BLOG: To Become Visible

Britain
  • The Rock Art of Tate Modern

    25th of July 2019.  The hottest day ever in Britain … considering the “vibrant matter” of Joseph Beuys’s artwork residing in a cooled, high-white room in the Tate Modern in London.  

    The 21 crystallized basalt pillars quarried near Kassel Germany in the 1980s, are connected with the 7000 blasted, selected, and hauled to the Kassel’s Friedrichsplatz in front of the Museum Fridericianum.  Spawned from that expansive and ongoing 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks) project, the Tate’s very materialized and very conceptualized artwork, The End of the Twentieth Century, was purchased by the Tate in 1991.  It is one of three separate but related installations preserved intact and carefully curated in European museums. (Another: Pinakothek in Munich, which also today marked its hottest day in history.)

    The week prior to arriving in London in May this year, and by good fortune, I walked among the Ballymeanoch standing stones in Kilmartin Glen in Western Scotland  The coned circles carved into the boulders by Beuys echoed in my mind’s eye the cups and concentric circles on some of ancient stones placed upright 4000 years ago in the verdant valley.  Through the Tate Modern gallery wondering wanderers drift by the Beuys stones with a glance of uncertain awe. Modern travelers gaze in similar fashion at the Kilmartin monuments.  Stones, gaze, wonder.

    John Berger believed, “In matters of seeing, Joseph Beuys was the great prophet of the second half of our century.”   Prophet is a powerful word.  Perhaps a good word to hold in mind when looking with placed stones while wondering about the human endeavor.  Stones, heat, art.

    Photos Douglas Beauchamp May 2019

  • 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 / Northern Great Basin Oregon/Nevada

    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 three collections:
    Landscope: Kilmartin, Argyll, Scotland UK  May 2019  
    Landscope Chewaucan, Lake County, Oregon USA  June 2019
    Landscope Washoe Nevada & Lake Oregon USA  Late June2019

    ... 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.