BLOG: To Become Visible

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  • Solstice / AXIS

    If the axis has been well and truly laid down in the quartet it should be possible to radiate in any direction without losing the strictness and congruity of the continuum.  
    — Lawrence Durrell, in Author’s Note to Clea (1960), the fourth volume of The Alexandria Quartet.

    I often visit the Poltalloch carvings. But these days, I try to look at them in a new way, which may also be the rediscovery of a very old way. This rediscovery is the notion of ‘cultural landscape', related to the wider notion of 'Total Ecology'. It involves abandoning the anthropocentric perspective of the modern West, and returning to the vision of human beings who understood themselves and their imagination as components of the natural world.
    … The context is not just the sheet of rock, but the landscape itself. … The fact that these places often had 'a long view' may be important. These were people who had a sense of themselves within a landscape, neither as owners nor as distant specks traversing a hostile space but as partners in this cosmos spread out around them.
    — Neal Ascherson, Stone Voices: The Search for Scotland (2002), excerpt pp 217-219.

    What happens to us
    Is irrelevant to the world’s geology
    But what happens to the world’s geology
    Is not irrelevant to us.
    We must reconcile ourselves to the stones,
    Not the stones to us.
    — Hugh MacDiarmid, from On a Raised Beach (1938), a poem from his years on the Shetland island of Whalsay

    As we humans drift further into climatic upheavals and waves of extinctions in the coming decades, the thousands of rock art images marked over tens of thousands of years may act as lodestars, axes, quiet reminders of spiritual endeavor. And yearnings. This in the spirit of clarity of what we are about, partaking of this gift, our sojourn called life.

    Album: Cup-and-Ring: Solstice/AXIS, Kilmartin, mid-Argyll, western Scotland. May 2019.

  • Landscope: Kilmartin, Scotland / Chewaucan, Oregon

    What but indirection / will get to the end of the sphere?
    - William Carlos Williams, Paterson V (1958)

    Landscope inquires of landscape: how do we see the actual?  Through glimpses in the fleeting present.  Actual becomes the imagined.  No vanishing point perspectives, simply elusive multiplicities; still points in the turning world. Juxtaposing geofact, biofact, artifact, in a semi-factual, quasi-actual, visual accounting of land and land-usings.
    To view the two collections:
    Landscope: Kilmartin, Argyll, Scotland UK  May 2019  
    Landscope Chewaucan, Lake County, Oregon USA  June 2019
    ... Or read on and click links below.

    Differences abundant between western Scotland and eastern Oregon.  Yet similarities strike me with a waking. Both marked deeply during the last ice age. In Oregon late Pleistocene lakes expanded and deepened among basin and range escarpments incising wave-cut terraces visible today.  In Argyll glacial ice carved and shaped lochs and striated sheeted bedrock.  Both places know ancient sequences of human migration, seasonal rounds, occupation, dislocation. Marked by stones, stones marked, placed and displaced signaling habitation, questing, burial. Animated landscapes.

    Today, the continual welling and folding of wilding lands layers with the presence of us humans, our residings, rough extractions, nurturing endeavors. Stuff and upheaval. Death and desire. I do not find contradiction. I lean into being there, quite willingly, to listen, learn, be surprised.  And make curious pictures as response, investigation, lingering revelation. There is a beyond I recognize: resilient millennia, tensive present, future spiral — all implied, surging, subsiding with the shifting patterns revealed within each particular occasion.

    KILMARTIN / BALLYGOWAN
    CHEWAUCAN / BASALT RIM

  • Cup-and-Ring Castleton

    Walking through the Castleton landscape.   Castleton, a farming area in Stirling County, Scotland, is three miles south the River Forth and equidistant from Glasgow and Edinburgh.  The cup-and-ring rock art on several bold outcrops is likely 4000-5000 years old. The carvings I found, worn yet very visible, occur on smooth exposed stone gently sloping to the north, while the numerous naturally-eroded, intertwining channels and grooves of the high vertical outcrop flow south. Water — as energy, as flow — and a long view to the south — strike me as fundamental to intent and meaning.  Yet how this sense may be melded with belief about place and change is a mystery.

    Two rock art places: Castleton Stirling
    A surprise reward of this day —  stone remnants of the early-15th-century Bruce's Castle.



  • Emanation

    Two carved images directly connect with natural orifices in the stone surface.  As a flowing it appears.  Emanation comes to mind.  Orifice as origin, or perhaps aperture leading inward, an infusion. What the carvings mean or indicate is unknown.  We may speculate: a movement of spirit-power in some way.  Perhaps the carvings were made in gratitude, in hope.  Perhaps representing an experience or a desire through which the act itself releases energy.
    The first image (top), from well-known Chalfant In Mono County, California, is carved into Bishop tuff - Chalfant, an eastern cliff edge of the Volcanic Tablelands.  The second image (above), from a basalt rim in central Lake County, Oregon.  Both overlooking close-by water flows.  Both with clear mountain-ridge views and toward the rising sun.
    These images seem to emerge from unconscious patterns, archetypal forms, which as they are formed by the carver vary as influenced by culture and landscape.

