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  • FAKE, Fact, Fancy

    FAKE. How does this marking-on-stone shape this place? Certainly it is a real petroglyph. Or, fake-rock? A half-life sign? As a logical paradox - what is fake, what is real, what is fact - it creates what I will call a meta-paradox. Because in the open desert, embedded in a dry stream, this two-part marking - figure and word - denotes an unbridgeable gulf. Hence, this “meta-glyph” appears both true and false - a dialetheic - oscillating as a true contradiction, unprovable as either or.

    Why think with this?  First, fake-rock is a significant distance from any other petroglyphs, real or otherwise, so it does not adhere as vandalism of a specific site.  Second, whoever produced this had some acquaintance with traditional indigenous imagery - it is not typical graffiti; why he/she made this remains elusive, a trickster? Third, it brings forth concerns about respect.

    This thinking with sharpens recognition that the perceiving, framing, or picturing of any petroglyph always introduces fancies about what is true, real, authentic.

    Below, four petroglyph images (October 2018) from a quiet canyon within a mile of fake-rock.  This place nestles in a sweeping basin-and-range landscape between Abert Rim -  the longest exposed fault scarp in North America, and one of the highest fault scarps in the US - and Warner Valley with its puzzle-expanse of north-south lakes.

  • Incisings: Blue and Light

    A cobalt blue streaked layer electrifies the warm stone in this sheltered canyon wall.   Uncountable incisings, an "unlimited finity" (Deleuze), evoke a sense of energy, of power.  As occurs often encountering rock art, I turn in surprise and wonder, never having witnessed anything like this. Though certainly not produced for this distant 21st century, the intensity of making, this human endeavor, leaps uncertain boundaries. One, the geologic. Two, performative action. Three, color and light by day, dark behind night. I am pulled sideways. The incisings draw close the vibrating edges of other realms.
    Details:  INCISINGS

  • The Inhabited Land, Seasons Round

    Toward the autumnal Equinox in Lassen County CA, September 2018.  A land inhabited for millennia, shifting radically in the last two centuries as indigenous peoples were discounted and displaced as euro-americans claimed, named, and settled in.  Still, the seasons, they go round and round, melding change, circling, spiraling, segmenting a wholeness. Sun, moon, earth, water: a reminding as time becomes space, space folds into time.

    Two collections of images:
    Lassen Inhabited: Canyons, roads, rocks, ancient and modern
    Seasons Round Cycles of Being and Becoming

  • Minimal means, Complex meaning

    However I look at this image — with intuitive understanding, respectful logic, or measuring calculation — it eludes.  And that’s OK.

    From minimal light marking of the stone, a complex figure emerges.  A dot-dash vertical “body”; its base three-forked tail-legs-roots.  Above, a thin mark above an intersection of left and right extensions.  The figure’s left, a line spikes up then curves down ending with a loose circle. The figure’s right extension zig-zags and appears to terminate in a small natural opening.  Below, loose oval shapes may be related.  A lower double zig-zag appears older and may not be related to the figure.

    This bi-symmetrical figure, executed with clear intention, evades interpretation. A possible bio-form; perhaps a spirit being. The elegance of this image lies in its sparse articulation and implied power.  Minimal and complex.

    Petroglyph on basalt boulder, Lassen County, photo September 2018

  • Enigma of Enigma

    The grid's mythic power is that it makes us able to think we are dealing with materialism (or sometimes science, or logic) while at the same time it provides us with a release into belief (or illusion, or fiction).  Rosalind Krauss [1]  

    Where does the stone end and the petroglyph begin? is my fundamental response.  
    Therefore I am intrigued by the phrase The Geometric Enigma, the subtitle of the new book Early Rock Art of the American West. [2]

    Geometric and Enigma, words deriving from the Latin, seem contradictory.  Enigma’s deep origins include obscure mirroring: to see through the glass, darkly.  Enigma itself is a descent through riddle and puzzle down the ladder (a useful metaphor per James Elkins [3]) toward obscurity and darkness. Enigma as journey.  

