BLOG: To Become Visible

  • The Marked World 2018

    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)

  • Don’t Bomb The Bighorn

    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) [1] 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. [2]

    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? [3]

    Meanwhile I say: Don’t Bomb the Bighorn   [4]

    Notes & Links
    [3]  Pale Blue Dot
    [4] 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.  

    Petroglyphs in the Pahranagat region of southeast Nevada (October-November 2017)

    More on  Petroglyphs with animal motifs in Oregon’s northern Great Basin

    Image: Basin and Range National Monument, October 2017

  • Solstice Rising

    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

  • Open Range

    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

  • Horizontal Nevada

    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 [1]

    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

    [1] (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.)

  • Rock Art, Rugged Beauty, Targeting

    Bull’s-eye.  1. the circular spot, usually black or outlined in black, at the center of a target marked with concentric circles and used in target practice.  2. a shot that hits this. 3. the center or central area of a military target, as of a town or factory, in a bombing raid. (2017)

    Matter is an aggregate of “images.” And by image we mean a certain existence which is more than that which the idealist calls a representation, but less than that which the realist calls a thing, an existence placed half-way between the “thing” and the” representation.”  Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory (1911)

    We are meddlers born. Caitlin DeSilvey. Curated Decay (2017)

    “Rock Art and Rugged Beauty” reads the headline of the New York Times Travel Section, July 30, 2017.  Gold Butte, in Southeast Nevada, is one of three recently designated monuments explored by three writers is this feature.  Rock art  presented to an international audience as integral to the purpose of our public monuments. [1]

    One photo includes concentric circle petroglyphs, each with two circles. (Image below)  As labeled by the New York Times writer:  “bull’s-eye.”  A convenient Euro-American image of a target. As defined above “bull’s-eye” would literally indicate the center of the inner circle.  Where does meaning reside? [2] [3]

    Consider some of the sentences in the Gold Butte article:
    - “The bighorn is considered one of the greatest trophies among modern hunters.”
    - “The signs are peppered with bullet holes. This is a common affliction among signs in the Gold Butte area.”
    - “Gambel’s quail flushed off to my side. They are prized game birds among Western upland hunters.”
    - “I hiked around and found … water tanks, an old stovetop range, a collapsed corral, metal drums …  Most of these items had been used for target practice.”

    Targeting. In these times allusion to targets, hunting, and shooting may be sharply fitting.  On July 30, the day the Gold Butte article was published, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spoke at a news conference near Gold Butte National Monument in Bunkerville, Nevada.  Zinke was finishing a review swing through Western states and as per an executive order must have recommendations for 27 recent U.S. monuments by August 24. [4]

    [1] In Gold Butte in Nevada, Ancient Rock Art and Rugged Beauty: The national monument, which the Trump administration is reassessing, is full of life — Joshua trees, prairie falcons — and stunning petroglyphs. (online version) by James Card, July 25, 2017. (IMAGE BELOW)

    [2]  “Bull’s eye” occasionally appears in rock art studies.  For example, Loendorf and Loendorf describe petroglyphs with a central dot and one or more concentric circles as bull’s eye. They expand: “Among the world's cultures, concentric circles and bull's eyes are generally associated with the sun, water, whirlpools, and earth centers.  The association of the motifs with two apparent opposites like sun and water is somewhat hard to understand, but sun and water are frequently juxtaposed.”  Larry Loendorf and Chris Loendorf . 1995. With Zig-Zag Lines I’m Painted: Hohokam petroglyphs on Tempe Butte, Arizona. 130-131

    [3]. The NYT writer labels another figure: tortoise.  An image of a quadruped perhaps touching or perhaps touched by an arching double half-circle.  What is claimed by “tortoise?”  Whether this was intended by the original carver as “tortoise,” “rainbow, “coyote,” the question ever emerges: with what cultural meaning?  Say it is a tortoise. Is this meant as representation?  Does a tortoise imply a sacred presence? Food? Tenacity? A clan? If an image of a rainbow, a prayer for rain, gratitude for rain? for sun and rain? For patience! A chain of speculation.  I suggest:  simply look.  If a tortoise, she/he will speak.

