The queer filmmaker, artist, activist, and gardener, Derek Jarman, when diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, turned to what may seem like an unlikely form of political and aesthetic expression. His eventually world-famous garden allowed him symbolically and aesthetically to address the political issues with which he had always passionately concerned himself: environmental degradation, nuclear expansion, homophobia, consumer culture, and AIDS. Each of these issues entailed a crisis of political response in the late twentieth century, and in the garden, Jarman addresses this crisis on a number of levels, but always as elements of a terminal condition without any prospect of a “cure.” Using literary analysis to examine the garden and Jarman’s writing about it, in addition to a cultural studies perspective to place these topics in a broad context, this essay undertakes a study of the garden’s codes and effects. Consulting Sarah Ensor and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, both of whom describe terminality as a temporality with its own powers and ways of being, I focus on Jarman’s efforts in what he acknowledges as a damaged, post-natural landscape. Rather than seeing crisis only as a moment of emergency, Jarman imagines other more reflective responses to crisis that, I argue, complement more interventionist approaches.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited