BLOG: To Become Visible

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  • Eclipse Prequel: Shade and Shadow in Modoc Country

    What is it that fascinates us? Probably the deobjectifying flicker of things and the sudden glint of an object, the shadow cast temporarily by things (shade) as well as that projected on them by other things around them (shadow). What is atmospherically fascinating therefore is the ephemeral appearances. … These luminous quasi-things spread around a deeply immersive affective tone, not despite but thanks to their transience.  
    - Tonino Griffero. 2017. Quasi-things: the paradigm of atmospheres; translated from Italian by Sarah De Sanctis. 107

    To chase the shadows is illusory, yet they serve to indicate something there, present by its virtual absence, as a dark imitation or double, maybe spectral or real. While chasing shadows might be silly, the phrase ‘casting a shadow' is not. It signifies something portending, something that has irrupted and something to take notice of, for fear lurks in the phrase that an ethos has changed, where light no longer monopolises and dark, like a tide, has crept in.
    - Kieran Flanagan. 2017. Sociological noir: irruptions and the darkness of modernity. 32

    Jeremiah Curtin and Alma Curtin recorded Myths of the Modocs in the 1880s while he was employed at the Bureau of American Ethnology (later the Smithsonian Institution).

    Tsmuk is Darkness, appearing as a character in a number of the myths; his daughter lúnika is Twilight and she is powerfully present in the myth Wus and Tsmuk’s Daughter.  Here the Curtins' comment about another myth, Wus Kumush and Tsmuk.  This observation succinctly sums up the ambiguities of the life’s movement through days and nights, in darks and lights.

    “In this myth there is a fine description of Wus. He could make people old; he could change them to animals or to anything he chose. He was the greatest trickster in the world; he delighted in deceiving people. He made Tsmuk look toward the east; immediately Tsmuk's body became a black cloud. A west wind came and carried the cloud away; it was daylight. Wus said to Tsmuk, ‘You'll no longer be a person. You'll be darkness, and people will sleep when you are here. But I shall not sleep. I will sleep in the daytime and travel at night.’ The last part of Wus' declaration must be an interpolation, for Wus is connected with light. “

    Shade and Shadow in Modoc County: Photographs, August 2017, in the Lost River watershed, Modoc Country, east and south of the Klamath Basin, now the lands of south central Oregon and northeastern California.

  • Rock Art, Rugged Beauty, Targeting

    Bull’s-eye.  1. the circular spot, usually black or outlined in black, at the center of a target marked with concentric circles and used in target practice.  2. a shot that hits this. 3. the center or central area of a military target, as of a town or factory, in a bombing raid. www.dictionary.com (2017)

    Matter is an aggregate of “images.” And by image we mean a certain existence which is more than that which the idealist calls a representation, but less than that which the realist calls a thing, an existence placed half-way between the “thing” and the” representation.”  Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory (1911)

    We are meddlers born. Caitlin DeSilvey. Curated Decay (2017)

    “Rock Art and Rugged Beauty” reads the headline of the New York Times Travel Section, July 30, 2017.  Gold Butte, in Southeast Nevada, is one of three recently designated monuments explored by three writers is this feature.  Rock art  presented to an international audience as integral to the purpose of our public monuments. [1]

    One photo includes concentric circle petroglyphs, each with two circles. (Image below)  As labeled by the New York Times writer:  “bull’s-eye.”  A convenient Euro-American image of a target. As defined above “bull’s-eye” would literally indicate the center of the inner circle.  Where does meaning reside? [2] [3]

    Consider some of the sentences in the Gold Butte article:
    - “The bighorn is considered one of the greatest trophies among modern hunters.”
    - “The signs are peppered with bullet holes. This is a common affliction among signs in the Gold Butte area.”
    - “Gambel’s quail flushed off to my side. They are prized game birds among Western upland hunters.”
    - “I hiked around and found … water tanks, an old stovetop range, a collapsed corral, metal drums …  Most of these items had been used for target practice.”

    Targeting. In these times allusion to targets, hunting, and shooting may be sharply fitting.  On July 30, the day the Gold Butte article was published, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spoke at a news conference near Gold Butte National Monument in Bunkerville, Nevada.  Zinke was finishing a review swing through Western states and as per an executive order must have recommendations for 27 recent U.S. monuments by August 24. [4]

    NOTES
    [1] In Gold Butte in Nevada, Ancient Rock Art and Rugged Beauty: The national monument, which the Trump administration is reassessing, is full of life — Joshua trees, prairie falcons — and stunning petroglyphs. (online version) by James Card, July 25, 2017. (IMAGE BELOW)
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/25/travel/gold-butte-nevada-antiquities-act-national-monument.html

    [2]  “Bull’s eye” occasionally appears in rock art studies.  For example, Loendorf and Loendorf describe petroglyphs with a central dot and one or more concentric circles as bull’s eye. They expand: “Among the world's cultures, concentric circles and bull's eyes are generally associated with the sun, water, whirlpools, and earth centers.  The association of the motifs with two apparent opposites like sun and water is somewhat hard to understand, but sun and water are frequently juxtaposed.”  Larry Loendorf and Chris Loendorf . 1995. With Zig-Zag Lines I’m Painted: Hohokam petroglyphs on Tempe Butte, Arizona. 130-131

    [3]. The NYT writer labels another figure: tortoise.  An image of a quadruped perhaps touching or perhaps touched by an arching double half-circle.  What is claimed by “tortoise?”  Whether this was intended by the original carver as “tortoise,” “rainbow, “coyote,” the question ever emerges: with what cultural meaning?  Say it is a tortoise. Is this meant as representation?  Does a tortoise imply a sacred presence? Food? Tenacity? A clan? If an image of a rainbow, a prayer for rain, gratitude for rain? for sun and rain? For patience! A chain of speculation.  I suggest:  simply look.  If a tortoise, she/he will speak.

