It seems a lit­tle much to call land­scape paint­ing a pornog­ra­phy of land, but it does dis­tort the expe­ri­ence of walk­ing the land much as pornog­ra­phy dis­torts the expe­ri­ence of sex. The moment of behold­ing, of dis­clo­sure, is exalt­ed and enu­mer­at­ed into an absolute­ly stan­dard cat­a­log of rev­e­la­tions, care­ful­ly iso­lat­ed from the long, grim dura­tions to either side of that moment. On the way to the cliff that over­looks the water­fall, how many rep­e­ti­tions would we real­ly find of the same scrim of thin trees, which are, if you like, the red cur­tains of Lynch’s Black Lodge; to be pushed through and pushed through. If the expe­ri­ence of hav­ing land dis­closed is land­scape, what is the expe­ri­ence of hav­ing it hid, encrypt­ed? Of hav­ing innu­mer­able beech sprouts, or falls of sand­stone, cloud­ing your view? 

Land­scape archi­tects, as befits their name, recon­struct places to mul­ti­ply that expe­ri­ence of land dis­clo­sure, such that every angle is equal­ly good and equal­ly rev­e­la­to­ry. This unfor­tu­nate­ly neces­si­tates dec­o­rat­ing (improv­ing?) spaces that would oth­er­wise be marked OFF; think of the Watery Walk at Rousham, which throws an octa­gon at you just to see if you are still pay­ing atten­tion. The charm of Renais­sance gar­dens, espe­cial­ly those strug­gling to main­tain them­selves, becomes that they utter­ly for­get them­selves in dark paths, before switch­ing ON again; now think of the dis­tance between the grounds and the casi­no at the Vil­la Farnese. 

uccello riff
Looking at Uccello’s hunt, you are tempted first to double the amount of trees, and then triple them; then, a tree for every stag, every lean dog, every peon with a beating staff, every merry little cardinal on horseback.

For a land­scape archi­tect to change the objec­tive and to active­ly pro­duce cov­er, tan­gle, poché even, would be to make some­thing that I want to call – unre­lieved, unremit­ting, unre­lent­ing, relent­less? But those mean you are being attacked, which isn’t quite it. Inter­minable? But then even these dense expe­ri­ences end. Here is the clue: as I dri­ve to and from work, the FM sta­tion gets over­cast with sta­t­ic along one par­tic­u­lar road, and the fea­tures I want to hear become lit­tle rocks pok­ing from a white sea. To make land appear in such a way would be to make it gar­bled, to mul­ti­ply sig­nals until they become noise.

(February 2020)