Latest work for the Message Bundles collaboration with poet Jen Hadfield
The latest part of the collaboration project with the Shetland based writer Jen Hadfield, The Message Bundles, arrived by post recently. Unwrapping the main package to find a collection of smaller individually parceled pieces added to the intrigue and the desire to find out the identity of the contents of the bundle.
Inside was a collection of bone objects, which had been worked and treated by Jen. As she went on to explain;
The bone items can be interpreted as a sort of jargon, an attempt at messaging that is not instantaneous, accessible or convenient. They arrive more or less silently and insist on translation. The likelihood of misunderstanding is high.
Initially I thought I’d make the Jargon from man-made materials only, found on Shetland’s beaches, the fishing junk and cans of Korean hair-spray, bottles of artificial lemon-juice from Spain, and the empty red, green and blue cartridges. I liked the thought of making sense out of junk, sanctifying them by deliberating over material that was chucked carelessly.
I chose bone because it was easy to defer to its natural laws. Bone was just rare enough to have to look for it. I made several trips to collect enough bone to form the jargon.
In the jargon, bones are polished to a greater and lesser sheen, and the idea is that this carries meaning. They are usually drilled. A hole drilled right through a piece of bone means something other than a partial hole filled with paint, and the colour of the paint, and the combination of coloured holes gives greater torque to the meaning, as does the use of sgraffito-like forms, scoring the surface of bone or gesso. Use of gesso slows the making of a piece down somewhat; it has to dry, and be polished. Another way to sanctify through deliberate action.
A piece of jargon decoded might mean –
another of the old folk has passed
another huge house is going up on the hill
i have unplugged the phone, and am not checking email for a while
equinoctial gales – the lochan’s like a skillet of spitting fat, but the garden is still growing
As with poetry, the process is just laborious enough to make you question the import of your message, or whether the form is appropriate to the news, which of course are subjective judgements.
When we were working on the concept for the collaboration, the use of the found, and objects given a value and purpose in communicating a message, were the key to the idea. The jargon works superbly within this concept. Jen’s piece has given me a wide range of possibilities of how to respond to this work, and extend and develop the collaboration further.
Watch out for future posts and messages as the project grows.
Some of the collection of items in the Jargon.
Visit the website of poet Jen Hadfield.
Postings on our Message Bundles collaboration will appear here and on Jen’s site at
Jen Hadfield’s collection ‘Nigh-No-Place’ is available from Amazon