    [4]  Amid monument review, a pro-energy Interior emerges: Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke is filling his office with extractive industry insiders. Tay Wiles, Aug. 1, 2017, High Country News
    http://www.hcn.org/articles/interiors-energy-priorities-undergird-sweeping-monuments-review

  • Darkzones and Twilight Zones

    Art provides a potent haunting, both in its anachronic character and in the figuration of its own scandalous ephemerality.  Irene V. Small, Artforum, May 2017 [2]

    It’s blazing bright in the Great Basin. So, think  two caves in the Caribbean:  Cueva Vientos near the southern coast of Puerto Rico, and cave 18 on Mona, a small Island west of Puerto Rico.  Both caves embrace, protect, and project human expressions — art.  Light within the caves’ interiors is fundamental to display, to our way of seeing.

    First, to Mona. On this small island Alice Samson and Jago Cooper and colleagues have documented 70 cave systems of the 200 of the island. Many contain the thousands of indigenous figures they have documented as part of broader archaeological survey. “Extensive mark-making and extraction in the dark zones indicates engagement with the physical substances and psychosensorial properties of the caves. These practices created connections across generations, between people, ancestors, and nonhuman entities.” [Samson 2015]  In one, cave 18, they also discovered some 30 markings - Spanish names and Christian words and crosses —  from the early colonial period. [1]

    To Cueva Vientos.  In September 2015 the artist duo Allora & Calzadilla placed a 1965 Dan Flavin light sculpture in Cueva Vientos near the central south coast of Puerto Rico. This iconic Minimalist sculpture Puerto Rican Light (to Jeanie Blake) is comprised of three illuminated fluorescent tubes powered by solar energy.  It will be on view, with visits by reservation, until September 23, 2017. [2]
    - Jennifer Allora:  With Puerto Rican Light (Cueva Vientos) we want to rethink the dualistic split between inside and outside, here and elsewhere, and pursue instead unbounded interdependence and exchange.
    - Guillermo Calzadilla:  It is our intention that this project presents a dense interweaving of inter-generational art-historical exchange and postcolonial geographical dislocation. [Excerpts from the artists, who are based in Puerto Rico, from DIA 2015]


    Each visual event — a contemporary art installation and interpretative archaeology documentation — rewards contemplation; indeed, immersion.  Further, when both are considered simultaneously as forms of a geographical oscillation, an expansive montage shapes and pulsates. Each place makes sense; each cave embodies the sensual. In that state the human endeavor to image pervades visual logic. We join with others, feel our way in an enigmatic dark guided by faint glows.

    Coda.  Both of these intriguing, even astonishing, explorations of art and light inhere during a time when, as reported by Reuters on July 20, 2017, “Puerto Rico is in a historic economic crisis, with $72 billion in debt it cannot repay, a 45 percent poverty rate, and insolvent public pensions.”   This situation occurs, NBC News reports on May 10, 2017, as Puerto Rico's drinking water system is “on the brink of crisis” and where “elevated lead levels, bacteria, chemicals and lax adherence to regulations have created a toxic mix for the American territory's 3 million-plus citizens.”  Indeed, echoing Irene Small, a potent haunting.

    References and Links below.
    Below: Cave 18.  Photo courtesy Cavescapes, 2013.

    Above: Allora & Calzadilla, Puerto Rican Light (Cueva Vientos), 2015-2017. Installation view.  Photo Courtesy Artforum, May 2017, by Allora & Calzadilla
     
    References and Links
    [1] Mona
    - Samson, A.V.M. & J. Cooper.  2015.  History on Mona Island. Long-term Human and Landscape Dynamics of an ‘Uninhabited’ Island. New West Indian Guide 89: 30–60.  Recommended.
    - Samson, A.V.M., J. Cooper, et al.  2013.  Cavescapes in the pre-Columbian Caribbean Antiquity 87(338).
    - University of Leicester,  July 19 2016. Cave discoveries shed new light on Native and European religious encounters in the Americas.  (Noting, with gratitude, in this release, University of Leicester provides a link to an excellent collection of photographs and images.)   
    [2] Cueva Vientos
    - DIA. Sep 23 2015.  Dia Art Foundation Presents Puerto Rican Light (Cueva Vientos) 
    - Allora & Calzadilla.  Sep 22 2015. Artforum, 500 Words.  
    - Irene V. Small.  May 2017. Artforum.  On Allora & Calzadilla’s Puerto Rican light (Cueva Vientos)

  • DeepTime, DreamTime, BoomTime

    Cracks are material events that emerge as the result of force contradictions. They progress along paths of least resistance, exploiting and tearing through different material substances where the cohesive forces of aggregate matter are at their weakest. Each crack is a unique result of a specific disposition of a force field and material irregularities on the micro level. … Leonardo Da Vinci filled his notebooks with the studies of cracks. Elsewhere, he recommended staring at cracks for training the imagination.
    Eyal Weizman, Forensic Architecture: Violence at the Threshold of Detectability. (Zone Books, 2017)


    I’ve just returned from roading hiking camping out in/in out the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge/Warner Basin area.  As testimony and visual material, I offer observations and images of landscape and petroglyphs.  (Skip the words and see the pictures:  Hart Warner Imagined )

    Climatic imagination.  From patinaed figures, to cracking ice-shelves, to congealing plastic bottles, to precision drone strikes, all action becomes geologic.  Assimilate?  No, no need for that burden.  Articulate:  Lament, inspire, deny, confirm, confront, resign, reflect — visually apprehend presence, the beating heart of imagination.   

