BLOG: To Become Visible

Public Lands
  • 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/

  • Crucial to finding the way: El Paso Mountains Wilderness

    Crucial to finding the way is this:  there is no beginning or end.
    You must make your own map.  
    Joy Harjo (from the poem A Map to the Next World)

    As we two-leggeds partition to protect, necessary lines are drawn. Often across uneasy vague terrains.  Physical, bio, water-shedding, political.  Following millennial inscriptions of animal and human meanderings.  Then claiming by gridding.

    All this comes to mind as I camp by a line of large boulders placed by heavy equipment along the road.  To the west, a stones throw, the El Paso Mountains Wilderness.  Me, I’m simply on BLM public lands in Kern County, California, ready for first light to hike south to Sheep Springs.  Also on the line.

    The El Paso Mountains are somewhat of an island, the earth exposed, truth-telling.  An island not only criss-crossed with paths and roads, livings and dyings, but divided into OHV roading zones and the no-vehicle El Paso Mountains Wilderness. The numerous rock art sites have been deeply studied and writings and photos are readily available.  This is especially true of the two most extensive places: Sheep Springs and Terese. A few coyote howls apart.

    As the sun illuminates this starkly luminous land, the stones, many bearing petroglyphs, glow.  In the dawning sun rays, some float a polished sheen, metallic, silk smooth. Journeys - of the mind, of the peoples, of time immemorial -  condense into lean carved interweavings. Lines shaping a wandering gaze into patinaed multi-dimensionals.

    Even if we could agree some petroglyphs may be maps, this opens a deeper question:  Map of What? And to complicate this question: what does Map Do? In the Far West, there’s a trove of writings and photos attempting to unravel this, none very convincing. However, we need to go somewhere. Map, Meander, or Imagine.

    Photos:  El Paso Mountains Petroglyphs

  • Time and The Imagined at Carrizo Plain

    You have time. Meaning don't use it, but pass through time in patience, waiting for something to come. Prepare for its arrival. Don’t rush to meet it. Be a conduit. … I felt this to be true. Some people might consider that passivity but I did not. I considered it living. Rachel Kushner [1]

    It’s easier to imagine the end of the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. Michael Robbins [2]

    Camped during mild days in early February 2018 at Carrizo Plain National Monument in California’s southern San Joaquin Valley. It’s easy to follow Rachel Kushner’s advice. The starry sky clearer than clear.  The ground dry yet soft.  The silence swells.  I am a visitor and I feel it.  Though born in southern California and worked teen summers in Arvin near Bakersfield, I have that eyes-wide-open feeling.  I hike, marvel at the stone, the rock paintings, the birds, take pictures, meet a very few people at perfect moments.

    When I returned to Oregon, after luminous nights in the El Paso Mountains north of the Mojave and with a whipping dusty wind in the northern Owens Valley, I read-up on Carrizo Plain. Most urgently I saw described by Los Padres Forest Watch a federal report calls for review of the Carrizo Plain National Monument management plan. [3] 

    How to frame the unfolding context of spirit, place, politics and extraction? The stone erodes. The grass grows high or doesn’t. The wildflower seeds hold patient. The re-introduced pronghorn and elk roam free. Painted rocks fade and fragment, some cut by the various “modern” name-and-initial incisings seen at popular places. Mining, drilling, piping - the inscribed initials of our consumptive nature on this earth. How to imagine?

    Photos:  Carrizo Plain National Monument or https://photos.app.goo.gl/NBWBdLnRCeZu1cW32

    NOTES
    [1] Rachel Kushner, in The Flamethrowers: A novel. Scribner 2013
    [2] Michael Robbins in a Bookforum review (Feb-Mar 2018) of Andreas Malm’s book The Progress of this Storm: Nature and Society In A Warming World. Verso 2018
    https://www.versobooks.com/books/2575-the-progress-of-this-storm
    [3] Los Padres Forest Watch: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s late December release of the “Final Report Summarizing Findings of the Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act.”  In addition to massive boundary reductions and opening some National Monuments to mining, drilling, logging, and industrial-scale commercial fishing, the report calls 27 national monument management plans to be reviewed.  The president’s proclamation and the Department of the Interior’s recommendations represent the largest elimination of protected federal lands and waters in U.S. history.”

