Notes on Land
Theses on Land Masses
How to think of anything like leaping revolution in the monumentalised constant
defying rupture of the context of a garden, lose
some answers and compost them for next year
Everything is land somehow kept seaweed sculptures
apart, water is wet land, your bedroom is dry land, the
sound of crackling firewood on an illegal blue
bonfire is land, the gallery wall is worse
land, and sometimes least of all, at least in
terms of perceived value, the land is
land is land.
Tenants rights are land struggle, albeit Teflon
traveling is land struggle, existing
in public is land struggle, adblock
is land struggle, the micro-geographical
availability of flat whites and aperol
spritz is land struggle, who laughs
at that joke is land struggle, like
how finally and least importantly,
art is land
All the land is all the other land and a fence
between gates is really just another rusty
hinge in need of oil, but look where
that got us before? More war more gates! Oil
is fat and so who really needs oil except
those working on the land, oh but yeah,
I already said, it’s all the land.
We all work the land but I am worried
of dying from all the time I spend sitting
writing poems on the land.
To invent life out of picaresque brevity
The revolution is digesting or,
it is bullshit.
There is no authority but your food source.
There is no authority but the ground –
utopian if true.
I haven’t been writing short poems anymore recently because I’ve been busy
writing google searches i.e. ‘derealisation and depersonalisation’
‘depression joint clicking’ ‘queer rurality’ ‘urban garden berlin’
‘queer organic farm’ ‘lgbt wwoof hosts’ ‘alcohol cycle limit
legal germany’ ‘bodywork practitioner queer’ ‘lists
without taxonomy’ ‘please use my metadata
to sell me something that will get me out
of this mess and into this body’
We have to believe one bad apple does not spoil the barrel,
and thousands of jailers do not spoil the shipping container.
It could be as simple as radically present bird
-watching without categorising, practising
breathing the world as a lazy tidal August
pistachio ice-cream. Relatedly, when something
is burnt to ash it creates the illusion of vanishing
spread too thinly across the earth’s crust,
read Warhol as/via a property developer, ‘land
really is the best art,’ reconstitute a battle cry for the
destruction of both, interior brickwork and exterior colons and their foundational
wicker structural principals, no direct implication
art must be the best land. Oh, for
garden shed socialism,
The first day of May chews its fingernails, Post-capitalist
politics are inevitably outdated and fortunately
the politics of ecstatic grieving i.e.
composting, to stay grounded it is
important to measure the heat to avoid
My family of communists are mystics, that is my family
of mystics are gardeners, that is my family of gardeners
are communists, that is all my distant relative materialists
keep one foot in the cosmos, because where else
could the material come from? And of course, Marx
was a Taurus. To drag the heavy rocks of words like
REVOLUTION and HISTORY into the garden, and
leave them to grow lichen, and if left long enough
to crumble into the sands of time, work done. Work?
All land is fictional, this is both the problem
and a potential source of the solution.
The ground is not solid and never was and never
will be, thankfully
Land has or is no essential morphology or
topography, but spectres often get stuck and energy
often circulates as an ouroboros, for better
and/or worse, there is hope in leakage and drainage
There is no pleasurable consumption under
capitalism, a more chestnut syrupy motivational than
‘no ethical consumption under capitalism’
Destroy purity but leave a droplet behind to thrive
to make sure you’ve really destroyed purity.
Fuck ethics, that scratched non-stick pan we keep
using, fuck ethics in the way that ‘destroy purity’ i.e. leave
a little behind because otherwise how are you gonna
fuck ethics? A stone basilisk carved with the words
‘FIRST SHARD OF GLASS FROM THE SMASHED MCDONALDS WINDOW,
W.T.O. PROTESTS, DOWNTOWN SEATTLE,
Underneath, laid a wreath of amputated white dreadlocks,
softly simmering patchouli.
Under the paving stones, the soil. Gardening Situation
ism, the overgrown fringes of a viable sentence, the radical
fringe geraniums call upon the sky I call upon
the destruction of hetero-sexualised disdain for the past
conquered commonality and other nice-sounding in
the mouth root formations
The satisfaction of the bitter fruits and relationships
and modes of being what we grow for ourselves, somber joy
and ecstasy’s responsibility in our accountability in seeing
Shifting the emphasis from capital to
land is not inherently feudal
but there could be as many peasantries
as there are startups endlessly
proceeding to gate number 8 immediately.
