From my forthcoming book, How Is Travel a Folded Form?:
Notes on Inscription
An oral epic singer from Tibet named Grags-pa seng-ge who, though illiterate, composes by staring at a blank sheet of paper. S.S.: “It is a bright screen which is part of his singing equipment.”[i]
(Writing cast in many cultures as an act of literal world-making, enacting and calling forth power, not just recording it. The world in the exchange between the pen and the page; without one, the other cannot exist.)
“By cultivating the desert soil, they in fact repeated the act of the gods, who organized chaos by giving it forms and norms.”[ii]
Response to a space seen as empty: inscribe it.
Thinking a sheet of paper was blank, we wrote our names on it. The desert was empty of water; they irrigated it, writing long rows of alfalfa and corn. Thinking the West was empty of civilization, they freely deeded the land to any willing settler, including some whose role was to plant trees in order to make the plains look more like the Eastern forests. Out there, west of Salt Lake City, people spell their names in rocks on the moist white salt flats called Bonneville.
[i] Stephanie Strickland, “Retuning Time and Space in Digital Media.” Talk at Brown University, Providence, RI, Feb. 18, 2004.
[ii] Eliade, 11.