At the heart of it, in theory, green is associated with ‘public’ which is associated with unlimited access which all leads to a certain sense of potential, excitement. ‘Green spaces’ become sites in which transformation, radical plans, social movement can occur. On a practical level, it is for example the ‘public square’ that protests might take place, but there is also a line of thought that public, green space is a site for the ‘uncrowning’ of social hierarchy. It is seen as such because it can be argued that these are sites of ‘the people’ - and historically, they were demarcated as such on certain holidays, mass gatherings to celebrate equally (on the surface at least). But it is clear that green space is not actually that public. There are rules, there are regulations, and there are social expectations. Even here in Scotland - we have the right to roam, but you still get shouted at by Mr. Landowner for walking on his field.
Private gardens are fascinating - slivers of fenced-off grass in the middle of a city - only accessible if you have the special key that comes with the deed to your property.
When I first moved to Glasgow I felt grief for the lack of green out of my window - the closest bit of green stuff was a private garden and I couldn’t get in.
There’s this strange culture of fabricated green space, designed and materialised for artificial leisure time. Beneficial for your health, wellbeing - take this time that’s designated to you and spend it in the designated green space. Is green space oppressive then? Is it naive to assert its public nature?
For me, green space is not necessarily green on the surface, nor is it outside. There is this tension between internal and external again - maybe it is any space demarcated as accessible for ‘the people’, revolutionary space, space to shed your social baggage for a second (so maybe your job in this space is just to listen)? Historically it was outside, external, green because ‘inside’ was gold - inside was the ‘official’ culture of the courts and all the stringent enforcement of social hierarchies - so you couldn’t speak freely unless physically removed from these spaces - even so far as it took particular occasions, feudal holidays to be able to express and subvert. The fields, after all, weren’t owned by ‘the people’ were they, so the greeness indicated a sense of being external to these hierarchies - outside in this sense, outside your expected compliance (so holidays and particular demarcated sites are outside not because they are literally not indoors, but external to socio-political hierarchy).
Now, public space is still privately owned, and spaces inside are created with the public potential once held in the woodlands and squares of yore.
The real argument here is one of accessibility, and it’s a raw one. Green space is often, in reality, grey - it’s green because of its potential. Potential for renewal, uncrowning, re-crowning, liberation even.
(I wanted to write about green space as a concept - but as we got together to plan this work, green space has changed again and I can’t ignore that. It made me realise how much Greeness is mutable, how it develops in correspondence with socio-political environment. That’s probably obvious - for a while there I was a bit stuck in Medieval culture - and I know that makes me sound like a total wanker.)
Green space has suddenly become abject; boundaries have shifted and become solid, crossing them a taboo, the feeling of stepping a foot across that line emits an abject response akin to the feeling of crossing the boundary of the skin. The abjection associated with crossing the boundaries of the body, flesh, and anything which causes a disruption to this ‘wholeness’ has been transferred to public space. Green space has become static.
Yet it is liminal, sitting in between the realm of the public and, not private but forbidden. The abjection associated is one of illness, a repulsion felt in kind for self-preservation; green space is now green with infection, mucus, not freedom, pastoral potential. The societal corpus is on lockdown, as to be outside is to cross the boundary of this body, infection writhing inside, able to enter with ease due to the many open wounds unfortunately left gaping in our societal entity; where many (probably naively) once listed the joyous potential of green space as a sites for the masses, for political potential, it is now the abjection associated with green space in which this potential may be held.
It has thoroughly permeated the social psyche - symbolically and practically
I was reading this book and in it they were going down for a prom around the town and I found myself thinking - “ooh a bit risky, a big group like that in public” and then I remembered that it was set in 1950s Italy.
Will people touch again?
Personal boundaries have become a defence mechanism - a flurry of panic when someone comes near crawls up the oesophagus and flutters and makes you cross the road; people are magnetically repelled. Worse are those who do not move and then they are socially irresponsible because embracing as a body has become taboo. Suddenly proximity and numbers have become anti-solidarity whereas before this expressed camaraderie, power.
Is proximity going to be the new viral sensation?
You want people to hold accountability together but it is forbidden now and being apart becomes more political. I’ve never felt uncomfortable about physical distance before.
