catalogue number: hdv 1999.111.3
date created: (1999) 2001-2012
classification: installations
work type installation
medium: engraved signs, words and dots, gold leaf on rocks
dimensions: variable
signature and inscriptions: uninscribed
current repository: around Digne-les-Bains, France
current repository number:
collecting history:
related works: herman de vries has created traces of the same kind in the woods and quarries of the Steigerwald
comment: list of all 'traces': ambulo ergo sum (1999-2001) | siau dins tot ço que viu (1999-2003, Vieil Esclangon) | infini rotas (2002-2005, Vieil Esclangon) | sator / arepo / tenet / opera / rotas (2002-2005, Vieil Esclangon) | sylvain est ici (2003-2009) | ainsi (2004-2006) | ars vivens (2004-2006) | chance/change (2004-2006) | ici est partout (2004-2007, Piste de Tercier) | ici l’honnorable docteur honnorat a herborisé vers 1810 (2004-2006) | natura numquat [sic] errat (2004-2006) | ouroboros (2004-2005, Vaux) | pantha rei (2004-2006) | perfect [sanskrit] (2004-2006) | quoi/pourquoi/d’ou/vers ou (2004, Portes d’Entrages) | sic nunc hic (2004-2006, Pas de Boudillon) | to be/to be/all/to be/all ways/to be (2004-2006) | veritas existentiae (2004-2007) | all (2006-2007) | wu wei [chinese] (2006-2007) | ceci est parfait. cela est parfait. le parfait vient du parfait. prends le parfait, il reste parfait (2007) | ainsité (2011-2012) | all this (2011) | arcadia (2011-2012) | aum [sanskrit] (2011) | here (2011) | natura artis magistra (2011) | now (2011-2012) | om manu padme hum [tibethan] (2011) | oui (2011-2012)
photo/scan: Musée Gassendi, Digne-les-Bains/Jean-Denis Frater
rights & reproduction: herman de vries
object label

The non-assertive presence of being within the landscape is somethtng de vries continues to celebrate in works commlssioned by CAIRN in the country around Digne. His most recent ones - traces - are interventions of the most tactful kind, consisting of small texts and signs 'engraved in gold in rocks and stones, indicating a philosophy that is related to the natural process but so modest that you can easily overlook them: they should have no impact on the landscape and nature that is of such great beauty that art can easily be a disturbance, further, there have been places in the region that have been sacred forests in ancient: times, places of human relationship that i think worth indicating and recalling.' The inscription of these subtle and inobtrusive texts and signs, most of which have recurred over the years in the vries's statements and writings, in the journals and in many of the publications of the eschenau summer press and temporary travelling press, is thus an act of homage at once to nature and to the culture of human interaction with the natural world over the millenia.

Recently [2004-2006 - CS] de vries has created traces of the same kind in the woods and quarries around Eschenau, thus making an invisible bond between the spirit of his home landscape and that of the other landscape of his heart, in Haute Provence. In the sacred woods, and the ruins, rocks and quarries in either place, the observant walker may chance upon ambulo ergo sum, or the Sanskrit saying that adorns the capping of the circular sanctuarium at Münster. On rock faces in both the Steigerwald and the Réserve Géologique de vries has placed the mysterious

gnomic Latin inscription discovered at various locations across the Roman empire, including Herculaneum and Pompeii, and sometimes referred to as the satorquadrat. It can be read left to right, right to left, top to bottom and bottom to top and may be interpreted to mean (by the implication of its palindromic form) 'what goes round comes round'. de vries's own reading is 'the sower (or originator)/no work/keeps/the work/going round', working from his assumption that the cryptic 'arepo' is merely 'opera' rendered backwards and thus signifies 'no-work' - analogous to the Tao principle of wu-wei (non-action) or the the Zen mushin (no thought).

Elsewhere there may be found the sign for infinity, the ourobouros (the circular symbol of a snake eating its own tail), the Hindu sign for om, and other characteristic de vries texts and quotations: chance and change; to be to be; veritas existentiae ('the truth of existence' - a quotation from Gassendi); natura numquam errat ('nature never makes a mistake' - a quotation from the Italian philosopher, Giordano Bruno, 1548-1600); ars vivens ('the art of living'); was wieso vonwo wohin in the Steigerwald, and quoi pourquoi d'où vers où in the Réserve Géologique ('what why whence whither').

In certain places in the Réserve Géologique, and in the forests of Faillefeu and the Steigerwald, de vries has placed on stones and rocks, or on the masonry of certain buildings, a small engraved dot of gold. Each of these constitutes a virtually invisible point on the surface of the earth, its positioning random or, rather, intuitively arbitrary, having no topographical or historical significance beyond its presence as a marker of de vries's respect and love for the terrain. Gold, which is the crucial constituent of the traces made around Digne and Eschenau, is used for its

intrinsic beauty as a pure mineral element, for its ancient sacramental significance, and as a reminder of its usage as an index of value in its broadest sense in the cultures of both East and West. Each gold dot might also be seen as making an axis point at the junction of the sacred six dimensions by which the Hopi Indians defined a human being's presence on the earth - the four directions of the wind, down into the earth, up into the sky - an idea that has haunted de vries since childhood. "everything, everything represents the continuum," he wrote in a sketchbook in 1990, "in which we ourselves are a point - a continuum point the continuum itself."

The small gold points are quite specifically related by de vries to Proposition 2.013.1 in L. Wittgenstein, Tractatus logico-philosophicus: 'A spatial object must lie in infinite space. (A point in space is an argument place.)' In this, however, they represent not arguments of the kind propounded by men in favour of their mastery and possession of the finite and measurable earth, but rather the material actuality of space itself, and its infinite reach in every dimension, including that of the imagination. They are not of the nature of the professional surveyor's point of distance, the mark made to demarcate a territorial boundary, or the limit of a measuring chain, but speak in gold of the earth's own claim to be heard and respected. Encountered in their settings, embedded in the material, surrounded by grass and trees, open to the sky, and near the flow of water, these points in infinite space invite reverie, contemplation or meditation. Such a point might be anywhere or nowhere; seen or unseen, its 'argument' is a note in a song of the earth that has no beginning and no end.

[passage from: Mel Gooding, herman de vries. chance and change (Thames and Hudson : London 2006) 135-138]

published references
collection catalogue L'art en marche. 20 randonnées d'art contemporain (Musée Gassendi : Digne-les-Bains 2012).