    On form, Henri Focillon writes, “Although [form] is our most strict definition of space, it also suggests to us the existence of other forms. It prolongs and diffuses itself throughout our dreams and fancies: We regard it, as it were, as a kind of fissure through which crowds of images aspiring to birth may be introduced into some indefinite realm.” (from The Life of Forms in Art, 1934)

  • Tufa Petroglyphs Boulder

    This tufa boulder formed under the waters of a southeast bay of pluvial Lake Lahontan in northwest Nevada.  These deeply carved petroglyphs are undated; the land now desert. This boulder’s location is proximate to the justly famous oldest dated petroglyphs in North America, also carved on tufa. The dated petroglyphs look to the east over Winnemucca Lake located east of Pyramid Lake - both remnant lakes of pluvial Lake Lahontan. The Winnemucca petroglyphs were determined by Larry Benson and associates in 2013 to date to at least 10,500 years ago and perhaps even as far back as 14,800 years ago.


    Tufas, like mineral flowers, emerge, protrude, and fragment as the lake recedes.  Bud, blossom, seed, suspended high and dry.  Tufas congeal in crenate patterns, constellated, crystallized, caverned, calcified froth. The petroglyphs on this boulder appear as emblems of desire, as invocations, perhaps entreating sexual fecundity, necessary replenishment. In these landscapes as marvelous, saturated dream-space, I am reminded of Max Ernst’s frottages and paintings.  
    Tufa Petroglyphs
    Above: Tufa Petroglyph Boulder;  Below: Max Ernst, The Gray Forest 1927

  • Gravity and the mystery of water

    Rock art abides in the landscapes of the desert west.  Quiet tension between stone and the ephemeral of endurance. It’s gravity, volcanics, the mystery of water. The exposure of stone. The human markings reflect the fluid past, the bone dry seasons, spirits of place. Aspiration, nurturance.

    Four images below from the Volcanic Tablelands, Inyo/Mono Counties, CA, March 2019. Included in Landscopes II - an album of a March 2019 Equinox road trip in western Nevada and eastern California

  • Lone-Lizard sees Ancient-History

    “Lane County has an abundance of prehistoric artifacts. This example of pictographs have defied the elements for centuries.  Writings can be see along Highway 395 near Lake Abert.  County contains almost a fourth of the state’s Indian writings.”  
    — Caption of a featured photograph of a petroglyph boulder in the Sunday Oregonian, 1959 [1]

    “Indian Pictographs in Lake County. Such Indian picture writings are usually not very old, because the desert wind and sand tend to obliterate them in about two hundred years as a rule.”  
    — Caption of a photograph of a petroglyph boulder published as the full-page frontispiece of The Oregon Desert, 1964 [2]  (Adapted image above)

    “The boulder was blasted by a maintenance crew about 1967, and the fragments graded into the ditch on the west side of the highway.”
    - Noted by Malcolm and Louise Loring from a 1967 visit, 1982 [3]

    The same petroglyph boulder is imaged and imagined in all three. The Oregonian and Oregon Desert photographs are almost identical.

    Lone-Lizard sees it coming: Ancient-History in not ancient. Lone-Lizard sees it going: Ancient-History is not history as a rule.  Ancient-History sees Lone-Lizard is not a lizard in dreamtime highway fragments.  [4]

    Above, an adapted image of Lorings's line drawing of the boulder’s face prior to 1967. They noted: "On one large lizard petroglyph the rock surface in the body was polished and painted with red pigment." 

    NOTES
    [1] "Pictographs, Petroglyphs Premium Lake County Attractions,” Sunday Oregonian, August 23, 1959, by Paul Laartz, The highlight of this feature story was a photograph of the boulder with petroglyphs on the southeast shore of Lake Abert. The story was part of series in partnership with the Oregon State Motor Assn to promote  tourism during Oregon’s centennial year.  
    Eerily, the 1959 article also includes another photograph captioned: “Lakeview, well known as a center of lumbering, cattle raising, has recently added this uranium reduction mill to its list of contributors to a thriving Lake County economy.”  The Lakeview Uranium Mill operated 1958-1961.  A 2017 fact sheet “provides information about the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978. Title I processing site and disposal site near Lakeview, Oregon. This site is managed by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management.”   https://www.lm.doe.gov/Lakeview/Disposal/Sites.aspx

    [2] The Oregon Desert, 1964, by E R Jackman and Reub A. Long, Caxton Press (Idaho).  Chapter 11, titled  “Indians in the Desert,” offers folksy observation, opinion and hearsay, vague (mis)information, and condescending pronouncements typical of late 19th- and early 20th-century attitudes. This enduringly popular volume has been continuously in-print since 1964; distributed by University of Nebraska Press. The full-page frontispiece photograph is the petroglyph boulder destroyed in 1967.

    [3] Malcolm and Louise Loring in 1967 visited the Lake Abert shore location of petroglyph boulder highlighted in the two photographs. In the description for  Site 140 the Lorings reference the 1959 Oregonian story.  Loring, J. Malcolm, and Louise Loring. Pictographs & Petroglyphs of the Oregon Country, Parts I & II. 1996. This one-volume corrected edition of the original 1982 two-volume publication is available online.

