Once I got lost in a labyrinth of mirrors whose scale was magnified by the coldest of ambitions. The exterior was the interior. The slick surfaces provided no place to rest. Only in the movies is it as simple as smashing mirrors. These labyrinthine mirrors were more like glassy volcanic rock that had oozed and solidified from a molten core.
Curtains of watery reflections stall by inspiring a strange sense of wonder at how this labyrinth came into existence. At every glance, it tried to convince me that I was staring at myself and asked me to ignore the way it hacked everything up while it distorted the past so I could not keep track of where I had been.
How could anyone find beauty here? Only a great deceiver could have built this. It was under everyone’s nose in this place, but it had already taken them in – to the degree that they did not see how lost they were in it. The confusion became normalized. Some people even wanted to live here because it had lured them in through the fascism of what they found beautiful. But it also trapped people whose idea of beauty sharply contrasted with it. In a sense, this labyrinth was like a black hole behind the empty mirror image sucking everyone in to worship or blaspheme at its altar of power over truth.
A geyser forms a camera obscura with its steam. In a pocket of time, I fell behind the scenes of what I was chasing after. The aperture of my camera pointed at the pinhole of sunlight and its reflection. What I had been chasing disappeared and I found myself somewhere aside from desire and circumstance – somewhere reflecting the smallness of purpose while magnifying the greatness of existence. As the image slipped away from the steam, only a trace fixed the reference to a memory. What shined through the pinhole illuminated the positioning of the subject and shed light on the futile condition of catching what cannot really be caught. And then the moment unfolded into an object-less arena. A reflexive space formed into a fractal pocket. As if I were in a glass ball within others. Looking at a loose iteration of my activity in another sphere. Inside my camera and outside of my body, floating through a hole in the sky.
In Death Valley, forms appear to mimic the hands that sculpted them. As Jean Baudrillard noted in America, “Death Valley is as big and mysterious as ever. Fire, heat, light: all the elements of sacrifice are here. You always have to bring something into the desert to sacrifice, and offer it to the desert as a victim.”
In this strange mirror, a mirage produces a liquid permanence. And this ancient landscape becomes a future landscape as well as a launching point to terrains on other planets, other realities, and other existences, in addition to the seemingly inevitable sacrifice of human existence which as yet does not have the capacity to transcend this landscape. In that way, whenever I go to Death Valley, it’s immensity presses on me and makes me feel like eternity is under the feet of that which it feeds and consciousness appears as some strange simulated virginal sacrifice.
Filtered through the needled curtains, soft light falls on a giant monolith. Under the redwood canopy, it feels like a space sealed off from the rest of existence. The immense dome is paneled by the distant blue sky as if it were stained glass. There is at times an absolute stillness in the air. Like once when I stood in a cathedral and it felt as if I could touch the air itself. And some of the sequoias have altars carved into their base by fire.
Nearby a bear and her cub forage near a fallen tree.
In my favorite film, Solaris, by the phenomenal sculptor of time Andrei Tarkovsky, an alien planet is sentient. More than that, it reads the psychology of anyone who crosses its threshold and has the power to make clones from whoever the person is fixated on. When I take exposures of nature, I often think of Earth in this way (are we not its DNA clones in a sense?). That it is a sentient planet experiencing itself through me. That I am its witness. That any image I expose of it is the image it projects. And through the fog of my consciousness, its primal forms emerge like these ghostly trees.
My favorite quote from the book: “Are we to grow used to the idea that every man relives ancient torments, which are all the more profound because they grow comic with repetition? That human existence should repeat itself, well and good, but that it should report itself like a hackneyed tune, or a record a drunkard keeps playing as he feeds coins into the jukebox…”