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…”
In Difference and Repetition (1968), Gilles Deleuze writes about the doubleness of consciousness: “It is not enough to say that consciousness is consciousness of something: it is the double of this something, and everything is consciousness because it possesses a double, even if it is far off and very foreign. Repetition is everywhere, as much in what is actualised as in its actualisation.” And even the word “double” suggests a copy whereas it isn’t an exact copy by any means. It’s a strange world of “doubles” in our consciousness. A world of metaphors that are not the thing nor can be said to resemble the thing. Any replication has differences. The so-called copy is something else already “far off and foreign.” A tree is replicated in the woods and replicated in my mind and then both trees replicated into an image and then replicated in any mind that sees this image. But not quite replications. The twin trees are not trees at all, but rather slippery multiplicities.
The illusion of Being can be seen by a silhouette itself, how it can appear like a cut out (the negative space or the void of Being) and yet also have weight and hardness, and, in this case, how the form can mimic other forms like those of a cloud.