    An excerpt from the recent article The Uninhabitable Earth (David Wallace-Wells, New York Magazine, July 10, 2017):

    Early naturalists talked often about ”deep time” — the perception they had, contemplating the grandeur of this valley or that rock basin, of the profound slowness of nature. What lies in store for us (with climate change) is more like what the Victorian anthropologists identified as “dreamtime,” or “everywhen”: the semi-mythical experience, described by Aboriginal Australians, of encountering, in the present moment, an out-of-time past, when ancestors, heroes, and demigods crowded an epic stage.

    How to imagine an everywhen or an everyhow in clear view of the now. DeepTime, DreamTime, ever will be.  Today, shrouded in “fossil capitalism,” my view of past time and future time emerges as a melancholy vision of personal and planetary demise:  BoomTime. Anchored in 1945, marking the uplift of a sharp and devastating increase in emissions of carbon into Earth's atmosphere.  Coincidentally the year the first atomic bombs dropped; the following year the Boomer Generation swept forth with unrelenting desire.

    Hart Warner Imagined 

  • Swallowing: The Tabasará River Petroglyphs

    In May 2016 the reservoir of Barro Blanco Dam, in western Panama, was filled for the first time as a “test.” Considered an illegal act by the indigenous Ngäbe Bugle people, the flooding followed over 20 years of rulings, negotiation, government and corporate corruption, coercion, and human rights violations, protests, and some deaths. This continues. Inundated were forest and farm lands and village dwellings.

    The rising waters also swallowed sacred petroglyphs on boulders of the Tabasará River.  The annual ceremony in early 2016 was last in the presence of the now inundated petroglyphs.

    The report of the registered archaeologist hired by GENISA the company identified only one “disturbed" site in the project area and neglected mentioning the petroglyphs. GENISA, a family-owned corporation, was formed in 2006 to build the Barro Blanco dam.  Project funding comes from two European development (investment) banks in the Netherlands and in Germany.

    This disturbing situation took a bizarre turn in early Spring 2017. Water levels in the reservoir unexpectedly receded. The petroglyphs remain buried under debris and sediment up to 5 meters deep. It appears GENISA drained for testing, then by early April completely filled the Barro Blanco reservoir.

    Petroglyphs always mark a specific place with cultural moment. Yet as emblematic figures they continue witnessing cycling realms of change. As motif, symbol, and artifact, the stone abides, signaling desire, hope, and pain.  Why ask what does a petroglyph mean?  Rather:  How does a petroglyph mean in the longue durée of the Earth’s endeavor?

    ALBUM: http://rockartoregon.com/tabasar-river-petroglyphs
    …………………………………
    REFERENCES
    Underwater: Barro Blanco Displaces Three Ngäbe Bugle Communities in Panama.  Jonathan González Quiel.  In Cultural Survival, Dec 2016.
    https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/underwater-barro-blanco-displaces-three-ngabe-bugle

    http://chiriquinatural.blogspot.com/   See posts: June 9 2017 and January 20 2017.     

    Beatriz Felipe Pérez et. al., 2016. Rethinking the Role of Development Banks in Climate Finance: Panama’s Barro Blanco CDM Project and Human Rights. 12/1 Law, Environment and Development Journal. 1-17.  PDF http://www.lead-journal.org/content/16001.pdf  Highly Recommended.

    Sara E Bivin Ford. 2015. The Ngäbe-Buglé Fight to Maintain Territorial Sovereignty.
    PDF http://escholarship.org/uc/item/9qf03131

    Evans, Katharine. 2015. Tabasará Libre: A Case Study of Carbon Colonialism in Panama's Barro Blanco Hydroelectric Project. PDF http://wesscholar.wesleyan.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2523&context=etd_hon_theses

    Evans, Katharine. 2014. Tabasará Libre: A Case Study of Development and Indigenous Rights. PDF http://digitalcollections.sit.edu/isp_collection/1875/

    Barro Blanco Dam is one of 30 planned hydropower plants in Panama.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barro_Blanco_Dam

    Two photos below, for links to sources, see images in Album

    Petroglyph boulder in Tabasará River 2015.
    Last annual ceremony of the Ngäbe Bugle people with the sacred petroglyphs 2016.


  • Turning sideways into the Earth

    As a world opens itself the earth comes to rise up. It stands forth as that which bears all, as that which is sheltered in its own law and always wrapped up in itself. World demands its decisiveness and its measure and lets beings attain to the Open of their paths. Earth, bearing and jutting, strives to keep itself closed and to entrust everything to its law. The conflict is not a rift as a mere cleft is ripped open; rather, it is the intimacy with which opponents belong to each other.  Martin Heidegger [1]

    “From now on, everything will be called The Middle, everything will be called The Seam…”  Lisa Robertson [2]

    Stone adheres, marking the firm line between living and dead.  This spectator gazes on fugitive monuments holding absence present.  The passage thin; stone softens; the boundary delicate. As the stone is cut, earth reveals -  intimacy.  This Double Negative of quarry and tomb cut, excavated, buried, sealed, eroded, robbed, excavated, emptied. 

