A short history of the Irish garden: you and your family are in the ground together. I won’t go into details, but it’s boring and slow work transitioning from human to compost. Above you, the surface warms and cools, moistens and dries in intervals, and when the soil reaches about 15 degrees celsius the seeds near the surface germinate. A shitty form of metamorphosis. 

After Cré na Cille or The Dirty Dust: the gossip in the mass famine grave was probably more exciting than the bullshit of the middle-class cemetary, but when it’s someone you love in there you try not to think about class. I always felt inherently anti-burial but now that I know that you are a pile of dust on your parent’s mantle I feel more at ease with decomposing regularly, myself. The unmarked grave of an unknown man might have been better. Unlike the vocal graveyard in Connemara, I feel as though my house is loudly inhabited by you in the form of various insects that make their way inside when it’s warm, and I let them stay for five to ten minutes before killing them and moving on. The feeling of fear is a pleasant flashback: I know PTSD is complex but never expected to enjoy it.

They say that daffodils are the heralds of spring but I prefer to wait for primula to arrive. A soft chatter, not a scream. On the banks of Chincoteague Island where feral horses have lived for 300 years, saltwater cowboys herd the animals across shallow waters to sell them off to fundraise for the fire department. I take a boat ride to see them up close in late August one year, forget to wear mosquito repellant, and am bitten over thirty times on my legs. I come back sunburnt and itchy. You go down on me while I watch TV and we talk about how noisy the cicadas outside are at length. Six months later on a beach you threaten to kill me.

The pleasure garden, the pleasure ground, ‘a continuous and pleasing variety’ an ‘agreeable geometric flower garden’, the garden within the garden, the garden within the graveyard, the graveyard within the garden, the fernery, the rockery, the rose garden with ablas, damasks, gallicas and centifolias in bloom for nobody while the aristocracy are away from their ‘country seats’, the perfect whole, the perfect hole, a paradise out of a common field, a field of ‘commoners’ somewhere on the way to paradise.

I’m sitting across from my friend in a cafe in East Belfast as they tell me about a video game they have been playing called Hellblade and how it reflects a portion of their experiences with psychosis back to them, in a positive light. The character in the game has voices in her head, the Furies; her mother did too but she didn’t struggle with them in the same way. Senua, the protagonist, carries her lover’s head under her arm as she heads into hell to find him. My friend’s dead mother comes to visit them in their house, a house that smells of house fire, a smell you never forget after your own house burns down. I think it’s mostly the smell of the burnt uPVC window frames. “YOU ARE SURROUNDED BY ALLIES THE MINUTE YOU DECIDE TO BE” - I heard this either on a podcast or a TV show, but I never really considered who these allies could be beyond the confines of this celestial sphere we share. I forgot the dead can do this work, too.

I read about Orpheus and Eurydice and romanticised it when I was in a bad non-relationship with someone who drank a lot. I was Orpheus, naturally. In the film ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’, the myth of Orpheus is used to recentre the female gaze, pointing to queer looks of longing as forbidden visions. Forbidden visions can ruin you but being a ruin has always been attractive, I guess. The Irish landscape is full of them: picturesque decaying objects, remnants of a landscape destroyed by colonisers, a style the English eventually lifted and brought into their own garden designs as brutish accessories, architectural taxidermy. Whether these can be considered monuments or anti-monuments, I’m not sure.

“I know the difference between what I can't do and what I refuse to do.” (1) 

Like most femme tombs, the Burren and its complex ecosystem of karst hosts the most diverse orchid population on the island. You rarely hear of ‘stone femme’, the hardness of rock traditionally aligned to masculine of centre bodies, but its rejection of floral fertility speaks more to me, and the alignment of abundance with an area that resembles the moon feels almost too good to be true. Somerville and Ross, a pair of queer 19th century writers from West Cork, are buried side by side in Castletownsend’s Church of Ireland cemetary, one with a cross for a headstone and the other an organic rock formation. Saxifrage, a small alpine wildflower, translates as “stone-breaker” and they grow huddled between rocks and in shallow depressions.  A particular species of saxifrage rapidly colonised bomb sites in England, earning itself the name London Pride. Narratives of recovery and post-trauma are always littered with pride, but still I prefer shame. It is unclear, historically, whether Somerville and Ross ever actually were a romantic couple, but those headstones are as legible as a longing look across a gay bar to me.

Traveling through the world trying to avoid being touched is not new.

Collective grief can be communally addressed if we approach healing through the lens of the decolonial and not the colonial. It is easier to say this out loud than to know what it actually means. I think a key difference is that healing won’t necessarily make you a better worker.

‘Chaos theory proposes that the same processes that produce chaos also produce structure. Non-linear mathematical systems that produce chaotic results by a process of continuous iteration also ‘settle out’ periodically and produce regular patterns. But likewise, systems that produce regular patterns also produce chaos, and this is especially visible in the process of evolution. Living organisms reproduce themselves with high degrees of accuracy, but they also produce errors or mutations. Mutations indicate a capacity for interaction with the environment that produces structural change.’ (2)

As always, I return to abstraction.

