The Husbands Message

As I’m in the last week of my video postcard project for Colm Cille’s Spiral, in which I’ve been sending 15 second video postcards to whoever asks for one, I wanted to put down a couple of thoughts about one of the inspirations behind it, which I learned about from medieval literature PhD students at Kings College.

The Husband’s Message, an anonymous Old English poem, dates to around the 10th century and is one of the few surviving poetic compilations from the Anglo-Saxon period. Taken to be a love letter from a lord to his estranged wife, it nevertheless seems to be written from the perspective of the wood which bears the lines of the poem, that is, the object the husband sent out with his message:

 I remain true     to the tree I was hacked from
Wood I am, bearing     the marks of a man

The wood, which carries the message ‘cross the sea’ ‘borne on salt currents’, is therefore both a medium or a carrier for the content of the poem, and a speaker; it is a self-aware medium that both carries the message and reflects on its ability to carry it:

To you far away     I carry this message

However, the text of the poem is itself a medium, which casts it as a very early example of what Marshall McLuhan argued was characteristic of every medium: that its ‘content’ is always another medium, which ‘shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action’. In other words, look at the wood (the medium) and its power to shape human experience through its ability to carry messages, not just the poem (its content)- which is what the speaker of The Husbands Message invites the […]

Hidden messages

Would you like to receive a personal, private video postcard sent directly to your email address as part of my commission for the London & Essex Knot of Colm Cille’s Spiral?

Between the 8th August- 12th September, send me a message when you want to receive a video; I will respond as quickly as possible from wherever I am, whatever it is I’m doing.

In exchange, I would like you to ‘complete’ the video by adding the meta-data: a title, 3 or more tags (i.e. keywords that could describe the video I send- you can be as creative or deadpan as you like…), and optionally a caption.

These will be used as meta-data for a corresponding blank/ contentless video on Instagram, and also in the final piece,  including an exhibition in Derry in December.
Your response can be credited or anonymous, whatever you prefer.

 

Background

As part of the London & Essex knot of the Colm Cille Spiral commission, I will be sending a series of personal videos to friends, family and network connections (i.e Twitter followers, Facebook friends, past collaborators)  over the course of a journey across Europe to Paris, Venice and Greece between August 8th and September 12th.

Using Instagram, videos will take the form of postcards: diaritistc/ subjective reflections on the current location and my experience of it, with a personalised element, so that, like a postcard each message is specifically addressed to that individual. Amplifying the intrusion of social media into our daily lives- and holidays- I will respond to people’s requests from wherever I am, whatever I happen to be doing; in this way, the recipients have an element of control over the situation I make the video in, heightening the illusion of immediacy and instantaneous […]