Tacita Dean, The Green Ray

Tacita Dean, The Green Ray, 2001, still from color film in 16mm silent, 2 1/2 minutes.

TD: In America they call it the green flash. When the sun sets, in a very clear horizon, with no land mass for many hundreds of miles, and no moisture or atmospheric pressure, you have a good chance of seeing it. The slowest ray is the blue ray, which comes across as green when the sun sets in perfect atmospheric conditions. It"™s the last ray as the sun recedes with the curvature of the earth. Like a pulse on the horizon. It"™s totally fractional, though it can last longer.

The bizarre thing is that I filmed The Green Ray in Madagascar, and then in the same month, I had to fly back from Washington for an exhibition. On my Lufthansa airplane back, while we were nearing the coast of Ireland, everyone else was asleep and I got up and looked out the window across three sleeping bodies, and just at that moment the sun rose above a very sharply defined cloud, and it was the most extraordinary green ray. I mean, not like the one I have on my film, I mean a real . . . and it lingered . . . a second of emerald before the sun rose. I was so shocked, having this whole wait for it in Madagascar and then actually getting to see it so vividly. To see such a full-blooded green ray"”

Tacita Dean, The Green Ray, 2001, still from color film in 16mm silent, 2 1/2 minutes.

JE: Does it last longer if you"™re airborne?

TD: Probably. People see it at sea. I think air pilots must see it more often. To see it from land is unusual.

—Tacita Dean interviewed by Jeffrey Eugenides in Bomb (Spring 2006)



Lauren O'Neill-Butler is a writer in New York City.

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