  • 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
    [1]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nevada_Test_and_Training_Range
    [2]  http://www.nttrleis.com/index.aspx
    [3]  Pale Blue Dot https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/12/21/reflection/
    [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.  http://www.nevadawilderness.org/dnwr  

    Petroglyphs in the Pahranagat region of southeast Nevada (October-November 2017)
    http://rockartoregon.com/mount-irish-nevada
    http://rockartoregon.com/crystal-ash-nevada
    http://rockartoregon.com/animal-image

    More on rockartoregon.com:  Petroglyphs with animal motifs in Oregon’s northern Great Basin
    http://rockartoregon.com/animal-petroglyphs
    http://rockartoregon.com/animal-petroglyphs-oregon

    Image: Basin and Range National Monument, October 2017

  • Animal Image, Animal Eye

    Images are bodies.  Animal images in art, religion, and dreams are not merely depictions of animals.  Animal images are also showing us images as animals. … If the world presents itself in expressive shapes like animals, then there must be an eye that can see shapes, as animals. To read lines on the face of the world we need animal eye. This eye not only sees man as animal but by means of the animal, seeing each other with an animal eye.  To this eye, image and type appear together. … The animal eye perceives and reacts to the animal image in the other.  James Hillman [1]

    What is this talisman of color, this singular virtue of the visible that makes it, held at the end of the gaze, nonetheless much more than a correlative of my vision, such that it imposes my vision upon me as a continuation of its own sovereign existence? How does it happen that my look, enveloping them, does not hide them, and, finally, that, veiling them, it unveils them? Maurice Merleau-Ponty [2]

    In this darkling season: Animal Images:  Petroglyphs from places in the Pahranagat region of southeast Nevada

    [1] James Hillman. 1986.  Egalitarian Typologies versus the Perception of the Unique, 55-56. 1986.   (above from an extended in excerpt in Blue Fire 68-69.
    [2] Maurice Merleau-Ponty. 1961 (trans 1968).  The Visible and the Invisible: The Intertwining—The Chiasm, 30-55. 
    Hillman’s sentence: “Animal images are also showing us images as animals” may be considered a chiasmus, a cross-over, a mirroring intertwining.

  • 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
    ...
    NOTES
    - 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. www.dictionary.com (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]

    NOTES
    [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)
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/25/travel/gold-butte-nevada-antiquities-act-national-monument.html

    [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
    http://www.hcn.org/articles/interiors-energy-priorities-undergird-sweeping-monuments-review

  • Public Lands, Private Property, Sacred Space 2017

    Guy Debord sees the core of the spectacle as the annihilation of historical knowledge — in particular the destruction of the recent past. In its place there is the reign of a perpetual present. History, he writes, had always been the measure by which novelty was assessed, but whoever is in the business of selling novelty has an interest in destroying the means by which it could be judged. Thus there is a ceaseless appearance of the important, and almost immediately its annihilation and replacement: "That which the spectacle ceases to speak of for three days no longer exists.”  Jonathan Crary [1]

    Among the schemings, positionings, and other-regulatings irrupting this political season, land use, “land transfer” and public lands management are hotly debated.   For example, as reported in Oregon mid-February (2017):   “Four Republican lawmakers want to study the idea of transferring Oregon’s federal public lands to state control.” [2]  Thus far in Oregon a soft landing compared to targeted, aggressive push in some other states (Utah, Wyoming, for example) — and in our country’s Congress.  Whoa. Who’s country? Embodied in this stand-off inheres “property” — partitioned, boundaried, available.  “Country” by contrast suggests a depth and an expanse physical and cognitive.  Spaces as places.  Who uses, owns, extracts, honors, digs, fences, and remembers?  With what degree of lasting, of sacred?

    Rock art is part of the land, of the stone, the earth, indeed, the country.  The indigenous marked places and boundless spaces. Rock art, Indian Land, bearing time, witnessing change, holding close, hardly novel.  Lizard abides.

    Images from an ancient lake-basin now called Abert in Oregon country: Lake Land 

    [1] Jonathan Crary. 2002.  Spectacle, Attention, Counter-Memory, p.463. In Guy Debord and the Situationist International: Texts and Documents. Tom McDonough, ed.  An October book,   Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  

    [2] “Bill considers moving Oregon public land to state control” by Zach Urness, Feb 16 2017  “Fifty-three percent of land in Oregon — 32.6 million acres — is owned by the federal government.”