"(that is, historic) building observatories.

  • Thanks a lot for this article, one of the best I've seen on /. recently.
  • While it sounds kind of interesting, neither the article nor the website for the project has more than a fairly vague description that is barely more informative than the slashdot blurb. Considering that it's been under construction for more than 30 years, you would think that they might be able to come up with a little more information.

    I live just a few hours away, and could see myself making the trip to see something like that .. but only if I had a better idea of what to expect.

  • by braindrainbahrain (874202) on Monday May 27, 2013 @01:49PM (#43833709)

    I saw a preview of what the artist has done with the volcano on the TV series "Sculpture Diaries". BTW, I don't know why they are calling this an "observatory". It really is an art piece (depending on you view of what is art).

    I'd visit it if I could.

  • by TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) on Monday May 27, 2013 @03:09PM (#43834105)

    I'm not sure what's going on in the article, it seems more of an artsy-fartsy place than really rugged volcano-ey belly of the beast thingy. If you are looking to trek up, over and down into a hopefully-extinct volcano will take your breath away, that is accessible and is not overrun by tourists and access roads, here's the place:

    http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=17.369741&lon=-62.80873&z=14.2&r=0&src=yh [flashearth.com]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Liamuiga [wikipedia.org]
    http://www.peakware.com/peaks.html?pk=2174 [peakware.com]
    http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g147374-d147557-r157740414-Mount_Liamuiga-St_Kitts_St_Kitts_and_Nevis.html [tripadvisor.com]
    http://www.nytimes.com/1990/11/18/travel/climbing-a-st-kitts-volcano.html [nytimes.com]

    Here's my suggestion: plan a night in the crater. Everyone should be in decent shape. The hike up the mountain is not too demanding and even pleasant if you make a 4-5 hour trek of it. Take at least 1-1/2 gallon drinking water per person, compact food for a couple good meals, mosquito repellent and light tents for shelter from bugs and rain. There is a lake in the crater that you might find drinkable. I did, it was the most delicious water I have ever tasted. Make sure everything is carried on your backs or can dangle comfortably, you will need both hands and feet for the final ~400' climb down into and out of the crater. It will be a careful scramble using both hands to cling to tree roots as you face the hillside and lower yourself, there are short lengths of rope left by previous climbers. Bring 50-100' of rope to use if existing ropes are in bad condition and to leave for future adventurers. It is rigorous but I do not recall that any part of the decent as terrifyingly vertical or overhanging.

    Once you're down in the crater set up camp. There are a few active fumaroles along the rim, in places you can see faint steam rising and there is a faint odor of sulfur but the crater has good air circulation within it. As a common sense precaution site your camp on high ground within the crater, and if you are particularly nerdy you can bring a gas detector to check for H2S but it's probably not a big deal.

    Regardless of the weather you will be in a place like no other and will consider yourself grateful to be alive. Framed by the circular crater rim's cliffs above you a sharp celestial bowl of stars might roll above you, untainted by light pollution. Or perhaps a light rain punctuated by echoing thunder and circle of lightning along the sharp peaks of the rim.

    If you camp overnight have at least one good hands-free head mounted flashlight in the group in case of emergency, for someone would need to climb up to the crater's rim to call for help. Volcanic craters tend to have bad cellphone reception.

    It is a little known fact that compatible and like-minded individuals are implicitly married as they descend into the crater of hopefully-extinct volcanoes so there is no need for pomp or ceremony. Just get on with it.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Monday May 27, 2013 @03:25PM (#43834203)

    With the exception of Dr. No, I seem to recall pretty much every Bond villain played some other role to the outside world. Wealthy industrialist, media mogul, Prime Minister, horse breeder, philanthropist... So why not an artist?

  • Is it true that from the bottom of a deep well (or a volcano as the case may be) the sky looks darker and you can see stars in broad daylight?

  • Here [rodencrater.com] is a direct link to the project's website for anyone who hasn't forgiven Wired for the Wikileaks affair.

    The article is basically a summary of the site.

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