This PS1 Slide Was Not A James Turrell; It Was A Patrick Killoran

Honestly I have no idea how it got lodged in my head, but for at least fifteen years, and probably twenty, I was certain that James Turrell made two pieces at PS1.

One is the famous, iconic, even historic skyspace known as Meeting, which has gone through several iterations—perhaps upgrades, perhaps not—since Turrell first created it in 1980 and opened it in 1986.

Turrell’s skyspace, Meeting, under construction in 1986, via MoMA’s interactive timeline that kind of glosses over the dramatic changes of adding an LED lightshow to the work in 2016, just before it was formally accessioned into the collection.

The other was a far rougher, more primitive, but also more visceral, individual experience, just down the hall. A single viewer climbs onto a wooden platform, lays down, and then the platform is slid through an open window just enough for their head to stick out. For a moment, the viewer has a disorienting and somewhat disembodied view of the sky from an extremely unfamiliar vantage point.

This permanent installation began in a gallery, but the space was then taken over for* was in PS1’s administrative offices, which were open to visitors who would take turns having their heads pushed out the window.

Then this piece was gone, and no one spoke of it again, it was the lost Turrell, that I began to wonder if I’d hallucinated it, a Klaus-era fever dream, or janky Turrell erasure? No, I was just wrong.

Observation Deck (Queens) was a 1996 work by Patrick Killoran, first installed in his studio in Williamsburg, and then installed at PS1’s reopening in 1997. It stayed in place until 2006 2010, mostly missing the Phonecam-brian Explosion. One of the few images of it online (above) is at Rhizome’s archive of VVORK. So thank you for that.

Patrick Killoran, Observation Deck (Birmingham), 2016, installation at IKON Gallery,
photo: Stuart Whipps via IKON

A version of it, Observation Deck (Birmingham), has been installed at IKON since 2016, and has far more photo documentation. They appear to have added a safety harness, which makes sense. Birmingham’s just-announced 100% culture funding cuts, while devastating and myopic, are a small enough source of IKON’s budget that access should not be too affected.

As for how and why I conflated Killoran’s and Turrell’s work, maybe it was some resonance of the sky, the sliding mechanisms, the proximity, and the timing? I can only say it was a compliment for which I am truly sorry, and for which I’m glad to finally be corrected.

* MARCH 2024 UPDATE: And corrected again. Killoran reached out to clarify the work was always in PS1’s office; I concluded wrongly from the VVORK documentation photo that it was in a gallery space at some point.

He also explained the work’s dates related to its studio vs. public installations. Versions would later be installed in Sydney, Nantes, and London.

As for my retconning Observation Deck as a Turrell, Killoran suggested that may have arisen from a 2004 Village Voice article [long since corrected] that called it a Turrell. I’d already experienced Observation Deck several times since then, but memory is a wild thing. Anyway, now we know a little more.