Cham des Bondons  

10 August 2020 18:59

The stones on the high ground above la Vaissière (la Fare) lead you up along the ridge: separately or in small groups. On the way down, from the deep valley of Le Briançon, you can still see the large menhirs of Colobrières on the opposite ridge in the image above. The stones set up lines of communication between them and shape your attention to the surrounding terrain. The menhir field seems to lie beyond and above the abandoned terraces of the valley, and you have the sense of entering a rigorous zone - first in very dry heat - then later, coming down, in heavy rain, with big drops turning to hail. The stones recall radio transmission points, setting up fields of force and communication in a network across the open ground. The purposes or specific contexts of the work seem unclear, of uncertain significance, while the impressions made by the stones themselves as they have been re-positioned with rough cast footings, are vivid. Typically one face is heavily encrusted with lichens, while the other is bare. The imported schists contrast with the local limestone, suggesting great density, with embedded crystals in places at the surface. The surfaces are matt, semi reflective in parts, heavily weathered over long time periods, evoking longer, much deeper reservoirs of time in the periods before their quarrying and installation. Traces of working are scarcely visible as marks, so the stones seem part way between made and found objects. Nevertheless they are highly expressive: in some cases they have clear anthropomorphic registers, eg with two stones of different sizes, one slightly bent and inclined towards the other, as if from the waist. The other, smaller stone, could be a smaller figure and or more distant. A sense at once evocative of human presences, and highly abstract, you think. The arrangement of the stones along the ridge conveys a passage: you are drawn up to them and along the line, passing from one to the next group or pair. The stones are in line of sight one to another and they evoke the sense of multiple interferences and exchanges, implying complex relationships of perspective and scale. At the same time the stones remain radically open, you think, to different kinds of receptions. In particular, speculations about their uses, values and significance for the makers, the details of their cutting, transportation and installation, etc, seem both quite random and clearly linked to concerns of whichever period the amateurs or professionals belong to who are throwing these theories out. Something about the stones utterly escapes such speculation, you think. Something about them even escapes, it seems, the fact that at some point or points they have been found fallen (couchés), and have been set back up, according to what logic you have no idea. This rough handling doesn't really touch them, you think, the way a child can be bundled up by somebody who doesn't know them, who is not tuned to them, and they sit there looking out in a state of radical independence and surprise. How the stones convey or embody such intense alterity and such familiarity, like the most basic everyday objects of use, is something - in those high, open fields. Brown grasses, vegetation almost totally dessicated; a few of those large flat yellow thistles, visited by bees. In the same way, the appearance of the stones across the open ground configures your own movements, as a group of five, different shapes and heights - now in a line, now in a shifting group. As if your own ephemeral passage corresponds obliquely to this other, previous choreography, established at rates barely perceptible, like the movement of plant communities over the surface of the ground, which itself comes into relief, as the light especially moves across its ridges and slopes, sometimes, from some angles, revealing unseen furrowing or terracing - then masked. Longer seasonal cycles are evoked, with the stones among young vegetation or partly buried in snow or ice. Much longer climatic shifts are simply comprised and bracketed within the work, in the barely measurable spread of lichens across the face of the stones on one side, of the gradual subsidence or inclination of certain stones, or the long periods of recumbency, while stones lie like deep space beacons, through whole periods of human history in which you can imagine they are of no interest whatsoever, awaiting detection, and reinstatement - lifting - by self styled experts, public employees, volunteers. This combination of size and force with total incapacity, total dependency in a lithic state, presents a great opportunity and almost a magnetic force drawing projection, so your own concerns become strangely and strongly mobilized, moving among dumb rocks, across rustling fields of dry grass.

Then you dropped down off the ridge and cut short the circuit as it was getting late and you were a long way from the start point and you had a drive to get back to where you were camping. So you came down and found the cattle with their bells in the valley, with the menhir of Colobrières still visible on the ridge above, telegraph poles and lines, 2 main channels and then a bellowing sound, something giving birth, M said, or something, M thought, in a 3rd channel, M said, and just after that, turning back along the small tarmac road, a torrential downpour of rain from the dark thick clouds until you were totally wet. When you got back to the van you changed into your dry swim suits, and drove back over the mountains to Domaine des Pradines by Lanuéjols - all that time aware of the stones in their fields - and now - and made spaghetti and went to sleep in your tents.


Cambria Road Projects
Bruno Marc: Dolmens et Menhirs des Cévennes, Nouvelles Presses du Languedoc
Steven Feld: Time of Bells