    [4]  Amid monument review, a pro-energy Interior emerges: Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke is filling his office with extractive industry insiders. Tay Wiles, Aug. 1, 2017, High Country News

  • Winging It, Wringing It

    Rock art is tough; simultaneously fragile — enduring and fragmenting, an embodied tension balancing ancient elements and human articulation.

    Another dense layer arrives, dusty, drenching.  A willful squeezing and welling.  This now — politically, power driven jolts as actions by the new federal administration this month (January 2017) accelerate a lasting degradation of the natural environment as we think of it.

    This is real as well for archaeological places including rock art.

    In the short term, for example, management and information about public lands will be constricted with reduced oversight and protections. Long term?  Pressure for further extraction:  minerals, water, trees, gas, feed for livestock for meat.  Disruption, pollution and poisoning as expediencies of demand, yield and profit. A logic of more and more people, all needing, desiring, taking. Global heating, and its attendant climate change, already inevitable, becomes more abstract with fault deflected to the Other.

    This land, this earth, like carved expressions in stone, embodies tension — our winging abode of starry clarity and shrouded mystery.

    Three photos below (Douglas Beauchamp September 2016)
    Note: Oregon's Harney County is contiguous with Sheldon in Nevada.

    Petroglyph, BLM lands, Harney County; note lizard upper left
    Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. Sage Grouse Wings sign; barrel left
    Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. Sage Grouse collection barrel, each envelope a wing.

  • Wading into the River called Carson

    They say the world is spinning around
    I say the world is upside down
    They say the world is spinning around
    I say the world is upside down
    Joe Higgs [1]

    The sign says fishing permitted.  As long as you do not eat them.  Wading into the River called Carson* quickly becomes surprising and a bit mucky.  Why even try? For me, it is not for fishing. It is to sense place, in the two senses of sensual and common. And to simply cross the river to the dark boulders — the petroglyphs active and dense, the stone deeply imbued with water and wind, the landscapes clear and compelling.  

    Recent history, in this case 1859-1861 with slight detours into the early 20th century, becomes an confounding thicket for an outsider — like me from Oregon country.
    — Carson River, toxic enough to be Nevada’s only Superfund site. Gold and silver discovered in 1859 Comstock immediately spawned an rough influx of seekers. Mercury imported to extract the metal became part of the effluent, 15 million pounds in refuse, penetrating and contaminating river and basin waters as far as the Stillwater Marshes in the northern Carson basin.  Poisonous quicksilver,  accumulating in tissues, is a health risk. [2]
     — A violent incident at a “a stage and grog stop” in May 1860 catalyzed increasing tensions between the Paiutes and encroaching miners and settlers.  This incident occurred along the Carson River not far from this petroglyph site and launched the brief and deadly Pyramid Lake War. [3]
    — During the winter flood of  1861-1862 Mark Twain lodged for a few harrowing days at the above stage stop, Honey Lake Smith’s, described in Twain’s 1872 “personal narrative” Roughing It (217-228).
    — In the early 20th century extensive water projects diverted, channeled, and dammed the lower river directly affecting the lands and scapes surrounding this distinctive petroglyph place. [4]  

    World Spinning around.  Upside down.  

    For close-up photos of selected:  Carson River Petroglyphs   

    *This river’s modern name?  Bestowed by John C. Fremont in the 1840s to honor scout and “Indian fighter” (aka “Indian killer”) Kit Carson.
    {1] The 1970s single by Joe Higgs, father of Reggae: The World Is Upside Down  (YouTube)
    [2] “Mercury-contaminated sediments in the Carson River, Lahontan Reservoir, Carson Lake, and Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge are the cause of elevated levels of mercury in fish and wildlife in and near the contaminated areas. The contamination presents a health risk to those who consume mercury-contaminated fish.”  EPA Carson River Mercury
    [3] Jerome Edwards recounts a version on the Nevada Humanities website. Pyramid Lake War 
    [4] Water in the West - more than complex.  For the Carson and Truckee Rivers, two places to begin:  The Newlands Project  & Pyramid Lake/Truckee-Carson Water Rights Settlement (1990)