James Turrell is my favorite artist. (If you aren’t familiar with Turrell’s work, or want to see all the different kinds of magic he makes you should click here.) Over the years, I’ve visited his installations in Europe, all around the UK and in various places here in the U.S. One of his works, “Backside of The Moon”, in Minamidera, I thought I’d never see, because it’s located on a tiny island off Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, and I could never imagine how I would find my way there.
Right after my first cancer diagnosis, Fireboy made my dream come true. After a few days in Tokyo, we rode three shinkansen, a ferry and a taxi cab to get to that place. It was August and it was so humid it was the hottest I’ve ever been in my whole life and I was a total whiny pain in the ass. Due to some confusion, we didn’t realize our tickets to enter Minamidera were only good for the exact hour and minute stamped on them. When we presented them at the door, the attendant made an “X” with his index fingers and held it up to us as he said, “Invalid.”
The sun was pounding down and I felt beads of sweat running down my back. I didn’t figure out until our last day in Japan that the secret to keeping cool is to cover every single inch of skin. I was so hot and tired that if I would have been alone that day, I would have just given up and gone back home. Fireboy leaned in towards the guy and said, “We came all the way from San Francisco, in the United States, to see this. Can we come back later?” The guard was firm at first, but eventually caved and told us to come back in two hours.
We killed the time, eating ice cream on a small bench and wandering around, keeping to the shade. Since we were missing Burning Man to make this trip, I had made a small paper mache sumo figure covered with Sanrio stickers. We called the thing Japan Man, and the original idea was to set him on fire somewhere in Japan on the night of the Playa burn. Instead, since we had nothing better to do, we walked around town looking for a good place to hide him. Once we had found it (in someone’s front garden) we went back to Minamidera. Right on time, I might add.
From the heat, we were led into a cool, pitch black room. It felt so good to be in the dark. After about five minutes, a rectangular screen gradually emerged from nowhere and we groped our way toward it, hands outstretched. If you’ve ever visited a Turrell installation, you know that what looks far away is actually very near, and what seems solid soon gives way to mist.
On Tuesday, I will fly back to SF for more scans. My doctor is worried that my cancer has changed genetically and the medicine I’m taking isn’t working anymore. I know in my heart that he is right. I feel strange sensations and weird pains and a fresh panic I haven’t felt before.
I think about Japan Man sometimes. I wonder if someone discovered him and threw him in the trash, or if he melted away in the rain, leaving just a pile of sun-bleached Hello Kitty stickers behind.
There’s a Turrell in the Louis Vuitton Store here in Vegas. It’s called AKHOB and it’s great, because it’s private so you get to have it all to yourself during your visit. I made a reservation for Valentine’s Day. While we were there, all alone in that crazy light, Fireboy put a box in my hand. Inside was my new wedding band. A concept by our friend artist Nick Dong – The Introspective Ring, made just for me. Melted down from a US Golden Eagle coin, and lined with ten Brazilian emeralds, the stone of renewal and healing.
Two people fumble through an undefined space. How can the corners be so blurry, yet the edge so razor sharp? I reach out for his hand.
Into the ganzfeld