Humans leave their mark, and the earth carries it forward as an archive.
Jussi Parikka 
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 
What does archive indicate? A record, a fossil, a geomemory? 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.
 Jussi Parikka. A Geology of Media (2015). University of Minnesota Press.
 Brian Swann. St. Francis and the Flies (2016). Autumn House Press.
The poem The Underworld at https://theamericanscholar.org/the-underworld/
Humans leave their mark, and the earth carries it forward as an archive.
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? 
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.”  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.
 W. J. T. Mitchell, What Is an Image? (1984) New Literary History, Vol. 15, No. 3.
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.
 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.
 Located in western Nevada. Also: http://rockartoregon.com/nevada-petroglyphs
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)
Art is inexplicable and has a dream-power that radiates from the night mind. Edward Hirsch 
Here comes emergence: the sprouting of levels has been construed, by many, in terms of it. Simone Gozzano 
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. 
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
 Edward Hirsch in The Demon and the Angel: searching for the sources of artistic inspiration. (2002)
 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)
 Ralph Waldo Emerson in an 1838 letter.
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
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
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
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?
I recommend the book Left in the Dust: How Race and Politics Created a Human and Environmental Tragedy in L.A. 
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. 
Images Feb2018: Owens River Valley Petroglyphs
 Karen Piper, Left in the Dust: How Race and Politics Created a Human and Environmental Tragedy in L.A. (New York: Palgrave, 2006).  Dreams, Dust, and Birds: The Trashing of Owens Lake (Karen Piper, Places, January 2011). http://www.karenpiper.com/
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
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 
It’s easier to imagine the end of the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. Michael Robbins 
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. 
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
 Rachel Kushner, in The Flamethrowers: A novel. Scribner 2013
 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
 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.”
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)
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)  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. 
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? 
Meanwhile I say: Don’t Bomb the Bighorn 
Notes & Links
 Pale Blue Dot https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/12/21/reflection/
 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)
More on rockartoregon.com: Petroglyphs with animal motifs in Oregon’s northern Great Basin
Image: Basin and Range National Monument, October 2017
A counting? A recounting? Memory potential resides in the power (agency) of the image. Perhaps. Those days, now these. Hopeful, accidental. Image: White River Narrows Nevada 2017
Images are bodies. Animal images in art, religion, and dreams are not merely depictions of animals. Animal images are also showing us images as animals. … If the world presents itself in expressive shapes like animals, then there must be an eye that can see shapes, as animals. To read lines on the face of the world we need animal eye. This eye not only sees man as animal but by means of the animal, seeing each other with an animal eye. To this eye, image and type appear together. … The animal eye perceives and reacts to the animal image in the other. James Hillman 
What is this talisman of color, this singular virtue of the visible that makes it, held at the end of the gaze, nonetheless much more than a correlative of my vision, such that it imposes my vision upon me as a continuation of its own sovereign existence? How does it happen that my look, enveloping them, does not hide them, and, finally, that, veiling them, it unveils them? Maurice Merleau-Ponty 
In this darkling season: Animal Images: Petroglyphs from places in the Pahranagat region of southeast Nevada
 James Hillman. 1986. Egalitarian Typologies versus the Perception of the Unique, 55-56. 1986. (above from an extended in excerpt in Blue Fire 68-69.
 Maurice Merleau-Ponty. 1961 (trans 1968). The Visible and the Invisible: The Intertwining—The Chiasm, 30-55.
Hillman’s sentence: “Animal images are also showing us images as animals” may be considered a chiasmus, a cross-over, a mirroring intertwining.
The two most common official road signs on the “lonely” highways of central and southeast Nevada: Open Range and Low Flying Aircraft. Distance, space, and time become relative. Range, it strikes me, is the operative word of assumed possession in our West. As in Range Lands. Riders on the Range. Bombing Range. A place to do as one will, or at least to test one’s will.
Among the tuff boulders and outcrops lies the Mount Irish Archaeological District, now part of the Basin and Range National Monument. The BLM of the Ely District how done a fine job of making public an expansive terrain with many remarkable petroglyphs.
In late October during some soloing days I wandered and wondered among these softened boulders so different from the sharp basalts of Oregon’s northern Great Basin. No one else in this country this season. The dawns crisp and golden, radiant. Afternoons warm and disbursed, curving away. Suddenly a shocking, booming explosion so near at hand to shake alarm. Then, silently, “low-flying,” two fighter jets in tight formation slicing through the air of the nearing valley - faster-than-the-speed-of-sound. Soon the dull claim and roar of the engines followed yearning not to be abandoned. Open Range.
My thoughts turned to Yemen, to Syria. (Yes, here, in the quiet presence of the archaic "Pahranagat Man," stately observer she/he be.) I can only slightly imagine the dread, the trauma, the deathliness of what it must be dwell, to feel the shattering, to perhaps die, with this constant jet sound multiplied, amplified. Also, I thought: gun control is not the issue. Much deeper is the way we weapon our world. Yes, We. Yes, Weapon. Yes, Our World. (Someday when sound is done and gone, in a foreseeable lonely world, when walls collapse quake they will in silent swoon.)