    Absent the living, absent the Etruscan dead, in Populonia, Tuscany, near the Tyrrhenian Sea.  Present now, turning, the stone and its void, at this spectral gateway, mulling choice, I walk the trail, down, away, soon pass a Madonna bearing flowers among the oaks and corks, baring new bark.

    Album: Populonia Tuscany/Etruscan rock-cut Tombs

    [1]  From The Origin of the Work of Art in Martin Heidegger: Poetry, Language, Thought. Collected and translated by Albert Hofstadter, 1971 (Orig. 1950).
    [2] From “The Seam” in the book of poems 3 Summers, 2017.
    ... with a glance and nod to the title of Michael Heizer’s iconic and monumental 1970 earthwork Double Negative located in Nevada’s Great Basin.

  • Swallowing III: Power & Other Than

    Celilo Converter Station, south of the Dalles Dam. For nearly 50 years this BPA-owned facility has provided low-cost hydroelectric power to Southern California via the Pacific Intertie, a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line that runs uninterrupted for 846 miles.  By steadily upgrading capacity, the 3800 Megawatt line delivers electricity to over 2 million homes in Los Angeles. Photo with labels added adapted from ABB [1]


    With the building of The Dalles Dam in the 1950s, Native peoples were dis-placed, re-placed. Some did not move, many returned seasonally or to stay [2]. Such a place is the Lone Pine In-Lieu Fishing Site, a federally-owned plot near river’s edge.  As Molly Harbarger reports in March 2016, “ ‘We understand there are some terrible living conditions there,’ said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Portland District spokeswoman Diana Fredlund. Few of the sites are as bad as Lone Pine. … Lone Pine is gated, separating it from The Dalles, a hub of Columbia Gorge life. The tribal members don't have access to the city's amenities like electricity. Instead, residents have to jack it from the bathroom lights and generators." [3]

    Lone Pine fishing platform and The Dalles Dam. Photo: Douglas Beauchamp, April 2017


    3. Many rock carvings and rock paintings are submerged by Lake Celilo Some displaced, then replaced at Columbia Hills State Park’s Temani Pesh-wa trail.
    (See Swallowing Petroglyph Canyon). Many images remain on the cliffs and outcrops, gazing south and east, over the dam-shaped lake, the power towers, the wind turbines, the highways and railroads, the salmon seeking, the river peoples living and fishing.

    NOTES Below

    Photo Album: Swallowing III 

    Rock painting on cliffs above Lake Celilo. Photo: Douglas Beauchamp, April 2017

    NOTES
    [1] ABB, a Euro-based multi-national, is the world's largest builder of electricity grids  
    [2] Shadow Tribe: The Making of Columbia River Indian Identity (2010) Andrew H. Fisher
    http://www.washington.edu/uwpress/search/books/FISSHA.html
    [3] Decrepit fish camps built on broken promises: Four tribes that had fishing villages wiped out in the last century are left waiting for the federal government to provide better housing
    Story by Molly Harbarger, Oregonian, March 11 2016.
    Also: Legislation Honors Long-Ago Federal Promises to Replace Tribal Fishing Villages Drowned By Columbia River Dams Terri Hansen, Indian Country Today, July 26, 2016.

  • Swallowing II: Requiem for a lost petroglyph boulder

    Dislocated from one another, we are now flooded,
    resting in place.
    We suffocate in the backwater of decadence
    and fractious contempt.
    Purity of the ancient is the language without tongues.
    The river elegantly marks swirls on its surface,
    a spiral that tells of a place
    that remains undisturbed.
       Elizabeth Woody, 1994 [1]

    Near the lower end there are several dangerous rocks in the rapid, and at the foot large masses of rock divide it into different parts the main channel empties into a capacious, deep basin of rectangular shape, called Big Eddy.   
       Captain. Chas. F. Powell, Corps of Engineers, 1882 [2]

    The investigation of the petroglyphs (in spring 1956) was made by Samuel C. Sargent, a Geologist with the Corps of Engineers, on The Dalles Dam project. Mr. Sargent called attention to petroglyphs existing on islands in Fivemile Rapids, which can be easily removed and are in an excellent state of preservation., these petroglyphs are located in areas 6 and 7. I would urge that these  petroglyphs be salvaged, since they represent unique forms for this area.
       David L. Cole, University of Oregon, 1956 [3]

    In attempting to raise the petroglyph from Area 7 (by the Corps of Engineer’s Derrick Barge “Cascade” after the formation of The Dalles Dam Pool), the connection to the lift line parted and the petroglyph ad lift line were lost.  In the near future, an attempt will be made to recover the petroglyph with the help of a diver.
       Joseph F. Garback, Lt Colonel, Corps of Engineers, 1957 [4]