    Geometric takes measure of the earth in the logic of mathematics and segmentation.  Applied as a partitioning of the earthly ground, inside/outside, this shaping transforms into a metaconcept for visual framing and scheming. Chaos made sensible. Geometric as territory.

    Take grids. As petroglyphs in the northern Great Basin grids are uncommon but distinctive when appearing. Grids appear as shapes within the stone matrix formed by rough lines intersecting to form interstices, generally squarish. Whether the grid is intended as interval, object or representation is unknown. The latent spaces of the grid hold forth potential for emptiness or representation, or, as territory, as virtual spaces or actual places.

    In this collection of archaic grid-images, markings merge into the life of the stone, flickering across temporal realms. [4] The stone as earth, as fundament of place, as mineral, as biomatrix, accretes density, partakes of depth and darkness.

    Grids as Enigma   http://rockartoregon.com/grids-as-enigma

    NOTES
    [1] Rosalind Krauss. Grids. in October, Vol. 9 (Summer, 1979), pp. 50-64. MIT Press.
    Rosalind Krauss reminds that a grid is always potential.  As an art historian she speaks to 20th century modern art. I conjecture that this idea of grid-as-potential deepens visuality.
    [2] Ekkehart Malotki and Ellen Dissanayake. 2018. Early Rock Art of the American West: The Geometric Enigma.  University of Washington Press.
    [3] James Elkins. 2008. Six Stories from the End of Representation. Stanford University Press.
    [4] I use “archaic” in the sense of the Western Archaic Tradition as defined by Malotki in the book’s glossary, 255-260; see note 2. “Paleomarks” I find useful to refer to late Pleistocene/Early Holocene petroglyphs, remembering that petroglyphs made in the American West during this 6000 year span (roughly 14000 to 8000 years bp) are radically diverse, attempts to assign “styles” notwithstanding.

  • Thinking with Remote

    It is sinking in the juniper canyon: remote becomes relative. High country west of Warner Rim: the planet spins as the stones vibrate, I feel this.  Marks made and objects produced, placed, glazed, as I look out about.  Sun rises. Sets. One thing happens. Then another.  Smoke-haze from afar colors the light. Day and night.  Bermed springs spill pools of blue in August heat. Lichens densely yellow, pale green. Pacific Connector towers count the miles from the Columbia River to crystalline L.A.  Night and day. Pause I do.  Thinking with remote. My presence witnessed by a standing forth.  In passing, with no illusions.

    Petroglyphs and Landscapes:  Relative Remote



  • Seeing Red in the Carrizo Mountains AZ July 2018

    This summer’s drought map of Four Corners haloes a fiery blood blob, appearing as the seething remains of an extraterrestrial arriving too fast on Earth.  The heating is geo-anthro, a spiraling cycle of desire and affect.  The blessing sun, neutral and forgiving, fuels the atmosphere, alighting evenly on skin, fur, leaf, and stone.  And on glass, concrete, and impounded waters.   

    In the red rock downslope of the Carrizo Mountains near Four Corners in Arizona, carved and painted figures witnessing centuries of change, watery abundance, desiccation, desire, ambition, absence, and a renewed presence. A Navajo man looking skyward toward the cliffs’ darting swifts, “The spirits of the ancient ones, the Anasazi.”  In this century, here now and heating, the ancient ones in frictioning forbearance seeing into a future accelerating toward the present.

    Carrizo Mountains RED

  • The earth carries it forward

    Humans leave their mark, and the earth carries it forward as an archive.
    Jussi Parikka [1]

                … touching
    
notes from everything, here where

    mind leaves fresh prints on archives,

    whispers tracks onto slabs and

    bedrock to bloom again and again,

    here where is emptiness, the way

    a shrine is important for what’s

    not there …

    - from The Underworld, a poem by Brian Swann [2]

    What does archive indicate?  A record, a fossil, an idea-imprint?  The beauty of the above sentence lies herein: the earth carries it forward. Recalling, the deep time of the archive already encompassing the pastness of the stone: its volcanic origin, its erosion, its glow.  Human leavings accumulate, accrete, and transform into a post-human era.  An unhuman. Faint signals emanate from the stone, indeed, of the stone.

