BLOG: To Become Visible

IMAGE-Imaginal
  • 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?