    Area 7 was on a small island at the lower end of Fivemile Rapids. One rock was to be removed from this island. This rock was approximately seven feet high, eight feet wide and eight feet deep, weighing approximately seventeen tons. It was lying loose on a level area.  Jacks were used to lift the rock enough to slip the cables under … the petroglyph was … bound with a cable which was attached to a float.  In the attempt to lift this petroglyph a cable clamp slipped and it fell back into the water. The last report received was that the Corps of Engineers planned to send a diver down after it.
       David L. Cole, University of Oregon, 1958 [5]

     It is unfortunate that the petroglyph from Area #7 was lost in the efforts to raise it from the bottom of the pool.  Naturally, $1,000 to attempt to recover this petroglyph is out of line with the value of the petroglyph, and we feel that this petroglyph will have to be considered as lost.
       Herbert Maier, National Park Service, 1958 [6]

    Nature is a temple where living pillars
    Sometimes let out confused lyrics
    Man passes through, across forests of symbols
    Each one observing him with a familiar gaze

    Like long echoes, from afar confounding
    In a dark and profound unity
    Vast like night and like clarity
    Fragrance, color, and sound all resounding
       Charles Baudelaire, 1857 [7]

    Photos:  The Lost Petroglyph boulder from Area 7 

    NOTES
    [1] From Elizabeth Woody’s poem “Waterways Endeavor to Translate Silence from Currents.” In Luminaries of the Humble.  University of Arizona Press. 1994. Elizabeth Woody is an American Navajo-Warm Springs-Wasco-Yakama artist, author, and educator. In 2016 she was named Poet Laureate of Oregon.
    [2] From the May 30. 1882, report “The Survey of the Columbia River at The Dalles in Oregon,” by Captain. Chas. F. Powell, Corps of Engineers, US Engineers Office, Portland Oregon.  Note: The survey,  as part of an a project for the improvement of navigation, responded to an 1879 mandate by the U.S. Congress.
    [3] From the July 18, 1956, report “Further Recommendation for the Removal of Petroglyphs in The Dalles Dam Reservoir Area.” by David L. Cole, University of Oregon.
    [4] From a July 26, 1957, letter to the NPS from Joseph F. Garback, Lt Colonel. Corps of Engineers, Deputy District Engineer.
    [5] From the September 10, 1958, “A Report on the Removal of Petroglyphs in The Dalles Dam Reservoir Area,”  by David L. Cole, University of Oregon.
    [6] From an October 3, 1958, letter by Herbert Maier, Assistant Regional Director, National Park Service (in response to a September 25, 1958, letter from W. L. Winegar, Colonel, Corps of engineers, District engineer.)
    [7] Charles Baudelaire from the poem Correspondences in Les Fleurs du mal, 1857. Translated by Ariana Reines for Delirium: The Art of the Symbolist Book, an exhibition through May 14, 2017 at the Morgan Library and Museum, New York City. (Poem in Harper’s Magazine April 2017 p.22)

    END Notes
    - Hill and Hill (1974, p.257) include a photo of a 1956 casting of the petroglyph made by James Hansen for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI).
    - McClure (1978, p.73-74) notes: “The Round Island Petroglyph site, a small island with a single petroglyph, about 3/4 mi above Big Eddy, a boulder atop.” In 1984 he designates the site 45KL220.
    - Loring and Loring (1982, Part 1) include a drawing:  Site 9. Big Eddy, Klickitat County, WA,  Fig 14 g. (Also p.11 of the 1996 2nd Edition)


  • Swallowing Petroglyph Canyon 60 years ago today

    Water Monsters arrive in different guises. From time immemorial beings real and mythic await those who err. Or who in innocence linger in or traverse a vulnerable place. Swallowed, disappearing in dark liquid depths. Fearsome. Especially so along the river now known as Columbia.  

    Lake Celilo swallowed living and sacred places of the River People - villages, cemeteries, fishing stations, pathways — and rock art — on March 10, 1957, as the gates of The Dalles Dam closed.

    Below, a small sampling of photographs from the mid-1950s show a very few of the stones among the hundreds of petroglyphs that were swallowed that day. Disappeared under the waters. The photos presented here are for non-commercial, educational purposes by permission from the archives of the late David Cole.  About two dozen other stones were salvaged and preserved, languishing near the dam until several years ago when they were respectfully installed as the Temani Pesh-wa trail in Washington's Columbia Hills State Park.  That group is on public view during the Park’s season April-October. With appreciation to the ancestors of today's River People.

    Recommended:  
    Virginia Butler’s 2007 paper Relic Hunting, Archaeology, and Loss of Native American Heritage at The Dalles. Oregon Historical Quarterly, 108(4), 624-643.

    Petroglyphs near the Dalles of the Columbia River. 1925.  W. Duncan Strong and W. Egbert Schenck.  American Anthropologist, New Series, 27(1), Jan-Mar 1925, 76-90.

  • Public Lands, Private Property, Sacred Space

    Guy Debord sees the core of the spectacle as the annihilation of historical knowledge — in particular the destruction of the recent past. In its place there is the reign of a perpetual present. History, he writes, had always been the measure by which novelty was assessed, but whoever is in the business of selling novelty has an interest in destroying the means by which it could be judged. Thus there is a ceaseless appearance of the important, and almost immediately its annihilation and replacement: "That which the spectacle ceases to speak of for three days no longer exists.”  Jonathan Crary [1]

    Among the schemings, positionings, and other-regulatings irrupting this political season, land use, “land transfer” and public lands management are hotly debated.   For example, as reported in Oregon mid-February (2017):   “Four Republican lawmakers want to study the idea of transferring Oregon’s federal public lands to state control.” [2]  Thus far in Oregon a soft landing compared to targeted, aggressive push in some other states (Utah, Wyoming, for example) — and in our country’s Congress.  Whoa. Who’s country? Embodied in this stand-off inheres “property” — partitioned, boundaried, available.  “Country” by contrast suggests a depth and an expanse physical and cognitive.  Spaces as places.  Who uses, owns, extracts, honors, digs, fences, and remembers?  With what degree of lasting, of sacred?