After I wasn’t dead: a paradise out of a common field, again.

Another quote from Leslie Steinberg in Stone Butch Blues: “I’m sorry it’s had to be this hard. But if I hadn’t walked this path, who would I be? At the moment I felt at the center of my life, the dream still braided like sweetgrass in my memory. I remembered Duffy’s challenge. Imagine a world worth living in, a world worth fighting for. I closed my eyes and allowed my hopes to soar. I heard the beatings of wings nearby. I opened my eyes. A young man on a nearby rooftop released his pigeons, like dreams, into the dawn.”

(1) Leslie Steinberg, Stone Butch Blues, 1993
(2) Shaun Bartone, “Strange Attractors: Queer, Chaos, and Evolution”, 2015


                                JUNE 6 2019

1. Ut pictura poesis. Translated: as with poetry, so with painting.

2. “The intimacy of contact shapes bodies as they orient toward each other, doing different kinds of work.”

Painting, poetry, perhaps all image-oriented practices, offer touching without touching at all. A haptic visuality, a mutual understanding between a body (or bodies) and an object (or objects), tapping into our synesthesiac database of previous experiences.

BDSM understands this relationship between the sign (the signifier) and the meaning (the signified). A spectrum of encounters, ranging from permanent deprivation of touch to extreme wounding of the skin, highlight the necessity of “historical” and normative tactile gestures. Humiliation can only be known through the assignment of a Master.

3. Digital images and environments experience a type of degradation between the screen and the spaces outside of it that our bodies inhabit and are inevitably disappointing. Flatter than anticipated; lacklustre without RGB backlighting. The installation begins as lines of text in a Google doc, transitioning into paintings, JPEGs, .PSD files, becoming tangible .OBJ files in shared spaces. This isn’t a linear process.

3D structures from modeling software programs are flattened, layered, and printed as inkjet-embedded membranes, sometimes stretched taut, solid, sometimes loose. A dirty pink chaise offers a space to sit and wait. Animals are hung from the grid on the ceiling, revisiting their original position. Regenerated remnants of divinity and chaos.  

4. Queer phenomenology offers insight into how history has been shaped by the lived experiences of people, and how bodies are oriented in space to perceive (and mis-perceive) objects and other bodies. If history “happens” in the repetition of gestures, and if this “history” is what gives bodies their ‘dispositions’ or ‘tendencies’ then it is interesting to think about the history of painting through a lens of dis-orientation. I am not suggesting that painting be removed from its strange and uncomfortable history. I am more interested in the history of representation, and therefore, ‘de-presentation.’

The dynamics of domination and submission will be embedded in image economies for as long as images are currency and currency is a means of acquiring power. Luxurious images rub up against “poor” images on the network, and the ‘digital divide’ erases itself, ideally along with Cartesian dualism, dichotomies of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, and the gender binary.

I think that I think about pixels like homeopaths think about water, each square imprinted with the essence of the image it is part of; contained and  depersonalised simultaneously. Is this how the network reveals itself to us? Can I study the network like Violette Leduc studied Simone de Beauvoir, under the ‘scholarly’ guidance of intense projection, erotomania, and some semblance of romance?   


5. The spirituality that you come across while in treatment for addiction can be off-putting at first, but perhaps you eventually come to realise that connection is the only antidote to Our Collective Trauma and resistance is futile.

I am not so sure about the idea of God, and try to become more connected to Nature instead, as the power dynamics seem more... reasonable? Is it unclear sometimes whether this connection can be to the gorse in a garden in West Cork (known) or the gorse that grows in West Oregon (unknown). The same plant that grows here destroys entire cities there, inciting uncontrollable wildfires in cities with familiar names: Bandon, Kinsale, Mallow.

In another timeline, perhaps, instead of collecting gladiator sweat in Ancient Rome I can collect the sweat that drips down your back in peak summer heat to wear in a vial around my neck and study its miasma.

In the TV show ‘The OA’ one of the dance ‘movements’ that precedes dimension traveling requires a beaked hand to fly towards the mouth, inserted like a Margaret Atwood poem: a bird being eaten “when we still had the chance to say no.”

I always thought the neck was the point where the head and the body separates, but I realise now that it is the throat.


6. What does Alexa think of the snake biting Cleopatra’s nipple, rendered by artists, over and over? Or Siri of the suicide of Lucretia, Google of the prominence of Saint Sebastian? While we are logging, indexing, going to therapy, computers too are performing deep learning, coming into contact with our mythologies, encountering Saint Denis as he picks his decapitated head up and walks away alongside the decapitated body of Kim Wall in a submarine in the Oresund Strait.

I am thinking about the networks getting to know themselves through us.

If a Higher Power is ‘the way out’, could Regular Power be the way in? Screen-oriented chaos magic and the collective thoughts of all users registered on Twitter emerge, like Egregore, from all this as a way of saying: we are fucked, and like anything, it’s alright until it’s not. Wear excessive amounts of body glitter, do or don’t do poppers with strangers, and go home alone. Keep doing this until you’re 50, at least. Things will reveal themselves to you whether you look for them or not.


