2010, alembic, basalt, Canberra, cochlea, gnomic, James Turrell, labyrinth, maharajah tomb, materiality, National Gallery Australia, oculus, operculum, portal, Skyspace, stupa, Victorian basalt, Within without
Based on the James Turrell artwork at The National Gallery
of Australia in Canberra…
We have chanced to wonder at the Skyspace
and find ourselves drawn down the sloping path
to the Victorian basalt stupa.
We enter through a portal, so smoothly,
as if flies had followed the labyrinth
of a cochlea, or had gained entrance
to the gentle spiral of a snail shell,
only to hear a quiet ululation.
The universe is made immanent and
we sit on a concrete bench, out of time,
searching for a cloud like a camel, or
a shape like a whale, but all is cloudless.
We are alone and yet we are connected,
within; without – experience distilled –
interior and exterior are
like the two vessels of an alembic.
Are we in a maharajah’s tomb, or
Pharoanic chamber? We are infused
by a laser beam of cosmic insight.
The world tilts on its axis and we see
segments of reality as they change,
until the sun adjusts its slanting beams,
casting a gnomic shadow on us,
branding us with a present awareness.
No clutter of materiality:
there’s only an uncanny sense of peace.
At some point the operculum descends.
Either our eyes, or the oculus blinked.