BLOG: To Become Visible

IMAGE-Imaginal
  • The Third Person

    The third person and third space are at once between and antecedent to the oppositional differentiation of subject and object or self and other, effecting an opening to the universe in all its turbulent generativity.  Stuart McLean [1]

    This petroglyph is located in the borderlands region of what is now California and Oregon. This high country bridges the north-south trending expanse Surprise Valley basin east of the Warner range and the Warner Lakes Basin between the massive uplift blocks and escarpments of Abert Rim, Lynch’s Rim, Greaser Rim, and Hart Mountain.  It is the traditional lands of the Northern Paiute who arrived in the area several hundred years ago as part of northward migration and who occupied the country when euro-americans arrived and, within a few decades, pushed the indigenous peoples onto reservations.

    Most of the rock art in this region was produced by early peoples over many millennia. This contributes to the ambiguity of this figure I call Spirit-Being-Pronghorn. A hybrid person, it seems to combine Lizard, Human, and Pronghorn [2].  We can look at it, wonder about its place in this country, and we look with it, east across the flat, open, changing land of the Pronghorn, the Coyote, and now mostly the Cattle.  This petroglyph then is not passive; this Being, as McLean suggests, through its active agency both creates and reproduces the universe.  This is necessary because all life is cyclic, abundance fleeting, death recurring.  Hence Spirit-Being-Pronghorn could as easily be Pronghorn-Being-Human, or Lizard-Spirit-Being.
    [1] Stuart McLean, ‘IT’ in Posthuman Glossary (2018) edited by Rosi Braidotti and Maria Hlavajova.
    [2] In most ethnographic reports, collected tales, and many rock art studies Antilocapra americana is referred to as Antelope.  Biologists and some Archaeologists usually use Pronghorn. It is known as Pronghorn antelope and American antelope among other names.

  • Drift Remote: Princesses, Power, Petroglyphs

    Living means leaving traces.   Walter Benjamin [1]

    This is why the imaginary and the real must be, rather, like two juxtaposable or superimposable parts of a single trajectory, two faces that ceaselessly interchange with one another, a mobile mirror.   Gilles Deleuze [2]

    Do not clean off dust specks, they are real.    Benoit Mandelbrot [3]

    Rock art search/re/search and plain walking in remote places becomes a drift as traces animate fragmenting juxtapositions. (Album: Northwest Nevada Drift)

    DO NOT RELEASE OUTDOORS OR NEAR ELECTRIC POWER LINES — MAY CAUSE POWER OUTAGES reads the warning on the Disney Princesses Mylar balloon tangled in the brush rim-edge. Where from?  Why here?  Here: 1/3 mile from the Pacific Intertie powerline conveying high-voltage direct current — electricity without interruption — from the Columbia River’s Dalles Dam to Los Angeles. The LA converter station is less than 20 miles from Disney’s Animation Studio in Burbank.  Standing on the rim with petroglyphs below I can see the towers and hear the hum of electrified hydropower flowing south. Power that supplies nearly 50% of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power electrical system's peak capacity; enough to serve 2-3 million LA households.  

    Petroglyphs, fur, bones, stones, glass, Mylar (aluminized plastic) — agency is diffuse.  Rock art search/re/search becomes a lost and found endeavor: the fizzle of classification, the thickening of lattice.  Vibrant material-realities illuminate evidence; a montage where meanings fold and unfold. Memory, the past in/of the now, curates an equivalence called future. The Princesses touched down in a graceful re-entry with no wish to blow LA’s fuses. 
    [1] Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism. Verso Books 1997.
    [2] Gilles Deleuze. Essays Critical and Clinical, trans. Daniel D. Smith and Michael A. Greco. 1997.
    [3] Benoit Mandelbrot. Fractals and Chaos: The Mandelbrot Set and beyond. 2004.

  • Petroglyph Dreaming

    If an object reflects or transmits electromagnetic waves with a length of 0.4 millimicrons from the light shining on it, we say that it is blue; if it transmits waves with a length of 0.7 millimicrons, we describe the object as being red. The perception of color is a purely psychic and subjective event taking place in the inner space of an individual.
    — Albert Hofmann, in Insight, Outlook p7. (1986, trans. 1989)

    We came upon the metaphor, that resonant conduit our paths will never forget and whose waters have left their mark in our writing, perhaps comparable to the red mark that revealed the chosen to the Angel or the blue mark on houses condemned by Rosas' police, promising perdition. We came upon the metaphor, the invocation by which we disordered the rigid universe.  
    — Jorge Luis Borges, from After Images (1924) in Selected Non-Fictions, edited by Eliot Weinberger (1999)

    It is no secret that the usefulness of a term like "nature" dissolves in the confrontation between its ideological uses (divisions between the natural and the unnatural) and the distinct possibility that everything that happens is, in fact, natural. Is it natural to make art, or to do politics, or to decimate other life forms?
    — Christopher P. Heuer and Rebecca Zorach, Introduction, xv In Ecologies Agents Terrains (2018)

    There might be, too, a change immenser than
    A poet's metaphors in which being would

    Come true, a point in the fire of music where
    Dazzle yields to a clarity and we observe,

    And observing is completing and we are content,
    In a world that shrinks to an immediate whole,

    That we do not need to understand, complete
    Without secret arrangements of it in the mind.
    — Wallace Stevens, excerpt from Description Without Place in Transport to Summer (1947)

    Petroglyph Dreaming becoming integral to the life of the stone, the air, the light and water.  The dreamings are about the observer, the participant, as senses open to place, matter, and the spiral of time.

  • 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)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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)

  • 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?