    In the example pictured in the Mark-Archive study we follow recent markings; look into what we are fortunate to see this season in the sun.  And imagine with the carrying forward.   Where and when does this marked-stone-as-archive leave humans?  Again, Jussi Parikka:  The memory of a rock is of different temporal order to that of the human social one.

    [1] Jussi Parikka. A Geology of Media (2015). University of Minnesota Press.
    [2]  Brian Swann. St. Francis and the Flies (2016).  Autumn House Press.
    The poem The Underworld at https://theamericanscholar.org/the-underworld/

  • What is an Image?

    My aim is to open for inquiry the ways our “theoretical" understanding of imagery grounds itself in social and cultural practices, and in a history fundamental to our understanding, not only of what images are, but of what human nature is or might become. W. J. T. Mitchell, in What Is an Image? [1]

    This canyon’s walls display layers of discrete images, applied over time with varying intents and purposes. Together these meld as image-field, a unified whole, yet ever threatening to disburse. These digital photographs frame a portion of the wall as interpretation, as re-presentation. Now virtual, these images “present themselves as what they are, images, not the transportable and compact form of a reality that is already inaccessible.” as Chris Marker reminds us.

    Marker continues: “Images never say what they are, but always claim to be what they are not. Image is a fiction, a future recreation of a present moment which was real, but which is no longer nor will it ever be, and this is due to the mere fact of its differed interpretation, its semantic position.” [2]  This question - What is an Image - queries the power of imagery. For centuries a religious, historical and political force, this question and its mirroring - the imagery of power - continue to compel understanding.

    For rock art, and landscape archaeology in general, ours is an era wherein we will view and “see” many more virtual rock art images than we will observe in person, in situ. As digital visualization of inscription, artifact, and monument continue to expand with 3D scanning, color and chemical sensing, remote and laser color sensing, and ground-penetrating radar, what is real, true, actual, fold seamlessly into virtual. Layering dimensions of an image-field as we re-enter the canyon walls.[3]

    [1] W. J. T. Mitchell, What Is an Image? (1984) New Literary History, Vol. 15, No. 3.
    http://users.clas.ufl.edu/sdobrin/WJTMitchell_whatisanimage.pdf
    Mitchell, a leading theorist on the image, is included in James Elkins’s edited volume What is an image? (2011).  Recommended: The Domain of Images (1999), James Elkins.
    [2] With a DVD of his 1996 film Level 5, Marker, a French filmmaker and installation artist, included an essay titled In Search of Lost Memory from which these excerpts are extracted … as images.
    [3] Located in western Nevada. Also: http://rockartoregon.com/nevada-petroglyphs

  • Solstice Summer 2018

    Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson, Circles (Essay, 1841)

  • Inexplication

    Art is inexplicable and has a dream-power that radiates from the night mind. Edward Hirsch [1]

    Here comes emergence: the sprouting of levels has been construed, by many, in terms of it.  Simone Gozzano [2]

    A faint petroglyph figure appeared as a whisper, a downward form or body …

    Gravity determines what we feel to be true. Material bodies pulled toward the center. A tellurian beckoning.  Then, with a certain spirit, “… see the identity of the law of gravitation with purity of heart.” as Emerson phrased this embracing ambition. [3]

    As counter to this urgent pull, emergence from the center yearns through darkling levels to a revealing.  Emergence a shedding, a sprouting, pushing outward, upward into the surprising light.  Upright, the dignity of light mind balances a tenuous attention tendrilled with a trailing downright dark - the night mind.

    … A faint petroglyph figure appeared as a whisper, a downward form or body.  The surface of the metallicked, densely textured stone face intrigued me.  I photographed and later looked closely, with surprise and dissolving consideration. As the figure emerged through the patina, a vesicle, a natural cavity, in the rock suggested a possible physical relationship, fleeting and speculative, as an origin, a tension of becoming.  A purity of heart.

