Have you seen the rock towers by the Blow Holes in East End? Who made them? Aliens?
Well, I don’t know much about aliens, beyond what Hollywood has dished out over the years, but art has been a passion of mine since my high school days. I once earned myself a few blue ribbons, and later in life I started using a camera rather than a brush to express my artistic inspirations.
Always looking for new images to photograph, I recently caught sight of something strange and out of the norm on my way toward East End: Rocks formed into some 30 pyramids were stacked in the Blow Holes area. I asked Allen Ebanks (the Blow Holes ambassador) about the strange formations.
“These were erected by visitors (human not alien),” says Ebanks, “and I was told by some that the meaning of the structures is to say ‘I’m coming back eventually,’”
This explanation spurred me on to check further into these strange monuments that now grace the Blow Holes coastline.
The act of stacking rocks in this way is known as rock balancing, and the craze is not confined to only Cayman. In fact, the Rock Stacking World Championship is an annual event held in Llano, Texas, and is also played as a game in some parts of Nepal, where players make a balancing tower of flat rocks to see who can go the highest before the eventual crash. There is no magic trick, glue or any other adhesive incorporated in the art of rock balancing; rocks must stand by themselves. You only have to pile them up and each rock finds its center of gravity. You will find a point where the wobbling stops, where the rocks can actually stand on their own.
Rock balancing can be a performance art, a spectacle, or devotion, depending upon how it is interpreted by its audience. One thing for sure, it’s not meant for anyone high strung or impatient. Calm and slow are key and if you have the morning shakes like I do after a night of carousing and cocktails, just forget making a career out of rock balancing.
Professional rock balancers
Believe it or not, there are about five artists in the world who actually get paid for rock-balancing. Take Bill Dan, for instance. The San Francisco-based artist was featured on San Francisco public television station KQED as one of the artists in a show titled “Collaborations with Nature.” Since then, he has been the subject of interviews and shows on TV stations in Japan, Korea and the Philippines, as well as other U.S. stations, which of course pay him for his appearances.
Amazing photos of his art have been displayed in Coast and Ocean, the magazine of the California Coastal Commission, where he was the subject of a lengthy article. His works are used for book, magazine and educational materials. Can you imagine how hard it would be to get a loan from a bank when you tell them that you are a professional rock-balancer?
No trying to deny it, art and artists, be they sculptors, painters, photographers or stone balancers, are often placed in the eccentric and uncanny category. Take, for example, the works of Henri-Robert-Marcel Duchamp, a French, naturalized American painter, sculptor, professional chess player and writer. His most famous work, called “Fountain,” is nothing more than a used men’s urinal that he purchased. When it came time to display his “creation” at an art show, the board in charge of the exhibit had a fierce debate and eventually chose to hide the display from view, presumably in the washroom. However, the “Fountain” is regarded by art historians and theorists as a major landmark in 20th century art.
So, next time you’re visiting the Blow Holes, take some advice from a professional rock-stacker like Bill Dan. When asked the “meaning” of his work, he replies, “Some people try to make things too complicated.”
UPDATE: It turns out that Brianna Hydes – a ‘local artist’ – and her boyfriend were in fact the first to leave a mysterious rock tower at the Blow Holes. By the looks of things, others are now following their lead.