BLOG: To Become Visible

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  • 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/

  • 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/