I think of the land as an enormous historical archive and I am fascinated by the narrative fragments inscribed on its surface. I am most attracted to places that reveal the land as both the field of human endeavor and an agent of historical processes. Climate and geography are determining factors in the formation of cultures: mountains come first, then mountaineers. The Ice Age Project is a study of the physical traces of human activity on the land—the ruins of the near and distant past mapped in the context of the Pleistocene lakes that once covered large portions of the arid American West, a landscape where the bones are nearest to the skin. The lakes have largely disappeared, yet their history is clearly visible in the shorelines, deltas, and beaches inscribed on the mountains and the dry lake beds of the valleys. This land exhibits a terrific paradox: land forms created by massive bodies of fresh water are the defining features of some of the driest areas in North America.
Excerpt from his essay in the FOTOFEST2006 catalogue.
MARK RUWEDEL Ice Age, From the series Written on the Land
Ice Age from the series Written on the Land, shows physical traces of human activity on the land, mapped in the context of the Pleistocene lakes that once covered large portions of the arid American West. The most conservative archaeological estimates suggest 10,500 years of human activity in the Great Basin. As with the natural history of the lakes, the evidence of human history is written on the landscape of the present. Death Valley was the location of Pleistocene Lake Manly. Trails, campsites and other physical traces of hunter-gatherer cultures that lived along Lake Manly’s ancient shorelines are still visible on the surface of this desert environment.
Mark Ruwedel is an artist who divides his time between Long Beach, California, and Vancouver, British Columbia. He taught at Concordia University, Montreal, for twenty years and is at present on the faculty at CalState, Long Beach. Ruwedel’s work is represented in many collections, including: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Contemporary Art; Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey; FNAC, Paris; Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal; and The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. He exhibits and publishes extensively, and has had recent solo exhibitions at Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica, California, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto. A ten-year survey, Written on the Land, was organized in 2002 by Presentation House Gallery, North Vancouver, and has been touring Canada since then. His photographs are featured in Robert Smithson: Spiral Jetty”, recently published by the Dia Art Foundation and University of California Press.