7. I am trying to understand the manner in which technology (an extension of the state) functions as a mechanism for establishing and undoing person-hood – what Halberstam calls “zombies”, da Silva calls “no bodies”, what Hevdas calls “sick women” – and how it may be possible to occupy that space in between person-ness (life) and de-person-ness (death) as the un-dead, near-dead, almost-dead. Irreverence meets desperation.

There is an element of surrealism to the images I make that allows for simulations of wedding cake to exist alongside alligator skin, emeralds, Trish Stratus, horses, and lava. Fragmented narratives and mythologies perform a type of queer illegibility that recognises its own participation in an image economy, but remains slippery enough to avoid being co-opted too enthusiastically.

One of the many paradoxes of being alive is the desire to be looked at while also remaining invisible. Does recognition rely on the image economy? Is pictorial ‘evidence’ of suffering (on Twitter, no less, one of the few major platforms that allows for gore) the only way for suffering to be seen?


8. Boyer writes, “the greatest danger of epic wanting is to mistake wanting to want with actual wanting. One must engineer the most durable delusion to sustain the state of totalizing desire with unachieved and unachievable reciprocation.”

When images become means of acquiring attention and currency in an economy of social media and screen-based interactions, the trap of visibility that Foucault outlines in his examination of the Panopticon becomes even more visible. All spaces (irl/afk/wtv) share the space of the prison, but I am not talking about data protection, privacy, or surveillance. The structure of the Panopticon encourages a dissociation between seeing and being seen, a physical structure that illustrates the nature of power by rupturing it, disembodying it.

Beauty and desire are often confused for each other, peculiarly associated and dissociated. Aspiring towards beauty can be read as a gesture towards desirability, but what does it look like when one of the truths of desire is that it can only desire more desiring? What are the potential climaxes of desiring energy? It cannot be what it looks like now: normativity, pornography, supremacy, Regular Power, death. A strain of nihilism that I refuse to bear any longer.  


9. Edouard Glissant says “Nothing is True, Everything is living” to describe the limitations of language when it comes to living and speaking the Truth. (Truth always capitalised, living never.) “For the living is expressed in nothing, except in his own transport, and Truth flows by force through him who claims it.”

This is of little comfort right now.

I consider the collective consciousness of the ‘living’, the half-alive - and I suppose the other half, the half-dead - and the cacophonous choir of groans that might emerge from these bodies and no-bodies in varied states of being. It becomes hard to tell which direction the evangelising is traveling in.

Language follows living, “nothing is living… that does not express itself.” But what of the Cotard delusion? PTSD? I sometimes feel so detached from reality that I feel if I were to crash my car that I would probably just re-enter the environment a few hours before at a checkpoint, perhaps that morning, making toast and looking out the window watching my fuschia bloom.

If some situations are ‘concrete’ in terms of Truth (rivers, volcanoes, soil, sky) and others are not, which water did this simulated swan, now frozen in a dimension somewhere between 2 and 3, dip its neck into before I broke it?


10. Some Classicists speculate that the poet Sappho speaks of a collective desire, rather than that of the individual; performed with a chorus, rather than a single voice. It can also be said that her feelings belong to all readers of the poems: “Because it is mine. Yours. Ours.”

If you are reading this, I am under your skin and you are under mine. A man I know describes this using a geological term - subduction - and gets off on it, but I am not sure I can reciprocate. This disintegration of self is hot to some and boring to others, “utterly unmysterious and unspeakably miraculous.”

“There is no adequate gesture, nothing in the arsenals of figuration that will serve; only a terrible plainness of saying, or of pointing toward what cannot be said, can rise to these occasions. Perhaps Akhmatova’s famous response to the woman in line during the siege of Leningrad who asked “Can you describe this?” must be understood as not only “Yes, I can” but also, beneath the poet’s hard-won courage, an understanding that “It cannot be written about.”

And so, images.


Work cited:

Ahmed, Sara. “Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others.” North Carolina: Duke University Press. 2006.
Boyer, Anne. “The One and Only.” Mal Magazine, 01-11-2018.

Doty, Mark. “Can Poetry Console a Grieving Public?” Poetry Foundation. 12-09-2006.

Foucault, Michel. “Discipline and Punishment.” New York: Vintage Books. 1995.
Horace, “Ars Poetica.” Poetry Foundation. 13-10-2009. (Accessed: 03-04-2019)
Leupin, Alexandre. “Nothing is True, Everything is living.” The Glissant Translation Project. 20-10-2017.

Morton, Timothy. “Guest Column: Queer Ecology.” PMLA, Volume 125, Number 2, March 2010.
Steyerl, Hito. “In Defense of the Poor Image.” E-flux. 01-11-2009.

Wilson, Emily. “Tongue Breaks.” London Review of Books. Vol 26 No 1, January 2004.