Moving Mountains: Shamanic Rock Art and the International of Experimental Artists

November 24, 2013

Doing an internet search, using the term ‘Bayan Khara Rock Art’, I found an article that I wrote, published back in 1998, is now available online here.

14-a59acaf490It was published in Transgressions: A Journal of Urban Exploration No.4 (Spring 1998). The cover shows Asger Jorn’s text/painting There are more things in the earth of a picture than in the heaven of aesthetic theory (1947-48). A statement of Jorn’s ‘materialist mysticism’, it strikes a chord with the ‘shamanic ethos’ described in my article.

The original article – prospecting the confluence between the heterodox Marxism of a post-war European art movement and a shamanic ‘attitude to life’ – was adapted from a collage/essay I did as part of a Masters project, using material gathered from a field trip to Buryatia in 1995. Much of that material – photographs, tracings – still awaits processing and eventual publication. In the meantime, I’ll post up some of the colour versions of the black-and-white illustrations to the article…

Image (51)

I have my hunting camp in the ruling pine-tree

I have my quarters in the huge pine-tree

I have transformation in the lightning-filled sky

I have my hunting camp in the thundering sky.

Daur shaman’s song for the dolbor (‘night road’) ritual.

Image (53)

Okladnikov and Zaporozhkaya’s recording of rock art at Goltologoy from the 1960s

On the whole, shamanism seems to refuse its own codification, because this would hinder the play of partnership with supernature. 

Roberte Hamayon.

Image (50)

The same panel of rock art at Goltologoy, photographed in 1995 (Simon Crook).

The domain where shamans made use of universal intuitive knowledge was that of human psychology (belief, desire, motivations). Very, very generally, we can observe that the male elders used simple images of external nature in the process of elaborating their own contrived and patriarchal views of social relationships, while shamans employed intuitive understandings of the psychology of human relations at the same time as constructing strange, destabilized visions of a natural world.

Caroline Humphrey.

Ørnens ret. 1951

Asger Jorn, The Eagle’s Share (1951).
O you stone crag, you could not save the life of my only egg.
May you be struck by the blue sky
And become sand and dust
The Song of Baglain Udagan

Fifteen years on, and I suppose I’d approach the article differently; it’s so obviously inflected through an academic lens. For one thing, are the shaman’s ‘strange, destabilized visions’ of the natural world merely a ‘construction’, or part of what Joyce called ‘the chaosmos of Alle anyway connected’? Those reservations aside, it’s great to see it out there…

Even Tungus shaman

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