    Rock art is part of the land, of the stone, the earth, indeed, the country.  The indigenous marked places and boundless spaces. Rock art, Indian Land, bearing time, witnessing change, holding close, hardly novel.  Lizard abides.

    Images from an ancient lake-basin now called Abert in Oregon country: Lake Land 

    [1] Jonathan Crary. 2002.  Spectacle, Attention, Counter-Memory, p.463. In Guy Debord and the Situationist International: Texts and Documents. Tom McDonough, ed.  An October book,   Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  

    [2] “Bill considers moving Oregon public land to state control” by Zach Urness, Feb 16 2017  “Fifty-three percent of land in Oregon — 32.6 million acres — is owned by the federal government.”

  • Winging It, Wringing It

    Rock art is tough; simultaneously fragile — enduring and fragmenting, an embodied tension balancing ancient elements and human articulation.

    Another dense layer arrives, dusty, drenching.  A willful squeezing and welling.  This now — politically, power driven jolts as actions by the new federal administration this month (January 2017) accelerate a lasting degradation of the natural environment as we think of it.

    This is real as well for archaeological places including rock art.

    In the short term, for example, management and information about public lands will be constricted with reduced oversight and protections. Long term?  Pressure for further extraction:  minerals, water, trees, gas, feed for livestock for meat.  Disruption, pollution and poisoning as expediencies of demand, yield and profit. A logic of more and more people, all needing, desiring, taking. Global heating, and its attendant climate change, already inevitable, becomes more abstract with fault deflected to the Other.

    This land, this earth, like carved expressions in stone, embodies tension — our winging abode of starry clarity and shrouded mystery.

    Three photos below (Douglas Beauchamp September 2016)
    Note: Oregon's Harney County is contiguous with Sheldon in Nevada.

    Petroglyph, BLM lands, Harney County; note lizard upper left
    Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. Sage Grouse Wings sign; barrel left
    Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. Sage Grouse collection barrel, each envelope a wing.

  • Tule Lake: The Dying Grass

    Feeling historical: the ground shifting. Suddenly there are serious questions about our grandchildren’s future. And this sense of insecurity, no doubt related to cyclical processes of political economic decline, is intensified by long-term ecological threats that can no longer be managed or exported. Historicity at a different scale: that of a species among other species, the past and future of a whole planet and its ability to sustain life.  James Clifford, Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty First Century (2013), [1]

    For over a century the petroglyphs of the Tule Lake area have attracted speculative and interpretive imaginings of popular and academic cultures.  The soft granular surfaces face wind, rain, ice, seepings; absorb peering eyes, snapping cameras, studied tracings. The distinct visibilities of intense grooves, the dense clusters, spark deep in the psyche. The walls of incised markings emerge emblematic of historical moments, mirroring desires to define origins.  

    William T. Vollmann in his recent epic, The Dying Grass: A novel of the Nez Perce War, imagines the musings of U.S. Army Captain Joel G. Trimble  [2]  in 1877 as he recalls a day in May 1873 by the eastern shore of Tule Lake, in northern California, eating lunch with other cavalrymen:

    “with their backs against a swallow-ridden sandstone cliff which the Modocs had pecked out with depictions of setting suns, full suns, peculiar insects which might have been moths if moths could skeletonize and if their wings had ribs; then there were armbones descending into triple-taloned claws, parallel wave-forms, squares pecked out to enclose right-angled groove-labyrinths, snake-grooves crowned with spreading fingers like the lodgepoles atop an Indian tipi, buglike schematic humanoids, mushrooms or perhaps phalli, nested double circles, Y-shaped incisions and lines of short vertical markings like tallyings, and there was something resembling a heart above a long vertical groove, while a birdlike figure spread her downcurving arms, and from a certain oval rose a long hooked, neck as to represent an egret bending down toward the water to troll for fat insects; then there was a vertical slash topped with nested inverted V's; had there been only one of those latter, the vertical stroke might have been an arrow, but the way it was made, Trimble supposed that it must be a grass head; after all, so much of this tall greenish-yellow grass grew about; and then here was grooved something like the inverted or falling seedhead of a stalk of what must have been dying grass, which made him inexplicably sad — why even consider dying grass?”  [3]

    Vollmann’s language refreshes. He does not say: this is what it is.  He says:  this is how it appears to me.  He does not treat the petroglyphs as objects, rather the event in a life as subjective encounter.  They are equal to his presence.  They change and endure, he comes and goes.

