There is something about knowing without being able to vocalise how you know. We are back to language, legibility and magic. Gaydar I guess. You can recognise something in another person and can’t explain beyond that. You know that holding their gaze will affirm a desire to fuck. You can tell the weather is shifting. You can feel when something bad is coming. I don’t know what wild garlic looks or smells like.
I guess this points towards indigenous knowledge and health. Witches, midwives, healers. Carolyn Lazard’s film Get Well Soon is a complex and rich work, and I don’t want to read it too reductively in this context. There is a body struggling to survive in an apartment navigating the American healthcare system, and then a vulnerable body surviving in a beautiful field. Dressed in a nightgown that brings to mind a pastoral damsel, Lazard navigates the field like a quest computer game. Perhaps she is seeking an older form of natural healing, mediated through a frame of computer games and selfie technology.
The move to the city–finding community, finding kin—is a search I understand. But what I am trying to argue is that by re-looking at the spaces we instinctively moved from, we can see how those kin may be pre-existing there. We should not allow the assumption that the rural environment is synonymous with the heterosexual family unit. As queers, we should not automatically seek to disrupt the rural–we should acknowledge that its connection to the traditional is constructed and forced.
Queer child-rearing in the film Strangely Ordinary This Devotion by Dani Leventhal ReStack and Sheilah ReStack is not only situated within the landscape, but is of the landscape. The reproduction comes from and with the water, conjured by older lesbians. Then raised alongside love making, feasting and ritual. It is not seeking to be extraordinary, is it seeking to be as it is. This interrogation of geography, community and relationships to animals builds on previous work by Dani. Not just in building works through relationships, and the interrogating of distinction between document and story, but through the taking of animals as talismans—horses in Hard as Opal and coyotes in Come Coyote—moving between loneliness, contact and locations.
Of course this formulation is complicated by intersecting oppressions, and at times being in the landscape can be transgressive in itself. Jade Montserrat has explored this in her collaborative films CLAY and PEAT. ‘Appearances suggest we were not meant to be here. Alienation is magnified by a landscape scarred by borders, raised inscriptions of territorial ownership.’  The videos are tender, moving and beautiful. This sense of belonging, or not belonging, is complicated by Jade’s own biographical anecdotes and references to Emily Brontë’s Heathcliff. I wonder what it can mean to use mud as a balm for a legacy of alienation. White supremacy sits at the root of all oppression and queers should fight against this. Violent borders (or ‘enclosures’ to take a Federici slant) resonate through the urban and rural and need to be resisted and dismantled. To quote Montserrat again ‘The questions are geo and bio–political, of universality. The challenge is to pass the caring on. Articulating a different kind of usefulness might be. What is the true purpose of our illimitable nature? New and revised systems.’
I want to ask myself what is rural, who is rural, what counts as rural, and who decides it. Can the Christopher Street docks, an ex-industrial landscape offering space to a queer community, be read as a rural landscape?
I should have asked is land art queer? It often feels like dick swinging.
I’m attracted to the idea of the man who goes cruising in the park as much to be outside as to be fucking. Fucking on the grass, against a tree, in a haybale. These are romantic images, but also sensory excesses. If the pleasure in sex is often understood as a moving from the singular to the collective, a shattering of boundaries of the self, then surely in nature this can be heightened.
I’m attracted to the idea of the man who goes cruising in the park like a bird watcher. There is a nerdy similarity in watching for rustles in the bushes, taps of feet, long lingering glances, following the trail of condoms. A replication of that teenage desire to go for a walk to allow yourself breathing space to act how you want to act. Ain’t nought as queer as folk.
This is not a colonist or militaristic fantasy, to impose queerness on a beautiful landscape. The rural I speak of is just as violent, as constructed, and its boundaries as policed as the urban centre. It’s not an attempt to read and codify things in a way that suits a political agenda. It’s an attempt to recognise that assumptions have been made about where the queer imaginary belongs. Subversiveness, queerness and cultural production are not exclusively properties of the urban cultural classes, and following these assumptions plays into historic binaries. I want to recognise that the margins that we thrive in must include the hedgerow.
Mathew Parkin is an artist living and working in Glasgow.
‘Cottaging The Hedgerow’ is a chronicle unfolding over four weeks from 20 March 2020