Roden Crater

Roden Crater Field Research Seminar


Roden Crater, located in the Painted Desert region of Northern Arizona, is an unprecedented large-scale artwork created within a volcanic cinder cone by light and space artist James Turrell. Representing the culmination of the artist’s lifelong research in the field of human visual and psychological perception, Roden Crater is a controlled environment for the experiencing and contemplation of light.


We are proposing the development of a “research compendium” focused within a 50 mile radius of Roden Crater. The principal deliverable is a collaborative exhibition that will immerse visitors in a rich collection combining specimens, diagrams, interactive videos, and illustrations from many disciplines; marking the intersection of science and art; and providing viewpoints into natural, built, virtual, and spiritual worlds. It will be regional in scope, using the crater as a kind of launching pad into the broader landscape.

Students will engage in an array of activities across the site—including visits to Roden Crater, field work with visiting writers and artists, personal investigations, and collaborative research—using a variety of tools and methods. The resulting documents, images and models will be used as resources for interdisciplinary projects that reveal the hidden dimensions of this rich “expanded field.” Anchor points that fall within this radius include the Little Colorado River (sacred to the Hopi, key breeding ground for native fish, home to geologic anomalies); Wupatki (known for its prehistoric ball courts and window into mesoamerican culture); Sunset Crater (frozen lava and fields of cinder cones highlight the intense volcanic activity of the region); and Meteor Crater (the volumetric inverse of Roden Crater with its own origin myths and glimpse of the extraterrestrial).

Essential to this undertaking is the willingness of the students to not only conduct background research from a host of disciplines, but to do field work on site that results in shareable experiences for the broader public. They are charged with generating an interdisciplinary experience—informed by evidence on the ground, engagement with local people, historical understanding, and speculations about the future—pinned to the region’s most celebrated feature.