Adorable pastoral avant garde inherited Capability,
or Lancelot the fatal flaw in the theses might be the
twee-eager bloomed pastel yellow chalk of poetry about gardens
stumbling over Futurisms fascist monopoly on writing architecture
and the metallic blood-in-the-mouth canon of food verbalising
thinking through origin, continuation and rupture of the
There’s no progress, progress will be total detachment
from the existing meaning of progress.
Revolution is crop rotation.
Food and death rule at both extremes
of happiness, food and death rule
everything around everyone.
‘Cheer up, food isn’t everything in life, you know.’
– The landlord’s daughter, The Wicker Man, a
– slippage into the pre-Pagan post-Pagan
Christianity of Summer Isle before the crops
and one monolithic attempt at white culture
Everything was woodland before
it was everything.
Food sovereignty is the finely chopped garlic
and onion of political struggle, especially indigestible
and lumpy when people forget and understand
it as eternally peripheral and sealed.
Everything is about food
Everything that is not land is food.
Food = energy = power –
Food = energy = religion faith spirituality
ALL CROSSED OUT the thing that sits
happy and lonely beyond all those things
Bit into the stones and they bit back alive
The mouth as portal to the spirit world
Spit as portal to the spirit world.
Spirit as portal to the spit world.
A world without shipping containers.
The world is a shipping container.
The world is a shipping container for unimaginable joy.
It’s not pointless to decorate the interior.
The roomba bullies the cat and the cat
realises domestication was a faulty
bargain to start with even circulated redundancy.
Gardening the centre gradually erodes
the quality of the centre.
The ontology of the gate is eager to discover
it’s dual purpose, alternative career
path as automatic pomegranate deseeder
or Christmas tree decorating ladder to be
removed from hibernation and loved
then discarded once per year.
Repetition is an island nation.
Force open a huge cavernous gap between
the senses ‘of belonging’ and ‘of entitlement’,
forget they ever shared a plot, ate in the same
restaurant, shared a bed and burgeoning family values.
Redistribute bodily good functioning to
account for accidents and blessings of birth
placard reading: APPLE CIDER VINEGAR.
Monsters grow thick and deeply slimy everywhere
and I want never to use them as an analogy for what
I might be against despite the unresolved hero complex
gifted to me by white hetero-judeo-christian theology.
I try to prove I is dislike them, the Eel
in the Sink.
Nature in the sickly pine air freshener fighting its discrete
privately commissioned battle against the zombie
economy of life, the shape of the pine tree as futility.
My newborn kombucha is in danger from the fruit
flies humming around my discarded coffee grounds, the rice
our estranged housemate left in the rice cooker
to go mouldy as protest, lest we forget all
mould is not equal.
Gogol’s dead souls, or Chichikov’s Dead Souls?
Colonisation of land always needs
dead souls, ownership of land always requires dead souls,
real or imaginary, ownership of
land is always ownership
of dead souls.
Remembrance Sunday and the month before
when any corpus not sporting a poppy corpus becomes
an affront to the national corpus, the preservation
of which led to the circumstances the poppy corpora
How to force open the semiotic gap between a brilliant
spiteful red flower that thrives on disturbing soil and
insane fucking WI national heritage fascism decorative
Tiny frosted glass shard stuck
in the foot of the wider population
own vast majority of the land (not-
There is enough land
somewhere, which means everywhere
All religions are at least sometimes
earth-based religions, sage and parsley parted
religiosity, spared sterilised doctrine’s fingers
ritualised heavier than ionised water dispersed air
I need to learn cooperation with the more sterilised airborne gods,
they need to get their sweatless paws away from
the hopes of the worlds and systems I love inside.
My angry herbal muscles revolt bringing the fertile
vapour fine, /example of privilege’s muscle relaxation
the heartfelt battle for gut feelings.
The work of leaving and not
leaving and doing and not
doing enough and never even
left the front gate, somebody has
to bury the earth.
Notes on Land
In a way this is part of a conversation that Caspar Heinemann and I had been having for over a year or so, and that was crystallised in a facebook thread Caspar posted just after the narrow ‘yes’ vote for Brexit. That thread, and this conversation are partly concerned with things that Caspar witnessed and heard about as a young child, and that I lived through as an adolescent. So from different generational perspectives we’re both feeling the renewed resonance of some of the same tropes on land, indigeneity and English radicalism, and maybe having a clearer sense of what’s troubling and untenable about them; what I name in the thread as ‘a digger-affiliated indigenous imaginary that strives to “other” and disown empire, and establish an identitarian bloc on that basis,’ adding that, ‘alas, it is never too far from folk to völkisch.’