I’ve realised how much I need physical affection. It can be simulated, and in gay time it is permissible non-hierarchically, but I think the point of all of this is that bodies are all bodies and in some way we all share? But it’s not fair to think of all of this as some kind of ‘great equaliser’ because it just isn’t true. Bodies are bodies but tabula rasa is the most revoltingly privileged myth.
Hierarchically, how does this affect? (Perhaps the only way this could be an ‘equaliser’ is in a kind of sick, Rawlsian sense - destruction forcing re-thinking of distribution). Green space used to be grounds for subverting, cartwheeling, out of societal structure. But there is hierarchy in parks and gardens. It is radical potential which can be seen sprouting amongst trodden-down fields and tended lawns alike, because they don’t really belong to anyone really and it’s all very mutable isn’t it.
Common grounds - we can strike common ground on commons, in a neutral space. But I don’t think it is neutral, it is loaded with renewal.
The romantic view of pantheist awe and fear of nature is silly - creates distance.
There should be respect but the important thing here is laughter - green is so funny, and if we laugh together then this verdancy spreads and people will listen. They will listen a lot more than if you tell tall and terrible tales and keep those barriers strengthened or completely smush them into oblivion which actually can be quite intimidating.
“Children just don’t spend enough time outside anymore! It’s terrible!
They should all have to spend a guaranteed number of weeks a year in nature.”
I think people should spend as little or much time outside as they’d like to be honest. Green space isn’t confined literally to green, outdoor spaces; as is bizarrely exemplified during a global pandemic, green space can be virtual and solidarity can occur individual-to-individual. When you accept greeness it permeates beyond border culture, the cordons restricting otherwise public access just mean that we have to find space that is green elsewhere, and maybe it cannot be outside. Crossing those cordons doesn’t feel like a thrill when the prospect is sickness.
It feels a bit like this going outside at the moment. The limits of social acceptability has shifted, so our line of abjection has accommodated this.
Do you ever get that feeling when you’re in an open body of water, when you think “what’s beneath me?” and suddenly have the urge to pull all your limbs in tight, and it’s as if your body is trying to crawl up inside itself?
Everyone’s having these wild dreams, anxiety-riddled, apparently its a ‘pandemic’ in itself. We are dreaming beyond the scope of what we can access in our daily lives currently, but it does not seem particularly aspirational, but just an uncanny simulation of a previous ‘normality’. This is greeness - subconscious green space.
“Haha! Maybe we should hold meetings for our revolution when asleep - we can definitely have a group of people in the same space then”.
There’s definitely something going on with everyone’s subconscious trying to battle impending infection, the symbolic rendering of the corpse hovering just behind the eyes.
Green is particularly relevant when extended to nationalism, borders - crossing these feels taboo more than ever, as if to break down borders means certain ailment, that is, death, the corpse. This is important. This is where the idea of radical disintegration needs to be thought about laterally, currently at least. It is filled with potential in how we can cross boundaries in a productive, symbolic sense ‘remotely’ - as is the term tossed around so frequently now.
Borders have become even more loaded, as if countries possess different levels of biological warfare, just raring to attack if you step a toe over that arbitrary line. Again, this is placing this work in a very time-specific place, but it’s where I am right now, and it’s surreal, and it lit up Greeness in a big, shifting, poignant way.
You came to visit just before all of this started, we were supposed to go away, but we weren’t allowed to cross the border, so we adapted.
But look, mass gatherings are not allowed now, the sight of groups of people make our toes curl, like seeing a dead thing’s insides, because surely this is what will happen in the end if they keep touching each other like that. So when people protest, it is even more powerful. Communal action outside is given power in its priority over health, even, because health doesn’t extend to physical illness, but socio-political wellbeing. Yet it’s enabling another kind of prejudice, without the pointing of proper accountability, responsibility.
Green Space is more than this - it’s an idea and an ideal - the ideal part of it is problematic because it assumes all the socio-political implications not cordoning off ‘public space’. However, it feels important to think about it, and again - it’s about disseminating the realms isn’t it.
What was it that guy said, the one --- He was American I think, said stuff about the distribution of Justice --- anyway, he said that utopias - when thought about and decided upon properly - are important because they give us something to aim towards. Take from that what you will.