    [1] James Clifford, Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty First Century (2013), pp. 6-7.  Download the book’s Prologue
    [2] Vollmann notes, p. 353, Trimble’s role in the capture of Modoc leader Kientpoos, known as Captain Jack, on June 1, 1873. (The Dying Grass, 2015, p. 353.)  More: Robert Acquinas McNally (Indian Country Today, June 1, 2016) provides a carefully researched study of the capture: Who Really Caught Captain Jack?
    [3].  This quote is from The Dying Grass, p. 354.  Accompanying the Trimble’s musings, Vollmann inserts his 2013 photograph of a section of the wall of petroglyphs.  Vollmann acknowledges:  “Description of the petroglyphs in the Modoc Lava Beds — After a visit to Petroglyph Point (near Tule-lake) in June 2013.” (p. 1300)  

    Photos: Petroglyph Point
    More from the Tule Lake area (Petroglyph Point and The Peninsula) 

  • TEN 2016

    Ten images from this year now passing.  Exploring Life and Non-life within the northern Great Basin. TEN 2016 Album

    In this Now, this cusp of Then Past and There Future, let’s think a Moment with Elizabeth Povinelli [1]:  

    Take Life or Nonlife in the Anthropocene and the Meteorocene. Geology and meteorology are devouring their companion discipline, biology. For if we look at where and how life began, and how and why it might end, then how can we separate Life from Nonlife? Life is not the miracle-the dynamic opposed to the inert of rocky substance. Nonlife is what holds, or should hold for us, the more radical potential. For Nonlife created what it is radically not, Life, and will in time fold this extension of itself back into itself as it has already done so often and long. It will fold its own extension back into the geological strata and rocky being, whereas Life can only fall into what already is. Life is merely a moment in the greater dynamic unfolding of Nonlife. And thus Life is devoured from a geological perspective under the pressure of the Anthropocene and Meteorocene.

    [1] Elizabeth A. Povinelli is the Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. Excerpt from the final pages (176) of her recent book Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism. Duke University Press, 2016.



  • Wading into the River called Carson

    They say the world is spinning around
    I say the world is upside down
    They say the world is spinning around
    I say the world is upside down
    Joe Higgs [1]

    The sign says fishing permitted.  As long as you do not eat them.  Wading into the River called Carson* quickly becomes surprising and a bit mucky.  Why even try? For me, it is not for fishing. It is to sense place, in the two senses of sensual and common. And to simply cross the river to the dark boulders — the petroglyphs active and dense, the stone deeply imbued with water and wind, the landscapes clear and compelling.  

    Recent history, in this case 1859-1861 with slight detours into the early 20th century, becomes an confounding thicket for an outsider — like me from Oregon country.
    — Carson River, toxic enough to be Nevada’s only Superfund site. Gold and silver discovered in 1859 Comstock immediately spawned an rough influx of seekers. Mercury imported to extract the metal became part of the effluent, 15 million pounds in refuse, penetrating and contaminating river and basin waters as far as the Stillwater Marshes in the northern Carson basin.  Poisonous quicksilver,  accumulating in tissues, is a health risk. [2]
     — A violent incident at a “a stage and grog stop” in May 1860 catalyzed increasing tensions between the Paiutes and encroaching miners and settlers.  This incident occurred along the Carson River not far from this petroglyph site and launched the brief and deadly Pyramid Lake War. [3]
    — During the winter flood of  1861-1862 Mark Twain lodged for a few harrowing days at the above stage stop, Honey Lake Smith’s, described in Twain’s 1872 “personal narrative” Roughing It (217-228).
    — In the early 20th century extensive water projects diverted, channeled, and dammed the lower river directly affecting the lands and scapes surrounding this distinctive petroglyph place. [4]  

    World Spinning around.  Upside down.  

    For close-up photos of selected:  Carson River Petroglyphs   

    *This river’s modern name?  Bestowed by John C. Fremont in the 1840s to honor scout and “Indian fighter” (aka “Indian killer”) Kit Carson.
    {1] The 1970s single by Joe Higgs, father of Reggae: The World Is Upside Down  (YouTube)
    [2] “Mercury-contaminated sediments in the Carson River, Lahontan Reservoir, Carson Lake, and Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge are the cause of elevated levels of mercury in fish and wildlife in and near the contaminated areas. The contamination presents a health risk to those who consume mercury-contaminated fish.”  EPA Carson River Mercury
    [3] Jerome Edwards recounts a version on the Nevada Humanities website. Pyramid Lake War 
    [4] Water in the West - more than complex.  For the Carson and Truckee Rivers, two places to begin:  The Newlands Project  & Pyramid Lake/Truckee-Carson Water Rights Settlement (1990)

  • It is tempting to envision

    Grimes Point is located at the western tip of the Lahontan Mountains. Here there are abundant petroglyphs pecked into basaltic boulders distributed along crude shoreline terraces formed by waves of Lake Lahontan.  The age of the petroglyphs is not known so temporal associations with lake levels cannot be made with certainty, but it is tempting to envision Native Americans lounging amongst the rocks idly pecking away after a nice swim or clam bake.
    Susan H. Zimmerman, Kenneth D. Adams, and Michael R. Rosen, 2015 [1]

    The last phrase in the above quote is highlighted so we may think with it for a moment.  Certainly it is tempting when encountering petroglyphs to attempt to envision indigenous lifeways at the time the stones were carved.  Envision means to imagine, to conjure a picture in the mind.  Such a picture will always be our picture, our frame, our composition, the cosmos on our terms.  If words such as lounging, idly pecking, nice swim, enter into our picture it is time to recognize we have conjured our fantasy.  Time to step back, way back, to sense this place’s presence. Look and listen. The stones abide; the petroglyphs resound.

