Ronan Whittern

Trees Are Fags

From the Artist, Benny Nemer:


This audio walk explores the history and aesthetics of gay sex cruising in city parks by making a number of arguments about the links between gay men and trees. The piece unpacks the etymology of the English word ‘faggot’, proposes the bassoon as the voice of arboreal homosexuality, and asks the listener to tune in to the temporal modes of plant life.



A shuffling collection of choreographic cues — based on the gestural and affective dimensions of cruising — guide the listener on a search not for another human, but for a tree who might become a lover.


The cues are programmed so that each user has a different experience of the piece, led on a different path through a wooded area.


Trees Are Fags is designed to be experienced on a dedicated website, with programming and sound design by Nikita Gaidakov. The piece is narrated by the artist, along with Matt Carter, Oskar Kirk Hansen, Bastien Pourtout, Ed Twaddle, Alberta Whittle, and Virginia Woolf. Bassoon performance by Ronan Whittern.


Trees Are Fags was commissioned by the Cruising the Seventies: Unearthing Pre-HIV/AIDS Sexual Cultures research project and LUX Moving Image,who hosted the project’s launch in London’s Waterlow Park in May 2018. Critical writing about Trees Are Fags includes “Vaster and More Slow,” an essay by artist Alexa Bunnell in Canadian Art magazine, May 2020.


Curator Linnea Jardemark made Trees Are Fags available through a QR-code on the windows of Gerlesborg Konsthall (Sweden) during the summer of 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic forced the gallery to close its interior space. The opening text of the audio walk appeared in Swedish translation in handwritten adhesive vinyl with the title Träd Är Bögar.