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LEFT AT RED OX
Victor Ivens has been my friend for many years. His researches into the discoveries of Samuel Bastion has intrigued us both.
To aid in these researches we decided to publish this small book.
My role was one of liaison, facilitator and friend.
a twist of the head
of Man, Beast
The Garden of Many Possibilities
or set you free
" ...perhaps one of the strangest lost sculpture
gardens is that of Samuel Bastion's "Market of
the Ways", in "The Garden of Many Possibilities".
Bastion purported to have found a valley of sculptures
somewhere in the province of Rio Negro in Argentina.
His journal describes a labyrinthine valley of monuments
used as a market place by the local inhabitants.
He intimates a magical or metaphysical power to the
The last entry in his journal belongs in history's
lexicon of enigmatic famous last words.
"... turn left at red Ox three sculpts. (sic)
No footnotes, references or other leads were offered in this article.
The journal is bound in leather, 8 1/2 "x 5 1/2", with a leather flap and thong to tie it up. Imprinted on the rear inner cover is the marque; Ferrano Cie., S.A., Buenos Aires. The frontispiece is inscribed in Bastion's handwriting:
property of ;
The first fifteen pages contained notes of appointments, dinner dates, expenses etc. Typical entries are as follows:
Met H. in Zino's. Discussed trip to Rio Negro. Problem
with delivery of poles due to weather. Dinner at Ambassador's 9:30
slight cold weather clearing wired de Baca progress made
on line from Bahia south. Surveying crew delayed.
25 pesos lodging
19 p tickets
250 p to date
From the first 15 pages one can deduce that Bastion was employed by the Minister of the Interior as an engineer working on the telegraph system then being installed in the southern reaches of Argentina. They fail to give much of an impression of his character or interests. The journal was used mainly as an appointment book and or log. His entries are in english. Researches on my part revealed that the Argentines employed quite a few foreigners on their development projects. Whether he was English, American or Canadian is not known. His reference to New Orleans and various idioms suggest that he had travelled in the United States. The journal contains no evidence that Bastion had a poetical bent or any metaphysical leanings. He seems to have been a rather straight forward sort of fellow. One might even say rather boring.
dinner with minister and major ranchers of area. Heard story of Mercado de los Vias from wife of Hernando de Baca foreman of Del Oro ranch
discussed Market of the Ways with Jorge Mendoza muleteer, gaucho etc. he's planning trip to Market soon. Maria off today christening must get gift
lunch with M. discussed leave in 10 days time not a problem due to weather and delays must write H.
started early from Q. long day dry not too cold.
brisk saddle sore Serena (our donkey) troublesome
arrived at Gardens most excited but tired. Sculptures unlike anyhting I've seen before. crude flat boxy yet very recognizable depictions of animals, people etc. Quite a find. Reminds me of cemeteries in New Orleans not so ornamental or architectural more sculptural. I cooked Serena much happier to be off trail
we made camp last evening at the lower end of the valley. Jorge led us to a small plaza that had a fountain, water flowed freom the trunk of an elephant into a gutter running around the base. From some rings in a base opposite and about 30 ft. away from the fountain I stretched my tarp and laid my bed roll. In back and to the side of the E fountain was a monument to the leg of some colossal god. It was here that we tied and fed the animals. Jorge showed me a sculpture with three fat men discussing atop it that served as an outhouse. Jorge cooked last of the jerked beef
The Garden consists of about 3 long acres of sloping ground at the bottom of a ravine. It's about twice as long as it is wide and opens to the west into arroyos. Nothing of it is visible from the surrounding scrub covered table land.
A narrow trail snakes down and into the valley on the southern slope. It debouches at the head or eastern end of this box canyon where a small stream has been dammed into a reservoir. This reservoir feeds by ingenous methods the various fantastic fountains of the Garden.
The sculptures or monuments that litter this valley floor are of varying heights, shapes and colors. They for the most part consist of a base topped with figures or statues.
The bases are free of ornament except for some eyebolts, rings, and other forms of attachment. They are simple and utilitarian. The bases consist of a few tiers of descending size and varying heights, a body, or trunk, and a stepped capital. I explore for the most part of the day and sketch in the late afternoon am fascinated will send letter with Jorge to H.
The figures or statues on top of these varied bases are of all types. There are animals; elephants, jaguars, donkeys, lions, sheep, oxen, there are imaginary beasts that combine different animal and human parts. There are human representations; male, female, old, fat, slim. All the figures, animal and human, are in various formal and informal positions. They are caught in all sorts of bodily expression they embrace, battle, walk, run in twos threes, some bases have as many as 8 or 9 figures atop them, men women animals half men, winged creatures etc., there are life size figures as well as colossal parts of bodies, a foot an arm a huge nose with flaring nostrils a gigantic torso of a female mainly consisting of breasts.
The sculptural style of these figures follow the style of the bases. They are boxy flat unornamented un-rounded. It's as if a flat slab of rock 2" to 8" thick were cut along the outline of any given figure and stood on edge. On some statues the arms or a leg are applied to the torso giving the figure a sense of depth.
The monuments at the head of the Avenue nearest the reservoir appear to have been made of stone or a stone-like substance.
The monuments nearest the western end seem to be constructed of sheet metal. There are even corrugated pieces included on some of the bases and columns. Some show seams as if panels were made from smaller sheets pieced together. Tin cans flattened and joined.
It is difficult to discern what combination of materials were used in the construction of some of the monuments as they have been painted many times in earthen hues tinged with slightly different shades of blues, greens, ochres and chalky reds.
The've employed a crude yet ingenious method of supplying water from the reservoir to the various fountains. The higher fountains nearest the reservoir have reservoirs within them at their tops. These reservoirs feed the fountains below them as well as supply water to thir own troughs and basins. The overflow from the troughs and basins drain into an at times open gutter that drains out the western end of the Valley into the arroyos. Each fountain is thus supplied with fresh water and enough pressure to permit varied flumes and spouts.
