Archive for July, 2022

(I Can’t Get No) Liquefaction

July 31, 2022
Emerging from a 50-story underground system of wooden ladders (2016).

Ground materials of certain types – saturated, uncompacted sandy soils, most typically – will lose cohesion when shaken by an earthquake and behave temporarily like liquids. During such episodes, all manner of dramatic curiosities have been witnessed: mud volcanoes and quick clays; colossal, snaking sand blows (the subject of a seismic Urne Buriall I will present at the Denver AAG next year); cars swallowed by parking spaces; utility pipes bent upward like piloerective hairs on the back of a frightened cat.

Years ago, while my friend Geoff and I jawed about mining futures at Devil’s Punchbowl (and the yolk in my skull hard poached), I, ah, floated the idea that liquefaction might be deliberately induced for purposes of uplifting an ore body, or even an archaeological find.

More recently (after pressing palms with David Copperfield), it occurred to me that it might also be possible to induce liquefaction in a field so that a person (this person), buried alive, rises out of the earth. Sort of a reverse image of Keith Arnatt’s Self-Burial (Television Interference Project) or Oddvar I. N. Daren’s Measuring the Depth of Snow – except, you know, actually happening; experienceable (by the onlooker, not just by me) in ways – and at scales, temporal and otherwise – determined by geophysics not Photoshop.

Keith Arnatt – Self-Burial
Oddvar I. N. Daren’s Measuring the Depth of Snow

A spot to do my thing.

July 29, 2022
From the summit of Guadalupe Peak.

Been pondering where exactly I might build an art studio remote enough not to disturb the neighbors with lurching/heaving earth. Someplace where I can park a whisky-stocked double-wide, ride horses and a personal boring machine, induce seismicity, summon lightning, harvest moonlight, dig and refill massive holes, manipulate hydrothermals, and launch purpose-built satellites, etc. as I please.

The Mojave and Sonoran deserts feel like obvious candidates, as do parts of the Colorado Plateau. Another possibility: the Permian Basin.

Back in 2020, after shaving my plague beard on the edge of Ciudad Juárez (with a head full of Marty Robbins and Roberto Bolaño’s 2666), I drove six hundred miles of slate rain through the West Texas wastes listening to Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. Fog bobbed between mesas like a spirit level, a long boxcar train fed a thunderous gatling gun in the distance like a belt of ammunition, and faerie trees were aflame: solitary towers of open fire burning excess natural gas in the otherwise-empty immensity of the prairie.

“They rode on,” but something inside me was snagged on the place.

The year before, in the midst of a trip to Marfa to see Donald Judd’s late work (maximalist context being an externality of Minimalism), Eva, my sister and I had climbed to the highest point of the basin – the summit of Guadalupe Peak (2667 meters) – for a good look around.

300 million years ago, when what is now Texas formed part of Pangea’s western equatorial edge, a narrow channel connected the surrounding superocean to a big inland sea with three arms: the Marfa, Midland, and Delaware basins. The Delaware was approximately 150 miles long and 75 miles across. Starting ~275 million years ago, a thick reef began to form along its rim. The reef developed for millions of years before Hovey Channel began to close. Choked off from the ocean, water in the Delaware Basin evaporated faster than it could be replenished – precipitating its salts out onto the muddy seafloor. Within a few hundred thousand years, the entire basin had filled in with these soft, bedded deposits. The reef was gradually subsumed by dry land. 80 million years ago, however, compressional forces from the Laramide orogeny cracked Texas open, producing huge new faults and uplifting buried sections of the Permian basin thousands of feet in the air. The comparatively soft outer layers of this escarpment have been weathered away, re-exposing a towering marine necropolis.

And I had thought: It might do.

Steep pitches.

July 25, 2022

Embodied geophysics

July 4, 2022
At the rim of Double Negative; original photo taken by Marco Ferrari.