Sunday, October 5, 2008

Day 107: Ancient Lake

Pyramid Lake on the Paiute Reservation

The conference is over! You can read the entire archive here.
We had our first experience of Nevada beyond the NMA auditorium and Reno casinos yesterday, the locations that have grown quite familiar over the last two days. The Museum organized a excursion to the Paiute Reservation for the afternoon, about 30 miles outside of Reno. Ben and Ralph of the Paiute Tribe (who were the first presenters of yesterday's conference) and Peter Gion, author of Nuclear Landscapes, were our guides. We took a long bus ride around the lake and then trekked through sandy dirt to the edge of Pyramid Lake, right at sunset. Pyramid Lake is an ancient lake that was once part of Lake Lahontan, which covered most of Nevada 10,000 years ago. We sat at the edge of the lake and heard the Paiute origin story. The excursion was a sound conclusion to the conference, delving into the deep and complex history of the area and pairing this history with the struggles that the Paiute are now experiencing around water issues with the lake.

Today we embark upon the next chapter of our project, Testing Ground, which puts us in motion for the next 13 days.


pisces76 said...

In revising my paper on Gayatri Spivak's references
to 'ghost dance' in her book Death of a Discipline I looked up the wikipedia entry for this term. The entry speaks about the Nevada Paiute. Here it is:

Noted in historical accounts as the Ghost Dance of 1890, the Ghost Dance was a religious movement incorporated into numerous Native American belief systems. The traditional ritual used in the Ghost Dance, the circle dance, has been used by many Native Americans since prehistoric times, but was first performed in accordance with Jack Wilson's teachings among the Nevada Paiute in 1889. The practice swept throughout much of the American West, quickly reaching areas of California and Oklahoma. As the Ghost Dance spread from its original source, Native American tribes synthesized selective aspects of the ritual with their own beliefs, often creating change in both the society that integrated it and the ritual itself.
At the core of the movement was the prophet of peace Jack Wilson, known as Wovoka among the Paiute, who prophesied a peaceful end to white American expansion while preaching messages of clean living, an honest life, and cross-cultural cooperation. Perhaps the best known facet of the Ghost Dance movement is the role it reportedly played in instigating the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890, which resulted in the deaths of at least 153 Lakota Sioux.[1] The Sioux variation on the Ghost Dance tended towards millenarianism, an innovation which distinguished the Sioux interpretation from Jack Wilson's original teachings.

Ann Wolfe said...

In conjunction with his exhibition Mushrooms|Clouds at the Nevada Museum of Art, British artist Chris Drury etched a circular, spiraling form onto the surface of Winnemucca Dry Lake—located adjacent to Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation in northern Nevada. The desert drawing has multiple metaphorical resonances—including Wovoka’s Ghost Dance.

The vacant alkali surface of Winnemucca Lake offered Drury a grand stage upon which to metaphorically collapse layers of ecological, cultural, and political histories, thus revealing the location’s complex and storied past. In May 2008, Drury proposed the creation of a large-scale drawing, Winnemucca Whirlwind, on the surface of the dry lake bed. Although Drury obtained permission to create Winnemucca Whirlwind within the boundaries of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation, he chose instead to undertake the installation on restricted BLM land in an effort to “symbolically re-claim” the lake for Native Americans and to metaphorically convey the political and cultural whirlwind they have been embroiled in over the past century. The spiraling whirlwind form—a motif that Drury has looked to time and again in his work—has been used by artists and cultures around the world to denote vital energy and is especially significant to Native American cultures, who have integrated the pattern into basket designs, petroglyphs, and ceremonial songs and dances for millennia. In fact, the legendary Native American Ghost Dance, first introduced by a northern Nevada Paiute prophet named Wovoka in the 1870s, takes the form of a spiraling circular gathering. The words recited during the ceremony anticipate a future of positive ecological change brought about by the cleansing powers of the whirlwind:

The wind stirs the willows, the wind stirs the willows,
The wind stirs the grasses, the wind stirs the grasses.
The whirlwind! The whirlwind!
The snowy earth comes gliding, the snowy earth comes gliding.

Drury’s Winnemucca Whirlwind project:

Wyatt Hough said...

This isn't so much about actually being in Nevada, but I was curious about your technique of 'capturing' moment through polaroids. How do you feel about polaroid being discontinued, and what attracts you to that medium. I notice that after the polaroid you take a digital image of both the site and the photograph. It's almost like a transgression of technology, reality, to a tangible photograph to a digital image uploaded to the world wide web.

jamie said...

Hi Wyatt,
thanks for asking. I am definitely going to miss polaroids. I have been using them for a couple of years, and find that I interact with them more meaningfully than digital photos. I really consider the context and subject matter before taking one (due to cost and to just knowing I am going to have a material object to then care for). I also find that I go back and look at the polaroids more often then the 1000s of digital photos that I have. They feel like they come right from the place, time, and light that I take them. I have been experimenting with taking digital photos of the polaroids as a way to making the polaroid less precious, less of an art object (since it can then be easily and affordably reproduced) and to offer up a way of looking at the original subject matter in a way that acknowledges my act of documenting it. I'm interested in taking the subject of onepolaroid and documenting it (digitally) within a new context that might make for interesting juxtapositions. I haven't done that yet on the trip, but I look forward to finding the right moment to do so.