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  • Entanglement: An Incidental Inquiry

    “Caught in the affectIve entanglements of inquiry, it becomes unclear who is animating what and what is animating whom.”   Natasha Myers [1]

    Artifacts, evidences, entangle not only inquiry but the very ground.  Ground in the sense of the foundation of what we see and believe to be true. Each particular extends away to the edge, to a between, to a curve out of sight.  Evidence always implicates its source, its placement, its sedimentation.

    As Tim Ingold reminds us, “The environment comprises not the surroundings of the organism but a zone of entanglement. Life in the open, far from being contained within bounded places, threads its way along paths through the weather world.”[2]

    The photo-images assembled in the Evidence:Entanglement, an incidental inquiry, were recorded during a few days in November 2019 adrift in borderlands of Oregon-California-Nevada, the conjured Three-Corners.  These lines from Wallace Stevens’s A Postcard from the Volcano come to mind:

    And least will guess that with our bones  
    We left much more, left what still is  
    The look of things, left what we felt

    At what we saw.

    [1]  Natasha Myers, from Becoming Sensor in Sentient Worlds, in Between Matter and Method Encounters In Anthropology and Art (2018), Editors: Gretchen Bakke and Marina Peterson.
    [2] Tim Ingold, "Bindings against boundaries: entanglements of life in an open world" (2008). In Environment and Planning (journal).
    
[3] Wallace Stevens, "A Postcard from the Volcano" (1923) in Collected Poems (1954).
    Photo above: Petroglyph, Canyon Wall
    Photo below:  Tower anchor, Pacific Intertie - Powerline conveying electrical current from hydropower (The Dalles Dam on The Columbia River) to 2 million homes in Los Angeles.

  • An Absence of Eyes

    Among the ten of thousands of petroglyphs in the Northern Great Basin you will not see eyes.  No human-like faces or forms with prominent eyes looking out.  Peering at you or past you. Yet, despite many rock art researchers obsession with typologies, styles, and motifs, this simple broad – even breathtaking - difference has not been studied or explained.

    The absence of eyes in the rock art of southeastern Oregon and contiguous regions in the Great Basin is a compelling visual cultural distinction, indeed perhaps a defining and characteristic difference, from the powerful presence of eyes in rock art and other art forms of the traditional cultures of Columbia River Basin and the Northwest Coast.

    Australian archaeologist Ben Watson offers an intriguing discussion, with a range of visual examples, of anthropomorphic faces with prominent eyes appearing in prehistoric rock art.  An emphasis of a frontal view with a high degree of symmetry derives from human perception and recognition, he argues. Watson highlights hunter-gatherer societies in many regions of the world and easily acknowledges faces with prominent eyes are comparatively rare in some regions [1].

    For decades anthropologists have studied cultural change and the dynamics of human movements and influences spanning many millennia throughout the intermountain realms of the Columbia Plateau and Great Basin [2]. I hope they will look more closely at eyes – or their absence [3].  Rock art, ever elusive, is there to be seen.

    [1] Watson, Ben. "The eyes have it: human perception and anthropomorphic faces in world rock art." Antiquity 85, no. 327 (2011): 87-98.

     (2] For example, the work of Luther Cressman, Mel Aikens and others at the University of Oregon and most recently the work of James C. Chatters, Kenneth Ames, Charlotte Beck, and George T. Jones, in books such as Meetings at the Margins: Prehistoric Cultural Interactions in the Intermountain West (2012) and From the Pleistocene to the Holocene: human organization and cultural transformations in prehistoric North America (2012). Also of interest: Don Hann’s 2013 paper “Is the Medium the Message?  Petroglyphs and Pictographs as Cultural Markers at the Interface of the Great Basin and Columbia Plateau in Oregon.” IFRAO 2013 Proceedings, American Indian Rock Art, Volume 40.

    [3] There IS a curious exception - in the northernmost Great Basin near Petroglyph Lake on the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge.  See Eyes album.  More:  Eyes Petroglyphs along Puget Sound  and the July 19, 2013 blog.