Message In a Bottle (Hastings)

by | Nov 21, 2019 | Artwork #3: Intervene, Projects

While completing my score, I was taken to a town north of Boston called Lynn Massachusetts. From there I wandered until I came across a trailed forest called Lynn’s Woods. It was a pretty nice area in an otherwise unassuming town; unfortunately, however, the entrance was rampant with litter–predominantly glass bottles and cans. This was the inspiration behind my intervention: I decided to go back armed with messages to place in the bottles I found, hopefully to invoke enough curiosity for people to pick them up and dispose of them.

My first instinct was for the messages to include statistics on pollution, littering, and global warming–however, I feel that these numbers are already fairly well understood and those who choose to ignore them would not be easily swayed. It could be potentially more effective, I thought, to focus on communicating an appreciation of the natural space through some more obscure, potentially cryptic means. At the very least I wanted to create something odd and intriguing for someone to stumble upon.

Eventually, I arrived at the ‘Tao Te Ching’, an ancient Taoist philosophical text emphasizing nature through ‘the way’ (a loose translation of Tao). This particular text resonated with me for a number of reasons; firstly, it is delivered as a series of individual verses which could be separately appropriated into distinct bottles. Taoism also ties back to the class nicely through its connection to the creation of Fluxus–it is no secret that George Maciunas drew heavy inspiration from Taoist values (‘Fluxus and the Essential Questions of Life’ pg. 8). Paradoxical understanding and opposites, among other things, are vital components of both Fluxus and Taoism.

I printed around three dozen translated verses and cut them out, binding them with rubber bands so they could be easily removed from the bottles without resorting to smashing them open. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately), when I returned to Lynn’s Woods I could only find a little more than a dozen bottles, so I chose my favorite verses and scrapped the rest.


It was raining while I was dropping off these messages, which put a bit of a damper on things. That being said, it was nice to not have to explain myself to any passersby. I haven’t yet returned yet to check on the bottles, but based on the turnover I saw between my first two visits I’m confident that they’ve caught at least one person’s attention.