    Images - follow this petroglyph stone through various visual iterations, imagining into the fact of stone the elusive presence of the marking, thereby participating with emergence and descent.  http://rockartoregon.com/emergence

    [1] Edward Hirsch in The Demon and the Angel: searching for the sources of artistic inspiration. (2002)
    [2]  Simone Gozzano. The Compatability of Downward Causation and Emergence. In Philosophical and scientific perspectives on downward causation. Michele Paolini Paoletti and Francesco Orilia, eds. (2017)
    [3] Ralph Waldo Emerson in an 1838 letter.

  • Early Rock Art of the American West

    Ekkehart Malotki has done it again, thankfully.  Early Rock Art of the American West: The Geometric Enigma will offer deep insight and inspiration to those who care and are curious about rock art in the lands of the West. To be released July 2018, it is richly illustrated with 200 images, 193 in color. 314 pages. University of Washington Press offers the paperback version at $34.95. 

    His 2007 volume The Rock Art of Arizona: Art for Life's Sake remains for me the single best conceptual and stylistic guide to the rock art of the Great Basin. I have found nothing comparable for Oregon, California or Nevada. I believe this new book will surpass that fine volume. About Ekkehart Malotiki

  • The coming together of things

    Conjugations, as the coming together of things, are here posed as photo-collages exploring the rock art landscapes of Warner Valley uplands, Lake County, Oregon.

    Conjugation as a term binds together a complex terrain of meanings. In biology:  The temporary fusion of organisms, especially as part of sexual reproduction.  In grammar: ... one of several classifications of verbs according to what inflections they take.

    In chemistry:  A system of delocalized orbitals consisting of alternating single bonds and double bonds.  In mathematics:  A function which negates the non-real part of a complex or hypercomplex number.

    Rock art coming together in and of the land, stone, light, weather. Fusion. Inflection. Delocalized orbitals. Negating non-real.
    Note: Definitions above derived from: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/conjugation


    Conjugations:  The Gallery

  • Image being of itself

    Images are the compelling source of morality and religion as well as the conscientiousness of art.  James Hillman, 1983 (in Healing Fictions)

    This slow sweep of rock face bears three types of markings:  a painted dark-gray cross-like form, two loosely pecked shapes, and a complex of precise, ecstatic incisings.  Reminding:  hold the image, being of itself.   

    Three photos Douglas Beauchamp, March 2018, Coso Range Wilderness, Inyo CA

  • An Image in Volcanic Tablelands

    How and where does an image begin or end.  To re-present a petroglyph in a photograph is always to contain.  This re-imaging becomes imaginal, an interpretation.  When the petroglyph suggests flight, or soaring, perhaps it is a moment to follow along, drift, look out, up, and away.  

    The three photos below offer aspects of this east-facing petroglyph-on-basalt.  This petroglyph is one among the countless array at the well-documented, public BLM site called Chidago/Red Rock (MNO-8), located about 20 miles north of Bishop CA. (Photos Douglas Beauchamp, April 2018)

    The image appears bi-symmetrical. Suggesting wings, feelers or streamers, antennae or pincers, extend from a segmented “body” with a three-part “tail”.  Perhaps of a spirit-being realm.


    The image extends beyond the stone, here in landscape-view looking south toward the Owens River Valley and beyond - the Sierras.  One of many ways to see.


    Another series of markings, perhaps a second petroglyph, is below the first image. A different time or different intent? Or related? If so, how?

  • Outtake/Intake: Owens River Valley

    I recommend the book Left in the Dust: How Race and Politics Created a Human and Environmental Tragedy in L.A. [1]

    Appreciation of rock art cannot be exempt from an awareness of land use, water use, and the related displacements of indigenous peoples by Euro-Americans beginning in the mid-19th century.  That is to say - Claiming and Naming.  

    Karen Piper’s book looks critically and historically at the Owens River Valley, the traditional territories of the Paiute and Shoshone east of the Sierras from north and west of Bishop to Ridgecrest, California.  The book is an indictment of the political economy and environmental devastations wrought by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power beginning in the early-20th century.  (If you’ve seen Chinatown please don’t assume you got the story — read the book.)