Some Pahranagat figures in this country are associated with atlatls, the dart-thrower, which preceded the soon-to-be-fashionable bow-and-arrow. Essential to both was the tip, the honed stone point, the piercer. Sharply aimed, fast, and low-flying - if to be effective.
ALBUM: Mount Irish Scapes and Images
- BLM guide to Mount Irish Petroglyphs published in partnership with Nevada Rock Art Foundation.
- Basin and Range National Monument Proclamation, July 2017, by President Obama.
- Nellis Air Force Base
The archaic or primordial is not at all past —we are participants in it now as we are in what we call ‘reality’— we are a perpendicular axis of planes which are constantly being intersected by horizontal planes of experience coming from the past coming up from the ground and going out to the future. Charles Olson, 1950 
From the “Largest Industrial Park in the World” to the White River Narrows engravings to the Wild Cat Brothel (Free WiFi!) to the Superfund Anaconda Copper Mine to the World’s Largest Ammo Depot… appearances stream in bright linear ellipsis. Central and southeast Nevada.
Nevada - a land of horizontals. As a tourist seeking rock art places, a revelation unfolds in the unscripted encounter with the myriad varieties of human-altered landscapes.These determinants of the horizontal suggest and invite recognition. The far as the eye can see, the speed of the passing road, and the split-second of the photo do not alter place or time. Each frames, isolates, and aims to freeze a fleeting apprehension of inversion as the imagined natural disappears. Inversion - an upsidedownness of the presumption of the natural without the human. Recognition - the human, the maker aspiring, itself a flickering inversion. Then - rock art, honing to the present of space sliding and time eliding.
24 images: Horizontal Nevada
 (From a letter by poet Charles Olson in a letter in 1950; cited by Clayton Eshleman in Archaic Design, a collection of writings published in 2007 by Black Widow Press.)
Though Adrian Ivakhiv recently pronounced “Ontology is in; epistemology is out,” at this week’s Rock Art Worldings conference in Sweden All is in. The organizers frame three areas of attention: Rock art chronologies, Rock art materialities, and Rock Art Ontologies. Chronologies and materialities continue to ask how we know what we know; epistemology alive and well.
The question of ontologies and rock art compels: What is the is-ness of rock art, its nature, its being-in-the world? The conference says ontologies embrace such realms as “ … the relational intra-actions between humans and other-than-humans, such as gods, spirits, the dead, animals, inhabitants of other cosmic levels, meteorological phenomena, plants, and occasionally even artefacts.” An urgent provocation to keep open in the study of rock art.
Worlding itself as word and idea gained momentum in the 1990s and now accelerates through multiple areas of inquiry. Distracting, disturbing, and disrupting placid ponds of reflected knowing. Crucially, what the aspiring “Worlding” means or does in “The Real World” of crushing change and staggering crisis remains to be known. What is, is; what becomes, will be.
In any event, I believe looking with rock art as articulations of being constitute a worlding ontology. Below, RockArtOregon: One Worlding
The art historical binary of abstract-representational shapes rock art into a static idea of image. This tends to become the go-to method of studying rock art - as isolates, as motifs, as elements. The image floats aways from the stone-in-place as a figure, a line drawing, a DStretched apparition, a logogram. Certainly the camera enhances this way of seeing, framing rectangles, as a painting in a gallery, a portrait, a collectible. This instant - of looking, seeing, framing, recording - also follows the art historical arc. The image becomes object.
An alternative is to engage with the rock art-as-one-with-stone, as event. The event of the stone; the stone as agent. The petroglyph or the rock painting as human making and marking, adhering as subjective expression of stone. Through time. The before-time of the rock’s formation. The emergent-time of the rock art’s creation. The lapsing-time of weatherings, softenings, darkenings, breakings, fadings; our now and then. The future-time of the faltering, the disappearance. Arc of event. Absent abstract, lacking representation - simply endless beings as becoming. Adapting cosmology’s phrase: spacetime rippling.
Album: Stone: Image and Event
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
… And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall
How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, ’n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
… The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
- Both excerpts from Bob Dylan songs, 1963. https://bobdylan.com/songs/
Does wind appear in rock art? Does rain? I don’t know. I do sense some petroglyphs as atmospheric. Certainly changing weather, influencing rain and snow, yearning to start or stop the wind, figures in many stories and ethnographic reports in the West, indeed, in all times and cultures. Cupule boulders are often viewed as related to wind and rain control. My testimony here with these four “abstract” images, below, is less reasonable.
Rain - hard or soft - doesn’t fall; waters are pulled by lusty Earth. Gravity’s desire. Wind - soft or hard - doesn’t blow; airs are twirled by the Sun. Solar whim.
Archaic petroglyphs bear witness to wind and rain, to gravity and solar. Deities of the Stone. Forces natural and super. Sensed here, now, soon to change, as the Weather.
Below: Four photos from the High Lakes region of the northern Great Basin