Melanie Jackson

This book of the artists drawings was prompted by her collection of images of a particular set of ‘medieval obscenities’ known as the ‘bawdy badges’. Pilgrim badges are small cast tin or lead alloy brooches. Thousands have survived from the high and late middle ages. They were mass produced and easily affordable, part of a vast and profitable pan European trade. They are often discovered in the banks and the beds of its rivers. They are exquisite, rough hewn and lively sculpted reliefs. A group of these – of which little was written or acknowledged but many made and found – are known as the bawdy badges, or the secular badges, sexual badges, or the erotic pins.

These badges delight in hybridity – an extravagant imaginary of social and sexual reproduction. The very public, motile, wandering agency of these body parts as beings is as surprising and satisfactory to the contemporary eye as the medieval one. They are at once comical, self mocking, judgemental, generous, cruel, rapturous, emancipatory, banal, profane, erotic, ridiculous, devout, secular and cut through with an erotic drive for the divine.

In Spekyng Rybawdy a retinue of figures has been re-imagined and re-drawn through an imaginary prism of polarising filters with all their spectral diffractions. The drawings have been rendered with ink and pigment – to join once again in public assembly.

72 pages full colour

limited edition of 100

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In our own time of pandemic it is not transmission by the eye that we fear, but proximate breath and touch. So here characters assemble en masse, in the public places that we currently have available to us where we can assemble freely, albeit at distance, where the eye and hand can wander – in print as a succession, a parade.

The work is part of the Procreate Project commission 2020 round supported by Arts Council Emergency Response funds.