I used to be a pot hunter. I don’t do that anymore. A seeker of ancient pottery. I was interested in lost tribes. Evidence of peoples who have left this space on this particular planet is everywhere.
The spaces we live in are, too, living things. They can accommodate us, challenge us, and reflect all our second selves without our even being aware of it.
I would go to where these ancient villages once existed and see what the space might tell me. I still do this (I just no longer ravage the artifacts). What I am usually interested in is, where is the dump.
It will not be close to running water. It will be set aside but not too far aside. It will be on what boundary lines existed — look for those. The vegetation will be different now. Sometimes, you have to dig for it. Other times, you might kick up bones. And sometimes, the space will simply sing to you.
I have never failed to find the most amazing artifacts. I used to take the artifacts to universities so professors could tell me how old things were. The academics were intrigued but never too amused.
It never failed to stun me when this stuff turned out to be older than the people who had disappeared but was from the people who had disappeared before them or before them.
I was usually sternly reproached for disturbing the past. Depending on location, the legality of it could be nebulous.
I was really not all that interested in the past, but was focused on how the space was used.
Who walked through it and how.
Many of the artifacts I collected were far, far older than anything anyone into archeology had ever seen before considering the space. The timeline is less interesting than the space people left things in.
I don’t know of any culture that made use of shallow graves. Wind and erosion sculpts everything. Even graves.
The Grand Canyon is a graveyard.
Usually, what leaps out in front of me somewhat immediately is the space children played in. From there, entire villages and communities will open themselves up to you.
The Anasazi built ancient roads in the American Southwest. All of them existed so tribes could trade goods with Mexico. The outlines of these roads are still visible. As evidence that our roads, too, will someday be disguised by time. I always find green parrot feathers.
What went on walls. Symbols. Often carved into the wall itself. The dark greyish-blue leaden figures painted on pots reminds me of caves and poison.
You don’t have to touch the artifacts. You can simply inhabit the space for a while which is what the people who came before you did. Beads. Bones. Buttons.
Voices. Listen to the world in which nature, godlike, is as essential to us as it is dismissive of us. The images to such a space can possess the immediacy of snapshots, yet are deliberately devoid of the accidental. Composed as metaphors, they can be imbued with the Sisyphean insistence of a believer bent but not broken by an indomitable world. In this world, trees, grass, rocks, mist, the ocean and the unfathomable deepness of the night sky simultaneously, seemingly paradoxically, comfort and unsettle. And in it, we are reminded that we rise as temporally and transiently as trees, before falling again and becoming a small, permanent part of an infinite eternal.
The goal being an environment that feels unbound and separate from time and the physical world outside, even as it presents a stark distillation of the artist’s relationship with that physical world. A gallery can be the Anasazi road.
I stand in silent places and stare at photographs.