    There are dozens of rock art locales in the greater Owens River Valley. The desiccating, dusty impact of the taking of the river for LA via an aqueduct is readily apparent. (I encounter dissonance when the primary flow from the river to the aqueduct is called the “Intake” — it is clearly an Outtake!) This is certainly a hugely complex issue, not only in the first several decades of the “Outtaking,” but how it continues to stimulate conflict and unresolved challenges. In this sense the book, researched for years and published in 2006, was an urgent signal and hopefully acts as a catalyst for meaningful change. [2]

    Images Feb2018: Owens River Valley Petroglyphs

    [1]  Karen Piper, Left in the Dust: How Race and Politics Created a Human and Environmental Tragedy in L.A. (New York: Palgrave, 2006).  [2]  Dreams, Dust, and Birds: The Trashing of Owens Lake  (Karen Piper, Places, January 2011).   http://www.karenpiper.com/

  • Crucial to finding the way: El Paso Mountains Wilderness

    Crucial to finding the way is this:  there is no beginning or end.
    You must make your own map.  
    Joy Harjo (from the poem A Map to the Next World)

    As we two-leggeds partition to protect, necessary lines are drawn. Often across uneasy vague terrains.  Physical, bio, water-shedding, political.  Following millennial inscriptions of animal and human meanderings.  Then claiming by gridding.

    All this comes to mind as I camp by a line of large boulders placed by heavy equipment along the road.  To the west, a stones throw, the El Paso Mountains Wilderness.  Me, I’m simply on BLM public lands in Kern County, California, ready for first light to hike south to Sheep Springs.  Also on the line.

    The El Paso Mountains are somewhat of an island, the earth exposed, truth-telling.  An island not only criss-crossed with paths and roads, livings and dyings, but divided into OHV roading zones and the no-vehicle El Paso Mountains Wilderness. The numerous rock art sites have been deeply studied and writings and photos are readily available.  This is especially true of the two most extensive places: Sheep Springs and Terese. A few coyote howls apart.

    As the sun illuminates this starkly luminous land, the stones, many bearing petroglyphs, glow.  In the dawning sun rays, some float a polished sheen, metallic, silk smooth. Journeys - of the mind, of the peoples, of time immemorial -  condense into lean carved interweavings. Lines shaping a wandering gaze into patinaed multi-dimensionals.

    Even if we could agree some petroglyphs may be maps, this opens a deeper question:  Map of What? And to complicate this question: what does Map Do? In the Far West, there’s a trove of writings and photos attempting to unravel this, none very convincing. However, we need to go somewhere. Map, Meander, or Imagine.

    Photos:  El Paso Mountains Petroglyphs

  • Time and The Imagined at Carrizo Plain

    You have time. Meaning don't use it, but pass through time in patience, waiting for something to come. Prepare for its arrival. Don’t rush to meet it. Be a conduit. … I felt this to be true. Some people might consider that passivity but I did not. I considered it living. Rachel Kushner [1]

    It’s easier to imagine the end of the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. Michael Robbins [2]

    Camped during mild days in early February 2018 at Carrizo Plain National Monument in California’s southern San Joaquin Valley. It’s easy to follow Rachel Kushner’s advice. The starry sky clearer than clear.  The ground dry yet soft.  The silence swells.  I am a visitor and I feel it.  Though born in southern California and worked teen summers in Arvin near Bakersfield, I have that eyes-wide-open feeling.  I hike, marvel at the stone, the rock paintings, the birds, take pictures, meet a very few people at perfect moments.

    When I returned to Oregon, after luminous nights in the El Paso Mountains north of the Mojave and with a whipping dusty wind in the northern Owens Valley, I read-up on Carrizo Plain. Most urgently I saw described by Los Padres Forest Watch a federal report calls for review of the Carrizo Plain National Monument management plan. [3] 

    How to frame the unfolding context of spirit, place, politics and extraction? The stone erodes. The grass grows high or doesn’t. The wildflower seeds hold patient. The re-introduced pronghorn and elk roam free. Painted rocks fade and fragment, some cut by the various “modern” name-and-initial incisings seen at popular places. Mining, drilling, piping - the inscribed initials of our consumptive nature on this earth. How to imagine?

