Jarman’s Garden

‘….. but perhaps the oldest example of these heterotopias, in the form of contradictory emplacements, is the garden’.

In his tantalisingly brief comments about heterotopias, Foucault suggests that gardens are perhaps one of the oldest examples of these ‘different’ spaces. According to Foucault, they incorporate a rich spatial incompatibility. The essay below begins by presenting a brief history and discussion of some of the spatial ambiguities of gardens. The main section is an exploration of the spatial and temporal ambiguities of Derek Jarman’s garden in Dungeness on the Southern coast of England.

Derek Jarman's Garden by Michael Kidd
Derek Jarman’s Garden by Michael Kidd


Download essay: Derek Jarman’s Garden pdf


Jarman’s house and garden – own photo


Related links and resources

1. Excellent article:

Steyaert, C.  (2010) ‘Queering space: heterotopic life in Derek Jarman’s garden’ Gender, Work and  Organization 17: 46 – 68.


Understanding the study of sexual spaces as heterotopological, this article argues that, in the context of sexual minorities, new forms of sexual identity that contest the dominant forms are generated and practiced in specific, ‘other’, spaces and timings, so-called ‘heterotopias’. To develop and illustrate this argument, the garden and gardening practices of Derek Jarman are described and analysed as a heterotopic space and practice. To theoretically establish the relationship between sexual difference and (other) space, the notion of heterotopia is connected to the concept of the care of the self that is simultaneously understood as an existential, aesthetic and political activity of (creating) difference. Stressing the dimension of resistance, the care of the self is interpreted as a queer practice that turns a spatial politics of (sexual) difference into one of queering spaces.

2. Nakaue, M. (2008) ‘Of Other Places: The Garden as a Heterotopic Site in Contemporary Art’ The Brock Review. 10:1. 

From abstract:

This article investigates the way that nature, in this case the garden, is utilized and represented in contemporary art. By analyzing and applying Foucault’s lecture, “Of Other Spaces” and definition of heterotopias to the work of artists such as Douglas and Locke, the paper aims to illuminate the connection between site and subjectivity, and the multiplicity of meaning that results from the garden as being the quintessential site of postmodern experience.

3. Short video of Jarman’s garden.

4. Wonderful quotations from Louis Marin:

The ‘antique paradox’ of a garden:

the unsurpassable contradiction, where art and nature, artifice and truth, imagination and the real, representation and being, mimesis and the origin, play hide-and seek.  (Marin, 1992: 70 cited in Bann, 2003)

Marin’s (1992: 87) plea to designers:

 You who build gardens, don’t make parks or green spaces, make margins. Don’t make leisure and game parks, make places of jouissance, make closures that are openings. Don’t make imaginary objects, make fictions. Don’t make representations, make empty spaces, gaps, make neutrality.

Bann, S. (2003) ‘Arcadia as utopia in contemporary landscape design: the work of Bernard Lassus’, History of the Human Sciences, 16 (1): 109-121.

Marin, L. (1992) Lectures traversières, Paris: Albin Michel.

Jarman’s back garden 2011 – own photo

June 2017



  1. Clare Smith
    December 3, 2017 @ 12:49 pm

    Fantastic article and website which I have referenced in a paper I am giving at the Symposium, Drawing Conversations 2, Body Space Object in December.


  2. Cláudia Ribeiro de Barros Leal
    September 9, 2016 @ 1:33 pm

    I am delighted with the site that I have just discovered . The heterotopia theme of Foucault is very broad , diverse and doing exceptionally fruitful . I am a researcher at the University of Fortaleza in Brazil and have been developing research on heterotopias in Canoa Quebrada , a community of coastal zone . What I have seen here on the site are precious information and will soon be offering what I’m writing about it. I hope to exchange many ideas .


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