07040026 26
Photo: Mathew Parkin

I remember a conversation with Laura Guy about trying to act against the American-centrism of much queer theory, and–as an extension of that–to act against the urban-centrism of this theory as well. In the essay ‘Eroticizing the Rural’ about Southern American horror cinema, David Bell argues via Foucault that in the rural hillbilly filled country depicted in these films, sexual acts and sexual identities are ripped apart. There is the penetrator and the penetrated. Whether you are a sissy or not pays little heed. The locals of the narratives enjoy sodomising outsiders, and don’t see that as unnatural. A footnote in the essay also introduces the idea of Dolly Parton as a folk she-devil.

Cases of sodomy in early modern Scotland were often actually cases of bestiality. The two actions were fairly interchangeable and were both somewhat related to age. Sodomy in a young person could be seen as something that you would grow out of, a youthful experiment. Bestiality was often also included in the accusations of witch trials in Scotland.

I’m not so interested in identities vs acts. What I am interested in is queer bodies in landscape. Hannah Hauxwell is arguably not a lesbian as much as a spinster, but her historical independence can be read as that of a butch queen. [1] In Charlotte Prodger’s recent trilogy of films, Stoneymollan Trail, BRIDGIT and SaF05, we see many examples of the queer body—and the queer gaze—in the rural, the outdoors, the sidelined. These bodies do not feel like outsiders arriving to queer the landscape, but are instead inherently of and in the landscape themselves. Prodger achieves this not just through the queer readings woven through the narrative overlaying the footage, but in her ways of looking. The trainered feet moving over the stones. Rushing snowy landscapes edged by glitches of the video-camera codec. Trainers on the couch backed by a window blown out by the sun. A grid over standing stones.

Charlotte’s interest in technology and industry develops further than machinery to include standing stones and ancient pilgrimage routes. These routes are forms of knowledge that are passed like queer gossip among those who need to know. The stones can be a sparse visual language, like that of speakers or cube monitors, of measuring time or space. They are primed for projection. Could these stones mark queer space and time?

Introducing his project Open Ramble East, Ian Giles explains, ‘historically queer lives and achievements have often gone unrecorded within regional settings: this project is part of a wider invitation to correct this’. [2] Giles organised a queer rambling group as a site of communality in the country, creating temporary meeting points and making space for queers to come together. When presented as an installation, the project exhibited artefacts to re-read the rural through the lens of communal queerness.

But we are not the only inhabitants of the land. The well policed category of human has used its boundaries to exclude queers, BIPOC, migrants, women and working class people. As well as the lives of animals, plants and minerals. Other critters as Donna Haraway might say. There is a recognisable trauma in the reduction of animals to their sexual organs and acts, and the usefulness of those organs and acts to humans. Emilia Beatriz examined human and non-human relationships in their 2019 exhibition at CCA, Glasgow, declarations on soil and honey. The works present the negotiation and management of relationships between bodies—animal, mineral and geological—through fact and fiction. There is a focus on the maintenance of the health of these bodies which seems to problematise the boundaries of bodies. This included the geographical boundary of the nation state. In the installation a visitor negotiates a bodily interaction with moss covered seating, becoming part of the interdependent web Emilia creates.

Charlotte’s film SaF05 allows us to spend time around a queer butch queen lioness, who has taken on some of the forms of behaviour and looks of the male lion, not just his sexual appetite. This is not an attempt to map a human identity onto an animal or to gesture at some essential biological self, but instead to understand that social and sexual behaviours are more complex than the binary they are often distilled to. The mapping of these identities onto humans may be as ridiculous as doing so onto animals, but some pleasure can be gleaned at the recognition of perceived queerness even if that recognition is not mutual.


[1] Hannah Hauxwell was a farmer who came to fame through several ITV documentaries about life on the Dales. She lived most of her life on the farm she was born on, running it on her own after the death of her family, living what could be seen as a solitary and frugal, or even austere life.

[2] https://www.kettlesyard.co.uk/events/ian-giles-outhouse/


Mathew Parkin is an artist living and working in Glasgow.

‘Cottaging The Hedgerow’ is a chronicle unfolding over four weeks from 20 March 2020