– a fact-less survey of Jubilee Grove

‘Jubilee Grove’ is a parcel of steep-sloping land, originally a fortification glacis. In the 1930s, during the Silver Jubilee, it was planted by the British rulers with an arbitrary grid of pine trees, rumoured as an effort to curtail early insurrectionist gatherings. Decades later, the advent of heroin would claim the grove, also catalysed by its immediate proximity to a major public clinic. Human-sized piles of soiled syringes, some of which also forcefully lodged in the barks of trees, would be eventually found, together with sparse harrowing burnt patches of land. Around the same time and to this day, the grove also became known as the only place dedicated exclusively to male cruising. These are, in most part, middle aged men seeking and offering free sexual promiscuity. The culture of long-standing catholic honour shrouded homosexuality in a shame so unbearable as to force such men, with families back home, into a parallel life.

I grew up a three-minute walk away. None of my parents needed to ever prohibit me to go. Even not knowing why I ought not to go – I just knew I wouldn’t want to. Countless police reports filed for robbery, also by numerous clerics, were repeatedly revealed as cases wherein one visits the area hoping for an encounter, only to find their belongings missing upon returning to dress back up. Despite its dense history of illicit activity, press coverage over the years was negligible. It seems to bring with it a sense of implicit unease which impedes explicit exploring. The grove became something of an emblem, offering ephemeral connection to people who felt they had to deny it to themselves elsewhere.

I started this project upon encountering my new neighbour, walking her dog. I asked where she was taking him. She said she was going to the park. Newcomers, oblivious to the above, fuelled also by the pandemic, started using the grove regularly for picnics and leisurely family gatherings. To this day, one can visit the grove at some points during the day and find a three-metre footpath separating a row of cruisers waiting, and families enjoying their leisurely time. The grove therefore inherited the parallel life led by those it was known to welcome.

This project is then intended as a fact-less survey of the physical space of the grove, taking account of what it is today, shot entirely with a 500mm lens – exclusive to concealed voyeurs, aimed mostly at the trees, consistently breaking, healing, and witnessing their surroundings.