Derek Jarman: Homage and Trespass

Prospect Cottage TtV – found sculptures triptych

During the February half-term we went to Hastings and I took the opportunity to visit Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage. I’ve been intrigued, delighted, and perplexed by Derek Jarman’s work since he presented the world premiere of his War Requiem at The Duke of York in Brighton in 1989. I don’t get his films: many are haunting and beautiful, some (well Jubilee) are unwatchably cringeworthy but they all leave you feeling there was more to understand, that you’ve watched a piece of art.

From his films I started reading his some of his books: so far Chroma and The Garden. Chroma is a gem ā€“ an unexpected book about colour in which artist notes abut scientific discussion of pigment or deeper reflections of the memories evoked. The Garden is a affecting account of the effect that crafting a garden and a home in the desolate Dungeness landscape can have on a dwindling life. It is a very moving and a very beautiful book.

So with his films and his books as inspiration I took Kate and the kids on a visit to Dungeness.

It was unsettling. On the one hand it had all the eerie haunting beauty I expected. I was excited to be there and to photograph it. But where I expected to feel moved by the death of such an inspirational artist instead I felt uneasy. People must move to Dungeness for its remote beauty, and here I was helping to turn it into a tourist destination. Our smart car parked in front seemed anomalous ā€“ an anomaly I’d injected into the scene. I chatted to the neighbour about the season’s weather as she hang out her washing; I tried to make it my own by taking a series of Through the Viewfinder photos; but in the end what I intended as a homage has left me feeling that I trespassed.


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