    [4] Dreamtime Highway is not a completely original phrase. I've admired Dreamtime Superhighway (2008), a superb book by Jo McDonald about the rock art of New South Wales, Australia, which "proposes that the rock art in the Sydney region functioned as a prehistoric information superhighway.” Something to ponder as we look to see.

    Lake Abert Southeast shore. (Photo Douglas Beauchamp, 2016)

  • Lone-Lizard sees Natural-History

    Lone-Lizard sees two iron troughs placed end-to-end tolerate a fence straddling and separating the two.The troughs are aircraft engine shipping containers manufactured on contract for the US Navy and US Air Force and surplussed from the 1950s-1960s. A metal plaque identifies one half-ton container as designed for J57 turboprop, an innovative 5000-pound Pratt & Whitney engine which the military turned to for its war planes in the early 1950s.

    Lone-Lizard sees California bighorn sheep reintroduced to Oregon from British Columbia in the early 1950s after eradication by the early 20th century of the native herds in Oregon - some few dozen bighorns live on rims and slopes rising to the east.

    Lone-Lizard sees beef cattle, a subspecies of cattle introduced from Europe, appearing seasonally in this BLM grazing allotment on public lands in the southern Warner Valley.

    Lone-Lizard sees the grazed seeding of Crested Wheatgrass, a livestock forage introduced from Russia and Siberia. Nearby, a fenced long-term-trend photo plot seeded in the early 1960s in the grazing allotment.
    Satellite photo below courtesy Google Earth; troughs on right.

    Lone-Lizard sees Natural-History is not natural; is not history.  Natural-History sees Lone-Lizard is not a lizard.

  • TEN 2018 Oregon

    Who’s counting?  Some count elements, some dots, perhaps tallies or shadows at Solstice. I count moments. Rock surface as membrane, as interface, a template of pattern intersecting wavering time and translucent space. Offering gratitude to the anonymous artists passing through these times immemorial.

    As a joyful year-end remembrance, I’ve selected ten images from this year’s explorations in Oregon. A gesture toward opening, toward focus. The way I see; perhaps as they see me seeing - interface?  Now, onward into the turning of the season —

    Album: TEN 2018 Oregon

  • This tilting planet

    Solstice arrives as reminder: Listen to the dark, mention the inner stone.  Petroglyphs not other than Earth.  Not other than Carver.  Never other than living time crusting densities.  Petroglyphs appear in the fleeting present, matter inhering images.  Sunlight, moonlight, flickering starlight: flashing shadows across and beyond this tilting planet. 
    Petroglyphs: Lassen County, California.  Photos Douglas Beauchamp 2018

  • Every wolf a deer

    No wolf howls alone in the wilderness. Every being is a biome. Just so, every predator is its prey, every enemy its own enemy. This is the lesson of ecology. Every wolf is a deer, every deer is a deer tick, every deer tick is a human, every human is a blade of grass. Every American is a radical Islamic mujahid. Every human is carbon, oxygen, electricity, and hydrogen. Every rock is paper.  Roy Scranton [1]

    [1] Roy Scranton, from “Rock Scissors Paper” in We're Doomed. Now What?: Essays on War and Climate Change (2018); Rock Scissors Paper presented as talk at Los Angeles County Museum 2016.

    Two images: A petroglyph boulder and a detail, Lake County, October 2018
    Noting two symetrically designed bear?paw? images and figure seeming to approach? natural cleft in the rock.

  • ChronoZoning Lake Abert

    Time collapses. This basalt is different. Harder. Darkly brown. Rounded water-smoothed boulders thick with feldspar crystals sparkling in the desert air.  Petroglyphs emerge ghost-like, yearning, dissolve as the light shifts, from 3000 YBP (+/- 2500 years).  Along the eastern shore of Lake Abert.  Along US Highway 395 north to Canada south to California 19th century geographic imaginings. Margins alive. Lichen cattle shrimp avocets bighorn. Saltcrusts fences bones placed stones. Wave cut road cut clay bed tar bed.

    Here the southwest edge the multi-layered Columbia River Flood Basalt Province. Color-coded on puzzled maps. 17-15 millions years Before Present.  Suddenly 8 million years ago the earth stretching west the block fault scarp breaks up as the valley sinks. After the last glacial the basin lake shrinks to a thin shimmer of a ghost of a brimming Pleistocene past.

    Other petroglyphs along Lake Abert carved on sheer-faced boulders cracked tumbled from the upward rims. A finer lighter basalt. Soft gray, dark gray, stony gray.  Petroglyphs recalling the Holocene seasons cycling with life. Peooles on and through this land for 14,000 years.Of and in this earth. Now named for absent Westerners. Deitz. Paisley. Warner. Abert too a ghostly misnomer from Fremont’s 1840s hauntings.

    A very near blurred future-time collides toward this place. Too soon geo-logically: a stark dry slope a dusty valley. Asphalt road bed black cracking tilting sliding into white salt. Trace chemicals congeal to bind the changing times. Patina darkens petroglyphs rock circles stacked walls. Wind carries the sparklings of the longing crystals on through the curve of time.

    More Abert images on Google+



  • 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/