I want to talk about artificial green space again for a minute - obviously it’s still green, literally, but astroturf is to ‘real’ grass what parliament is to sites of actual, collective, radical potential. The link to aspiration and confined leisure is exciting because artificial green space filled with real green but the green is lost in its monitoring. It’s like the power of this kind of space is recognised by ‘official culture’ and then replicated in a reduced way to suppress revelations of revolutions.
Is there anything wrong with artificiality?
Replication is only negative when exclusive.
From all of this...it’s made me think that green space is probably just a stamp to put on any kind of space you want - it’s not necessarily physically outside, but symbolically outside of hierarchical, societal structures - sites of potential, renewal, sites with that particular shine to them.
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire.
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.
- Jerusalem by William Blake
This is typical of a type of culture I grew up with, from early days at school singing this, living in a very rural English village. Everywhere around where we lived was farming arable land, seasonally very green. It was how it was, where we lived, defined by christian white identity politics.
“The 'green' was no random selection. Bearing in mind factional sensitivities, my choice was quite deliberate. Blue and red, apart from the latter's association with the 'enemy', and with their Greek and Turkish connotations respectively, were hardly suitable. 'Green' usually used for marking emplacements/fortifications and minefields, seemed the least controversial". - http://www.militaryhistories.co.uk/greenline/line2
The green line in Cyprus, still very present as we speak: Major-General Young then handed the 'Green Line' map and a copy of the typed agreement to Major Perrett-Young who was waiting next door in the TacHQ. The General's instructions were..........."get on with it".
Intelligence Corp NCOs then produced sufficient copies of the map and agreement to go out to the High Commission and Truce Force units.
Once the map reached unit level it would then have been further copied for use by patrol commanders - and others.
It is important to repeat that, contrary to other published descriptions, the original Green Line map was drawn by General Young.
Green spaces, green belts, green lines, green politics of the land we live on/in and visit, raise complicated issues for me in relation to who? Or how? are green spaces demarcated, discriminated and segregated. My colonial histories are one of many human examples I think about in relation to green spaces.
What constitutes a green space and a non green space and where is the edge. If you take the National Trust as an example you often have to pay to go into the green space, or land that is designated ‘of special interest’ - for environmental and heritage conservation. Wild places, beauty spots, extreme landscapes, the countryside, landscape, national parks, land rights, open access and how this is or isn’t distinct from where people work or live.
So either side of the entrance to these special green spaces who is included or excluded. I wonder if this leads or more importantly has led to the land and environment becoming an object in our white identity subject. It must in part have constituted how we have created such a catastrophic imbalance in how we view, inhabit, use and relate to our natural environment that we are so fundamentally part of.
What are these identity illusions we have constructed?
Our ‘biological’ selves and our cultural selves are clearly under scrutiny of exploitation in the order of things. Us and it and them.
Is there anything wrong with artificiality? - G
I think we have to ask what do we mean by artificial? - made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, especially as a copy of something natural.
Is there such a thing?
I like artificial green sports fields, golf greens and astro turf. It's made from plastic that derives from oil and imitates grass or although crude oil is a source of raw material (feedstock) for making plastics, it is not the major source of feedstock for plastics production in the United States. Plastics are produced from natural gas, feedstocks derived from natural gas processing, and feedstocks derived from crude oil refining. It's an odd parody to me. -D
I think this kind of artificiality excites me - in the same way as the idea of leisure time being fabricated does. You’re right, it’s an odd parody, but also a total paradox. There’s something uncanny about it because it’s real but it’s simulated and structured in a way that - let’s be honest - probably influences the sublimation of what naturally, we need and desire. And I think that the presence of these things is an extension of accessibility in lots of ways - but it’s odd that we have to create manmade green space because we flippantly continue to destroy the stuff that way already there - no? -G
I also think there’s a few conversations running parallel here:
1) Green space as equated with ‘nature’ (if we don’t have this then we all die essentially)
2) Green space practically with the outdoors, regards to public access and use (politics around accessibility etc.)