As to why magic is a thing now, whether as a fleeting trope or something that might translate into committed practices––as for why it’s arising now,i I think that the reasons for the re-emergence of technomysticism are quite obvious, but specifically taking the manifestation of witchcraft in a number of artists’ practices;
I think in part it has been summoned by the revived interest in the history of second-wave feminism, and the rehearsal of some of its tropes; the witch is part of that historical repertoire, as an archetypal figure of feminine power and persecution. It’s a good time for people who have always had these interests to make work about them; but there’s also something going on with that, here on the islands that I think relates to our conversation.
To situate myself; last time around, when I was sixteen, just after my GCSEs and a friend-of-a-friend’s AIDs-related suicide, I took up with a man twice my age, who I thought could teach me magic; my thinking was that if philosophy, magic or religion, could save me or at least help me get through life then of these three, magic seemed like the most fun; but let’s just say that it didn’t work out well. This time, I’m a member of a facebook group called the space-time witch club; aside from sharing posts, the one thing we’ve actually done together IRL is to go and see a show about the so-called ‘mother of modern Witchcraft’, Doreen Valiente. Doreen invented a lot of the things which are now established wiccan practice (like the wiccan rede, the use of a ‘book of shadows’) in the mid-late twentieth century, but her own early practice was based on the work of a man called Gerald Gardner; there’s a dispute within wicca between those who believe that Gardner really had inherited an unbroken tradition that had been practiced in obscurity by an old witch in the New Forest, while others say that this is a founding fiction; for me the point is not whether this is true or not, but why it matters.
So where this intersects is that the wall texts for the Doreen exhibition not only described how British neo-paganism is intertwined with certain nativist myths of national origin, they actually performed that mythology as truth.
What the wall texts omitted to mention is that for eighteen months in the early 1970s, Doreen was a member of the white nationalist party the National Front (NF); and also, for a while, a member of the neo-Nazi Northern League, fans of ‘racial purity.’ One of her biographers, Heselton, offers us two hypotheses for this; one is that Doreen was a mole in the parties, gathering information for the British intelligence agencies; his other more troubling explanation is that such groups ‘appealed to her sense of patriotism.’ii Which is a problem, if you, like, love witchcraft and hate racism.
What complicates things further from a certain perspective is that, in her letter of resignation from the NF, she stated the party’s failure to embrace the causes of feminism, gay rights, ecology and sex education (and here there is resonance with the contemporary phenomenon of what has come to be called ‘homonationalism’iii).
At the crux of this uncomfortable affinitive proximity is surely the same nativist myth of national origin that tells the story of the English (in particular) as a doughty island people, facing down waves of ethnically different invaders. And this is the story that we all grew up with, those of us who grew up here; including all those anarcho-libertarians, neo-pagans, and those on the left who have wished to claim a lineage with a history of English radicalism and establish a grassroots identity politics, disentangled and set against the hated projects of empire; all those reifying our quaint ethnic folkways and claiming solidarity with indigenous peoples everywhere, as ourselves the victims of Roman and then Norman oppression and feudalism. Well solidarity is one thing, but the politics of indigeneity are different for the ‘folk’ of a recently ex-imperial power.
However much we might long for what Mary-Louise Pratt calls ‘freedom from the guilt of association with imperial domination,’iv ‘we’ can’t just collectively assume a minoritarian position, now that the dream of empire is over; wherever our white ancestors were situated within that, and notwithstanding the techniques of power that may have been practiced upon them. We might like to think of ourselves as hobbits, but that book is itself a xenophobic text.