    Recognize, too, in the 20th century the material reality for this place, these stones, has often been one of destructive impacts and disregard. Roads through the site, bulldozing, quarrying, boulders displaced, removed, damaged or destroyed, painted signs and graffiti. [2]  Beginning in the 1950s, the Grimes Point petroglyph area was used as a trash dump for Fallon, a few miles to the northwest. [3] Only since the 1970s have protective measures by the BLM encouraged care and respect. [4]  The stones abide; the petroglyphs resound.

    [1] Susan Zimmerman, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Ken Adams, Desert Research Institute, and Michael Rosen, U.S. Geological Survey.  2015.   From “Modern, Holocene, and Pleistocene Lake Locales in the Western Great Basin, Nevada and California.”  Trip 3, June 15–19, 2015, in the Field Trip Guidebook, Sixth International Limnogeology Congress, Reno, Nevada.  p67.   
    [2] Karen M. Nissen 1982.  Images from the Past: An Analysis of Six Western Great Basin Petroglyph Sites. PhD. Diss, UC Berkeley.  p294.  During two field seasons in the 1970s Nissen recorded or noted over 900 boulders with petroglyphs at Grimes Point.  
    [3] Robert Heizer and Martin Baumhoff.  1962. Prehistoric Rock Art of Nevada and Eastern California. p18.
    (4) Grimes Point Archaeological Area (BLM).   Online Nevada: Grimes Point (Alanah Woody)

    Photos at Grimes Point

  • Sinking into Earth

    At hand, the deeply dark petroglyphs near Carson Sink in northern Nevada. It’s tempting to peruse the boulders and images, then wind along my away. [1] Lingering, my thoughts imagine the possible landscapes – waters, plants, birds, animals - how this country may have varied when the peoples who carved these images resided in and traveled through. These wonderings wheel back to considering how the landscape appears today. And what the future holds.

    Sounds of the national anthem drift across the early desert. Loudspeakers a few miles away. I notice 8 a.m. The anthem sifts over the quiet land from the Naval Air Station near Fallon: “Home to the Fighting Saints of VFC-13, the Desert Outlaws of Strike Fighter Wing Pacific, and the Naval Strike Air Warfare Center, NAS Fallon serves as the Navy’s premier tactical air warfare training center.” [2]

    A scattered patchwork of five bombing ranges comprising 100,000 acres inscribe on the nearby terrain of Northern Nevada. [3] Though the rock art meanings may seem mute in this presence, the carvings induce listening and looking, as unfurling intimations - there and here, past and future. A necessary and material sense of change turns, refolds, embraces this earth.

    [1] Modern research on the region’s rock art began with Julian Steward (1929); enhanced by Martin Baumhoff and Robert Heizer (1958; 1962); followed by Karen Nissen’s detailed documentation in the 1970s (1982).
    [2] Naval Air Station Fallon
    [3] The Center for Land Use Interpretation

    View Petroglyphs Carson Sink

  • Grimes Point of View: One boulder, a worldview

    Art engenders becomings, not imaginative becomings - the elaboration of images and narratives in which a subject might recognize itself, not self-representations, narratives, confessions, testimonies of what is and has been - but material becomings, in which these imponderable universal forces touch and become enveloped in life, in which life folds over itself to embrace its contact with materiality, in which each exchanges some elements or particles with the other to become more and other. Elizabeth Grosz [1]

    Grimes Point Archaeological Area, an extensive, fully accessible, and signed field of dark boulders with archaic petroglyphs, is adjacent to Highway 50 east of Fallon.

    The locale looks west and south over the Carson Sink, a terminus of the Carson River, in Churchill County, Nevada. Well-managed by the BLM, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Some boulders bear arrays of deeply patinaed cupules. These ancient “conical pits” associated occasionally with lines or grooves led to Baumhoff and Heizer’s in 1958 (and 1962) typing the “pit-and-groove” petroglyph style. They conjectured that this style represented the earliest petroglyphs in a wide expanse of the Great Basin. Though they cautioned their proposal as tentative pending dating, many rock art writers in the ensuing decades reified this style as fixed truth. I do believe these cupuled boulders are, in many of the instances I’ve seen in the northern Great Basin and Columbia Plateau, early Holocene (7,000+ years before present time [BP]). However, the designs and configurations are not rightly constrained as fixed cultural “elements,” while solid dating remains elusive. A worldview beyond grasp. What we have is the beauty of the densely-colored, dimpled desert boulders recalling watery eras – a sensible materiality. 

    This is one boulder: Point of View

    [1] Elizabeth Grosz. Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth (2008) p.23

  • The Grain of the Moon

    It is not uncommon for today’s full moon to be called Hunter Moon.  A few nights ago I camped in the tall sage near an old corral.  Two hunters crept along, dusk, in their truck down the rocky road. We talked a bit. They, looking for mule deer, outfitted in full dress camo, kindly apologized for having disturbed me. I, seeking landscapes of rock art, in dusty fleece and levied twill, wished them well.  Though I don't kill animals.  Nor eat meat.  We each have our ways of being in this fleeting world, of looking and seeking.  What we give and take beyond our grasp.  Under the silver waxing moon and golden rising sun, I was lucky.  Circles embracing the grain of the moment. Laden, ripe, holding forth.

    Two Circles. Petroglyph images in the Washoe-Lassen borderlands, the country northwest of Pyramid Lake.