The Spirit is a Bone took the form of a creative intervention within the Derby Museums Visual Poetry of 1001 Objects gallery from May 2013 to January 2014. Continuing with its aim to inspire curiosity, a bespoke desk-bureau with a number of drawers by my collaborator Paul Evans was nestled within the space. Within the recesses and drawers were a series of peculiar drawings based on the various natural history specimens that were displayed within the Fragments of Bone display; the drawings hint at half-truths, scientific misapprehensions and origin tales of dubious veracity.
Connected with the drawings were a series of epigrams I’d created, some based on the ancient Anglo-Saxon tradition of riddle poems – poems wherein the object speaks.
The desk-bureau was designed as an interactive intervention, with space for visitors to continue the dialogue between collection, artist and audience by leaving a drawing or text piece of their own,
A sequence of my poems featured at 20-21 Visual Arts Centre, Scunthorpe alongside a number of other artists’ works. The exhibition, curated by and featuring the work of Paul Evans, ran from December 2012 until the middle of January 2013. The event included photographs, paintings and drawings, a sound installation, digital and video artworks each accompanied by new poems. The other artists involved in the project were Karl Hurst, Chloe Brown, Humanstudio, Hondartza Fraga, and Tony Kemplen.
The exhibition as a whole used as its starting point the Victorian hymn ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ which expounds the intrinsic notion that ‘God made [us] high and lowly’, and made hierarchies around all the creatures of the planet. The artworks and poems on show explored how this principle was fundamentally questioned by post-Darwinist thinking.
I wrote the following poem for ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ after contemplating this rather spectral, haunting photograph by Karl Hurst.
surmises we begin as fish
then wriggle out with features like a frog’s,
a lizard’s, before the mammal in us surfaces.
These creatures sniff the air for something,
clawing at the light that keeps them pinned,
a lost terrain contoured on their skin.
They’ve burrowed up from deep inside our heads,
a swerve we cannot shake. We ask
of them the hardest things: to feel, to speak.
Works by Chris Jones, alongside paintings by Paul Evans and poems by Matt Clegg have been placed in the new Cancer Genetics Building and Cancer Research Building in Cardiff. The commission – led by Paul Evans – has been created in close collaboration with researchers at the Cardiff University Medical School, technicians and practitioners in the area of cancer research. The commission, along with details of the new building can be viewed in this pdf.