3) Green space symbolically as space outside of socio-political hierarchy (which is where the liberatory aspect comes in for me) -G
I have to say something about Greenland, it was this terrible schism between the idea of Greenland and the actual Greenland I experienced. It was brutal how the living colonial Greenland quite literally obliterates the indiginous Greenland in what I experienced. It was a living breathing displaced human environmental collision. -D
So do you think this is where these three conversations directly interact? The environmental greeness is affected by socio-political and economic circumstance, which then effects the accessibility to green space, which then results in a requirement for symbolic green space? It feels terribly cyclical, don’t you think? -G
Yes, well said. - D
For me - It’s so intertwined with the ideas and ideals of abjection, and this is why I always talk about these things in tandem, but it’s hard to untangle it all. It’s about privatisation again. Ownership. The inside/outside dichotomy. Particularly right now, physical green space is so utterly moralised - stepping foot in these spaces has ethical implications, which has caused me to think about to what extent these implications stand outwith the pandemic raging on… -G
Which always brings me back to the question of our gendered cultural relationship to ‘nature/environment’. Mother nature, Demeter the goddess of the earth, life and death, and our English language has very clear use of nature and gender. The connections between nature and the female form, due to the patriarchal nature of society, connect the romantic period with the start of feminism and the new strategies and approaches theorists and philosophers and writers are taking now. I feel very strongly how my art education was defined through misogynistic history that was still driven by the view of ‘Nature’ as an access to the masculine sublime. Mountain climbing or wandering in the Alps, I don’t. -D
“Mother nature” and “Man made” right?
Rinsing the female for male gain - or maybe associating the female with wildness - ‘Otherness’ (here we bloody go again) - that can only be captured and tamed by man. (And here we definitely veer into colonialism too) I totally agree. But I always have a sense of trepidation, cynicism even, about all of this because although I’m very pro this argument in lots of ways, but I think it’s fundamentally stupid, like you’re suggesting, to consider ‘the natural’ as gendered at all. Actually fuck off pantheism and all that also. Yet I don’t want to reduce my entire existence to avoidance of any kind of natural awe? -G
Phenomenology is sort of embodied and implicit: light, temperature, sensations, space, time and our bodily experience, my thoughts are running with language again, language as metaphor for this experience. -D
In what way? - G
How language enables us to communicate, in particular my thoughts on representation, how language is used by who, where and when - D
As in, how the limits of language affect our experience of the world? So cultures with different language for natural phenomena, for example, directly experience these things differently? -G
Yep, for example when I finally managed to grasp basic Russian, Russian words actually changed the way I thought about what I was doing in Russia. - D
Because we don’t grasp things until we apply words to them. We don’t see things until we name them. But we do have experiences, they’re just unfiltered? What’s this called - the ‘manifold’ or something. I’m jealous of people who are bilingual because I assume they have a more complex, richer grasp on life! -G
Also why I hate photographs, static fixed things that displace us from the thing itself. And without question our worlds are increasingly defined through them, as is our ability to produce and consume it through this language.-D
Ah, but there’s something so exciting about the ethical implications of documentation! Is painting really any different? -G
Paintings can only ever be an idea of something. A thought activity. - D
But who’s to say that the intention of a photograph is any different? - G
Despite digital processors, or chemical processes of light that create a photograph they are still defined through a mechanical process, that by definition frames, selects and processes. I am interested in the act of taking photographs that is really different to me. -D
What is so exciting about the ethical implications of documentation? -D
Well, I think there’s lots to unpick in terms of the lens providing selective representation of the world and events and each other. Also, it goes without saying there’s issues with photojournalism etc. These decisions are interesting because it’s reflective of that person’s sense of reality, their idea of what they think is real to them, or important or trivial, or want to remember. But even the transition to the abundance of photographs with the development of camera phones and stuff - it makes me want to take less photographs yes, but people are thinking through this process - it’s a new kind of language that is defining reality for people. - G
Yep there are multiple realities, and agree with you, my own particular activity is more aligned to contesting how the photographic image creates a displaced moment, and how this is a really challenging political question. -D
I agree with you on that. But this is exactly why I find photographs interesting. It’s artificiality and simulation again - it’s the same kind of fascination I have with astroturf. -G
What a colour. - D
Up the Blades - G