The atmosphere of the Garden is less architectual than magically sculptural. At any point within the Garden one can stop and wonder at the meaning of the sculptures around one. There might be a huge foot opposite a scene of three men battling a giant snake catty cornered to a centaur rearing up against an amazon next to a monument to donkey which is across from two figures embracing passionately. A melange of images that together describe a mood, an idea, perhaps evoke a question or an answer. The scale and thickness of the figures vary. The images at times combine to imply a situation or could be read as a moment in some one's life or a spark of vaguely remembered emotion or dream.
Today was cloudy slight rain showers. I'm getting a deeper sense of the Gardens. Walking by a certain corner one might feel the magic exhilaration of an evening's first drink or the liquid disassociation of the moment before deep sleep. One might experience the waft of memory of the first sight and smell of a foreign town or the exultant, infinite possibilities of a new love.
If in one place one feels an uncomfortable barrage of images it only takes a few steps to escape to a less harassing area
Some alleys exude an aura of peace and serenity.
Some alleys cannot even be entered.
Am enjoying myself immensely exploring and taking these notes
Jorge says there are many names for the Gardens he favors the Garden of Many Possibilities but says its also known as the Market of the Ways, the Village of Monuments etc.
Today was market day. What a sight to behold. All morning people were arriving and setting up shop. I was amazed to see that many of the apparently solid bases had sides that louvered up to create shade. The interior of the bases became small shops. The shop keepers at times sling tarps from base to base making covered walks on some of the side streets. The aroma of grilling meats and vegetables waft over the Garden. A haze of smoke covers certain quarters. Some of the sculptures act as chimneys for the grills within the bases. There is an overall din punctuated by intermmitent hammering and snatches of rhythmic drumming. Upon investigating I discovered that in the lower northern portion of the Garden is a quarter where artisans are busily flattening, riveting, bending and joining tin cans, oil drums and any variety of metal objects. On one side below a statue of a rhinoceros, artisans were piecing together a base for a monument. When asked what they were making they told me it was to be a monument to thirst(?) with a statue of a camel on top. There was some discussion about whether a crawling man would be better much laughter and gesticulating.
I've become friends with Onesimo an ancient fellow who seems to one of the sculpture masters. It is he who has explained the hierarchy of laborers to me. There is an apprentice system involving initiation rites and a guild system involving different levels of what he calls awarenesses. He rattled off a litany of street and plaza names that he called the Path of the Hand which he says differs from various other Paths like the Road of Warriors or Street of Dreams or Song of Many Laughters. He says there are many Paths or Streets or Ways but that they all lead to the Plaza of Alternative Perception.
The apprentices come every market day and stay for a couple of days working on different aspects of the sculptures.
Jorge left this morning, Serena loaded with fruits and vegetables. He will return to pick me up next market day. O. says he'll be going home tomorrow. He took me today to the Plaza of Alternative Perception. It is a small plazuela not unlike some others we passed (if any can be like another as the monuments are always different in each). I mentioned to him that this plaza was marvelous but I failed to see why it was more or less important than any other. He replied that that was true, that each plaza's power depends on the route taken to it(?). The Road of the Blind Wanderer we had taken to get there was the reason I hadn't noticed the difference this Plaza embodied. He offered to take me again next market day but by a different route and warned me that if I wandered here on my own there might be some danger. When I quizzed him on the nature of this danger he laughed and said the Path of the Blind Wanderer was a difficult path from which to lose one's way and that I shouldn't worry.
It is somewhat eerie to be camping alone. Made dinner with provisions purchased during market day. There are sounds coming from different quarters of the Gardens of people at various tasks. There is some singing coming from the Quarter of Delights, a rather seedy section in the southern back streets a bit east of me. Am anxious to rise early and explore
Had an odd experience today. I was wandering past the statue of the red minotaur when a great malaise came over me. I felt a great ague throughout my body and a depressing lethargy. As I stumbled on a few feet the feeling lifted and as I wiped my brow I noticed that the sun, previously beaming from the eastern morning sky, was now overhead, if not slightly drifted to the west. I thought I had just had a short bout of indigestion or something and had gotten turned around but on regaining the Avenue realized it was quite past noon. Came back to camp to rest and to record this occurence. Tomorrow I intend to return to the , for want of a better name, street of the minotaur.
Wound my way to minotaur from different direction less oppressive in fact had feeling of elation. Experimented with original route only lost an hour or so this time. I feel I'm getting somewhere within myself. An intuitional feeling of progress not only in understanding this Garden of Many Possibilities but within myself as well.
Remembered something O. told me. . That the sculptures here aren't really monuments as such but are instructions. That one sculpture in particular that he brought me to was not as it appeared, a depiction of various fellows walking together, but was actually a depiction of a series of moves or positions.
Tried some of the positions. Gained access past Minotaur. One alley repelled me. The Street of Women helped. Helped what? Am becoming concerned I seem to be spending more of my time observing, feeling in introspection. Not really introspection more an exospection. An Assyrian winged bull with a human head is much in my thoughts
Got a glimpse of the Plaza of Alternative Perception today. Note on statue of long armed goddess that I am to meet O. tomorrow Plaza of Alternative Perception turn left at red ox three sculpts down left at Green Woman second rt 1:00
Thus ends the journal. How it got into the papers of Rodriguez is unknown.
I've attempted to find out more without much success. I would be most appreciative of any information pertaining to the Gardens.
I've tentatively planned an expedition to the interior of Argentina in August 1995.
Click here to view a
FACSIMILE OF THE
JOURNAL OF SAMUEL BASTION