‘Altering the Landscape a Little Bit’
Queer space-making in Collier Schorr’s Blumen
“What is a queer practice of landscape architecture? This paper addresses the complicity of architectural space-making in the formation of a queer political subject, through a study of one artist’s landscape practice. ‘Altering the Landscape a Little Bit’ is forthcoming in a peer-reviewed journal of architectural history.
In 2005, the lesbian Jewish American photographer Collier Schorr began shooting Blumen, or “flowers,” a series that features cut flowers artificially suspended on fishing line just above the “natural” landscape of southern Germany. The images transgress both generic boundaries—between landscape and still life—and legal boundaries: to construct them, Schorr broke into neighbors’ yards, picked flowers from their gardens, then crossed over to an adjacent property to construct and photograph the small “shrines to nothing”.
This paper suggests that the images of Schorr’s Blumen corpus radically reclaim the German forest, transforming it from a site of repressive gender normativity to a site of multiplying gender variance, drawing from Schorr’s explicit positioning of her photographs of the German “field and forest” in contrast to Nazi conservation policy, which protected the German forest as a symbol of Aryan masculinity and ancient racial superiority. The author argues that Schorr’s Blumen constructions represent a queer practice of space-making, which can inform landscape architectural theories of gender, sexuality, and identity.
This article was developed at the Dumbarton Oaks Graduate Workshop in Garden and Landscape Studies. It was presented it at “Senses and Spaces,” the 2018 Annual Graduate History Symposium at the University of Toronto and is currently in peer review at a journal of architectural history.
see selected images from Blumen at 303 Gallery.