from Eco-Revolt by Julian Langer
– written before the show aired
When I was contacted to be part of a BBC2 TV series about walking in Devon I was excited for the prospect, as well as somewhat horrified. What I enjoy about television is primarily watching stimulating fictions, generally for the horror, thrill, or violence within the performance. With regards to “news”, documentaries, “reality TV” and “factual television”, I am generally revolted by my experience of what is called “the Spectacle” by Situationists and “hyper-reality” by the sociologist Baudrillard. This contradiction goes with the experience of living between the technologically-drivenurbanising mass-extinction machinery called civilisation and the wild breathing world of the living.
I will share here that I thoroughly dislike “nature shows/documentaries”, that propagate and perpetuate the ideology of the living world as one of images, disembodied factoidal objects, far away & not here or now, and that it is explainable; rather than the living world being here and now, an experience we encounter in our being-alive & when with living flora, fauna and minerals, and is not limited to the facts and explanations of “experts”. Why watch a scientist talk about trees, rivers, hares and birds of prey, on TV, when there are trees, rivers, hares and birds of prey outside your door, that you can meet in the same way that you might meet a friend, face-to-face and in-person?
So why agree to participate in the making of such a spectacle? Is it hypocrisy for me to have engaged in such activity? Well, I don’t consider it hypocrisy, though I’ll accept it being a contradiction. What this was, for me, was primarily the opportunity to infect BBC2 with my badger-loving, rebellious, guerrilla ontology, taking this moment to use the largest microphone I will ever have and not losing the potential it holds. I was also excited for the opportunity to experience this mode-of-production, to have a more tangible basis for my thoughts on the matter. After this, my reasons for being part of the show were to experience the walks and see parts of Devon that I have not yet been to.
When it came to the week of filming the episodes, I had a nasty cough that eventually turned into a chest infection, and was getting through cough sweets and syrups at a rate I have never done before, so was not at my friendliest or most socially-agreeable – I tried my best to not be too much of a grump, while also not being insincere or inauthentic. At risk of coming off as being a dick, if I’m honest, it also didn’t help my frustrations with the situation that the other individuals on the show were less than interested in the spaces the walks were located, the experience of being-there, and how they’d agreed to be on a walking show but seemed to hate walking – the complaining about walking was stunningly ridiculous!
What I loved most about the experience was encountering beautiful spaces and affirming the intensity of life that lives here in Devon (despite encroaching urbanisation, pesicidal-machinery and cull-culture). There is a power in the rocks that constitute the coastline of this landscape, the inhuman sea, in the rivers that force their way through the soil and the hills that constitute the topography of this land. There is a dance that is danced by the wild plants, from the tallest trees to the tiniest daisy, by the wild animals, from the smallest of the insects to the mightiest of the deer, and by the winds, rains, hail, sunlight and shadows. While I am horrified and revolted by the abuse that this culture enacts upon the living here, I am in awe of those living beings who live here in-spite of it and who find joy, love, creative potential and home here. I love living here, in this beautiful part of this island in the North Sea – not for cultural or historical romance, but because I am able to walk from my home to woods where birds sing, flowers bloom, pollinators feed, badgers make setts, foxes hunt, ivy climbs walls, the waters of the sea beat against the rock throwing the scent of the salts on the air, and where I experience myself being-here, being-in-this-space, so intensely that I can cry and laugh and dance; and this is what I wanted to affirm through participating on the show, through the largest microphone I will ever have the opportunity to use.
I don’t know if I will get what I desired from participating in the project. I hope that my presence within the spectacle affects some of those individuals who experience it, so that they seek the presence of trees and badgers and rivers in their lives. Perhaps I will only have exacerbated the spectacle and the mediation, alienation and psycho-geographic-distancing. My feeling is that taking the risk was worth the potential it contains, so I can affirm the experience and my choice to partake in the project.