Topographic Actions?

There has never been much evidence that orthodox associates of the Order of the Third Bird have engaged in any sustained way in “Birdish” practices of attention to natural landforms — or, indeed, to “natural” objects more generally. While a number of “divergent” tendencies (one thinks immediately of the twentieth-century Russian “Korfians,” about whom Justin E. H. Smith and others have written at some length; and on the “Oannes Scrap” and the activities of M.I. Return Maycomb in the 1820s and 30s) have arisen that do indeed perform attentional rites on the night sky, the ocean surface, horizon-lines, and various other non-canonical objects, the basic widely accepted rubric for the Practice has long been that devotees attend on “objects made to be seen.”  This seems to have been interpreted widely, and admitted also of other sensory modalities.  But the notion of “intent” has been paramount.  In this context, doing a Bird Action on a natural object (a tree, say, or ordinary rock) can been understood to raise theological questions of some depth.

Working the edge of this problem has been a preoccupation of several known volées operating in North America and Western Europe since the 1960s, and we have secondhand reports (in the W-Cache and in oral traditions) of active debates around the suitability of a bonsai tree as a “Work” in the sense acknowledged by the main line of the Avis Tertia (the preponderance of collective opinion on this was affirmative).  Another striking “boundary case” has been Robert Irwin’s epochal “String Drawing – Filtered Light” of 1976 (a delimited patch of grass in the garden of the Venice Biennial, which heralded the young Irwin’s move to the thresholds of direct sensory experience via bracketed bits of the world). There has long been a rumor that a Southern California volée performs an annual Action upon a pastiche of this work installed anew every May near Twenty-Nine Palms in Wonder Valley.  There seem to be a small number of dissenters who, in a ritualized (and apparently friendly) manner, “protest” this Action every year.  Both groups finish the day with a cookout, if these reports are to be believed.

All of this makes the present photograph of interest.  It came to light in 2015, in materials related to the estate of a Los Angeles researcher long associated with ESTAR(SER).  It would appear to represent an Action of associates of the Order working in Ohio in the mid-1920s, using a “Protocol for Topography” that has not been preserved.  Anyone in possession of information that might bear on this document is encouraged to follow up with the Editor of the Communiqués directly.