[And here I’m implicated; I’m––stubbornly, persistently––still quite invested inv the fact that I’m at least half indigenous peasant, and I am riddled with class resentment, but it feels problematic even to talk about this; the fear is that even in drawing on it, there’s a way in which this kind of self-narration might shore up the same blood and soil story of origin that justifies racist nationalism and isolationism. This sense of taboo and anxiety is only heightened by the fact that the most overtly racist member of my blood family is also the family genealogist.] vi
Baudrillard says that ‘when the real is no longer what it used to be, nostalgia assumes its full meaning. There is a proliferation of myths of origin and signs of reality; of secondhand truth, objectivity and authenticity.’ vii
If, post- ‘Greatness,’ Britain is undergoing a crisis of the national imaginary, of which recent events are symptomatic; then surely this nativist myth of national origin sits at the crux of that also; Joan Didion says we tell ourselves stories to live, and like Donna Haraway says, ‘it matters what stories tell stories,’ viii and ‘it matters what stories make worlds.’ ix
If archaeology is ‘the science fiction of the past,’x then science fiction always speaks to the present. And here I think might have found a small miracle, because when I went to revise my own acquaintance with the ‘facts’ of ancient history, I found a scholar stashed away on the BBC blog, stating that archaeology proves the traditional story of, quote: ‘waves of invaders displacing or annihilating their predecessors’ to be ‘fundamentally wrong.’ Instead, he says, for example, that ‘throughout recorded history the island has consisted of multiple cultural groups and identities. Many of these groupings looked outwards, across the seas, for their closest connections,’ and that ‘substantial genetic continuity of population does not preclude profound shifts in culture and identity. It is actually quite common to observe important cultural change, including adoption of wholly new identities, with little or no biological change to a population.’xi
So much is urgent at the moment. But in relation to all this, in light of e.g. what Will Wiles has called ‘a troubling undercurrent in a lot of the recent landscape writing,’xii and the rise of nativism in not just this, but many former / neo- colonial countries, of which it is symptomatic –– and, as Anne Boyer is right to ask, ‘is any1 writing in particular abt the rise of fascism/ nativism in the context of global climate instability?’xiii––short of doing away with the construct of nation entirely, I think it’s also worth just sitting with the idea of new ideas about the past, of questioning our myths of origin and the importance we place on them, and seeing what that makes present.
[This is the amended transcript of a talk given at the Serpentine Miracle Marathon on October 9, 2016 in conversation with Caspar Heinemann. Caspar read the poem opposite and I read this text in response. Amendments were made on March 21, 2017. RB]
i I was asked this question by Ben Vickers, the Serpentine’s Curator of Digital, when I first went to talk about the Marathon.
ii Phillip Heselton, 2016, Doreen Valiente, Witch, n.p., The Doreen Valiente Foundation, 153–154.
iii Cf. e.g George Blaustein, “Act Normal or Go Away”, on the recent election in the Netherlands and here with particular reference to “Pim Fortuyn—the bald, vulgar, dashing, dickish, Islamophobic provocateur who almost became prime minister in 2002.” In n+1 magazine, online: https://nplusonemag.com/online-only/online-only/act-normal-or-go-away/
iv Mary-Louise Pratt, 1992, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation, Abingdon: Routledge, 201–213
v /infested with; (a slippage noted by Linda Stupart, in relation to Helen Hester’s review of her own book Virus (London Arcadia Missa 2016), “Toward a Theory of Thing-Women”, 2016, by private message, Messenger March 20, 2017)
vi I wrote this paragraph prior to reading this at the Miracle Marathon, but when it came to it, I was too embarrassed to even pronounce it.
vii (J. Baudrillard, 1988, ‘Simulacra and Simulations’, Selected Writings, Cambridge: Polity Press, 166–184
viii Donna Haraway, 2014 [online]: “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene: Staying with the Trouble” presented at Anthropocene: Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet, Aarhus University, May 9, 2014
ix Donna Haraway, 2013 “SF: Science Fiction, Speculative Fabulation, String Figures, So Far.” Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, No.3., online: doi:10.7264/N3KH0K81 (Haraway has made these and other statements like them in many iterations and variations.)
x Living in the future’s co-editor James Hedges, quoting his dad who is an archaelogist
xi Simon James, updated February 28, 2011, “Peoples of Britain”, online: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/british_prehistory/peoples_01.shtml
xii Will Wiles @WillWiles, cited by Jay Owens @hautepop, both tweets Twitter March 19, 2017, with particular reference to Paul Kingsnorth, “The lie of the land: does environmentalism have a future in the age of Trump?” The Guardian March 18, 2017, online: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/18/the-new-lie-of-the-land-what-future-for-environmentalism-in-the-age-of-trump
xiii Anne Boyer, February 20, 2017, Twitter