    Photos:  Carrizo Plain National Monument or https://photos.app.goo.gl/NBWBdLnRCeZu1cW32

    NOTES
    [1] Rachel Kushner, in The Flamethrowers: A novel. Scribner 2013
    [2] Michael Robbins in a Bookforum review (Feb-Mar 2018) of Andreas Malm’s book The Progress of this Storm: Nature and Society In A Warming World. Verso 2018
    https://www.versobooks.com/books/2575-the-progress-of-this-storm
    [3] Los Padres Forest Watch: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s late December release of the “Final Report Summarizing Findings of the Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act.”  In addition to massive boundary reductions and opening some National Monuments to mining, drilling, logging, and industrial-scale commercial fishing, the report calls 27 national monument management plans to be reviewed.  The president’s proclamation and the Department of the Interior’s recommendations represent the largest elimination of protected federal lands and waters in U.S. history.”

  • The Marked World 2018

    Art and photography frame an imagined real.  With the appearance of human markings in the visible world scaled context emerges — the spatial relation to the human body affirmed by the familiar timeflow. The fragile barrier of past and future, World and Earth, other and self, oscillates. Hence, rockartoregon in the New Year 2018, its Sixth Year, entertains a fraught dialectic: the indeterminate image and the contingent moment.

    Attention expands to cultural landscapes, during an urgent cycle of how we live, nurture, create, extract, kill, and die on planet Earth.  Rock art is considered in its context as a vital component of how we may understand the peoples, animals, changes, and meanings of life in these lands and waters.

    To illustrate, recent insights/incites from The Marked World:
    Petroglyphs: Ten 2017 (Klamath County & Lake County)
    Veneta Imagined (Lane County Oregon)
    Desert Glyphs (Lyon County Nevada)
    Coaldale Today (Esmeralda County Nevada)
    Yerington (Lyon County Nevada)
    Floatings (Walls/Art Eugene Oregon)

  • Don’t Bomb The Bighorn

    To experience rock art is to also experience landscape.  It is also to be drawn into the circle of change that has occurred and continues to unfold.  This scope of changes includes those of the indigenous peoples of the Great Basin before and after the invasive arrival of euroamericans.  This scope includes animals, plants, and stones as they were and are profoundly disturbed by human actions, most urgently in the last two centuries.  Subjugation-assault follows as the central dynamic of this historical political, economic, and extractive relationship.  

    This dynamic is realized anew as the US military seeks to expand the Nevada Testing and Training Range (NTTR) [1] operations into protected lands. Such as over 300,000 acres of the Desert National Wildlife Range in southeast Nevada.  The argument is framed as “necessity” — despite a current “land base” in use by the NTTR of nearly three million acres. [2]

    Standing before panels of bighorn sheep carved centuries ago an eerie feeling arises when conjuring the tilting fate of these lands and its beings:  What is the logical conclusion of the “necessity” of expansion? Its enveloping, ultimate purpose? For me this is a fundamental question; an ontological one. How is being to become on our “pale blue dot” of a planet? [3]

    Meanwhile I say: Don’t Bomb the Bighorn   [4]

    Notes & Links
    [1]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nevada_Test_and_Training_Range
    [2]  http://www.nttrleis.com/index.aspx
    [3]  Pale Blue Dot https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/12/21/reflection/
    [4] Don’t Bomb the Bighorn is the campaign slogan of the Friends of Nevada Wilderness.  Public meetings of the draft EIS for the proposed NTTR expansion into the Desert National Wildlife Range will be held in January 2018 in southern Nevada.  http://www.nevadawilderness.org/dnwr  

    Petroglyphs in the Pahranagat region of southeast Nevada (October-November 2017)
    http://rockartoregon.com/mount-irish-nevada
    http://rockartoregon.com/crystal-ash-nevada
    http://rockartoregon.com/animal-image

    More on rockartoregon.com:  Petroglyphs with animal motifs in Oregon’s northern Great Basin
    http://rockartoregon.com/animal-petroglyphs
    http://rockartoregon.com/animal-petroglyphs-oregon

    Image: Basin and Range National Monument, October 2017