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  • Stoned Thinking:The Petriverse of Pierre Jardin1
  • Paul A. Harris (bio)


  1. 1). A world composed of rocks; e.g., a rock garden.

  2. 2). Words composed of rocks; i.e., verse written in and/or about stone. [Latin petra, rock; Old English vers, from Latin versus a furrow]

The Petriverse of Pierre Jardin is a xeriscape in the California Heights neighborhood of Long Beach, California, where many residents have taken advantage of a city program that subsidizes the conversion of grass lawns into drought-tolerant landscapes. The garden was conceived in 2009 when Pierre Jardin coined the neologism 'petriverse' to denote both a world composed of rocks and words composed of rocks. The site has become known for two distinctive features: it presents constantly changing, eye-catching displays of locally collected stones, and amuses viewers with pithy petricthemed text-messages formed with pebbles. When he started a Petriverse blog, Pierre Jardin christened it with the figuratively and literally fitting tagline "a rock garden where nothing is written in stone" (Fig. 1).

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Figure 1.

A rock garden where Nothing is written in stone

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Figure 2.

Rock Climbers in tree

As a world composed of rocks, the Petriverse is an evolving assemblage composed of rock configurations and balanced stone stacks that express Pierre Jardin's experimentally inclined, experientially grounded lithic aesthetic. Jardin's creative process includes collecting materials at local beaches and deserts, sorting and grouping stones, and gradually integrating them into garden compositions. Hybrid or heterogeneous displays that combine stones with other found materials (trees, shells, bones) probe the porous boundaries among lithic and living materials, including stone. For example, an ongoing series of works dubbed "Igneous Ligneous Inosculations" stages intimate encounters between rocks and wood. [End Page 119] These compositions range from stump-stone stacks where the textures and contours of wood and rock merge into one another, to groupings of logs, cobbles, and petrified wood. A more permanent work in this vein, entitled "Caution: Rock Climbers in Tree," consists of rocks nestled in the forked branches of a large pine tree. In the seven years since they were installed, they have sunk down into the branches as the tree continues to grow up, to the point that the rocks can no longer be removed, and are being cracked by the tree's growth. This work comprises a dialogue between inhuman durations, dendrochonological growth and geophysical erosion, and makes viscerally visible both the tensile liquid force of trees and the surprising fragility of some kinds of stone.

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Figure 3.

Petriverse text message

As words composed of rocks, 'petriverse' denotes petric poems placed in a landscape-oriented page-place for perusal by a perambulatory public. Pierre Jardin thinks of searching for and selecting stones suitable for forming letters in terms of creating a new font, fitted to the scale of the garden and sited so as to be easily legible to passersby. Petriverses often allude ludically to their lithic composition. Some play on the dual nature of signs as both material and symbolic by mapping the self-referential or deictic dimension of language onto the stones of which they are composed ("nothing is written in stone"; "all texts sent from my smartstone are rocking"; "the iRock app for iStone—free and green"). Other messages serve as titles or glosses on displays ("ring toned stones" for rocks with mineral markings in concentric circles; "rock groups in silent concert" spelled out adjacent to matching trios of stones; the caption "spot on" for a blue slate cobble with a round black mark; "rock. on." below one stone balanced upright upon another one). Petriverses also express Jardin's affective affinities for rocks ("I took a turn for the good/when I turned to stone"; "rock groups strike a chord"; "In search of wonder/I turn to stone"). Petriverse initiates a petric poetics, a practice of lithic close reading that entrains the eye to see foliations and patterns on stones as terrestrial traces or earth-writing, while decoding the semantic antics of punning pebbles.


This search for interesting stones became an...


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pp. 119-148
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