Lead Image Melanie Jackson 3 300dpi 1600x900

The Temperament Index, Melanie Jackson

Aspex Portsmouth is delight­ed to present The Tem­pera­ment Index – the lat­est incar­na­tion of Melanie Jackson’s trav­el­ling project Spekyng Rybawdy’.*

In her installation, the viewer is invited to wander amongst projected animations, cut-out figures and body bits, handmade clay objects, drawings and more. Jackson has rallied together a procession, a carnival of conceptual nomads that jostle and jive, pleasure, fight and take flight across a trans-historical plane of existence, in which we are as much participants as voyeurs.

Pilgrim Badges were small cast tin or lead alloy brooches that were mass-produced in the medieval period and sold along pilgrim routes, and at fairs and carnivals. Easily affordable, made by and for working people, they were part of a vast and profitable pan-european trade. A group of these were known as the bawdy badges, the secular badges, the sexual badges, or the erotic pins. There are persistent images of locomotion, and motility, farcical assemblages, dissolutions and transformations of gender and class.They delight in hybridity – an extravagant imaginary of social and sexual reproduction, joyfully rendered with absurdist, deflationary humour. It is a world of absurd and inventive beings, rich with humour, dissent, subversion, delight, hilarity, titillation, surprise.

Recent theories have sought to attribute ‘personality’ to the dominance of dopamine, serotonin, testosterone and oestrogen in the brain, and designate subjects as ‘temperament’ types – reminiscent of the mediaeval theory of the four humours. Such projections coincide with new technologies of high definition electron micrography that can now image hormones and neurotransmitter crystals with extraordinary detail – their polarising filters bathing their structures with polychromatic spectral hues. The badges are found always tarnished and monochrome, but would originally have been shiny, enamelled, augmented with coloured glass. Jackson has redrawn and reimagined the figures as an assembly, reinstating their spectral effect with ink and pigment: a sparkling of yellows, pinks and greens underlaid with flashes of gold and umber, creating a spectrum of a-subjective and affect-laden opportunity.

Using the badges a kind of collective commons from which to add in the present, new narratives of dissent and empowerment around sexual and reproductive bodies are revealed. The work opens up an important lineage of visual methods and vocabularies of resistance and ways of imagining alternative power structures for self determination, as well as challenging ways images may be used to uphold violences of control and exclusion.

*Spekyng Rybawdy MED s.v. “ribaudi” (n.), (b): “obscenity, scurrility, bawdry; coarse speech; an obscene story”;

DMLBS s.v. “turpiloquium” (n.): “foul or offensive speech.”

About Melanie Jackson

Melanie Jackson is a London-based artist working with modes of non-fiction storytelling through assemblages of sculpture, writing and moving image. Recent exhibitions include Spekyng Rybawdy, Mattflix, (2020) and Deeper in the Pyramid, Banner Repeater, London, Grand Union, Birmingham, and Primary, Nottingham (2018). Jackson is represented by Matt’s Gallery and is currently a Tutor at the Royal College of Art, London.


This exhibition is located in the Main Gallery on the ground floor and has step free access. The exhibition space has dimmed low level lighting. A large print exhibition text is available in the entrance of the gallery space.
Lead Image Melanie Jackson 3 300dpi 1600x900