“The vital principle is not the love of knowledge, but the love of change.”
I just ran across this (kind of) curatorial statement on the blog of Daniel Campbell Blight for a 2009 painting and etching show he curated called ‘On Land’. The piece below, written by Vince Stephen, really touched and intrigued me.
I love the combination of poetic language, economic critique and the evocation of nostalgia in one confident piece. The writing style doesn’t feel contemporary although the concerns are.
To John Ruskin
The vital principle is not the love of knowledge, but the love of change.
Up here above Coniston Water we walk your floors and play your piano. Children play raindrops on the white keys. We are surrounded by constructions of memories.
You came here to rest they tell me, to convalesce, when it seemed the country would never accept a different style of progress. When you took on too much and burnt yourself, you came here to build a garden and for quiet and for the view. You withdrew. For the light and the water. We follow you.
Dissidents they tell me passed through your dining room, with content for pamphlets – with front-line reports, out here far from Manchester, a slow revolution.
If we pretend to have reached either perfection or satisfaction, we have degraded ourselves and our work.
For music, birdsong. For still-life, feathers. For landscape a circular turret connected to the edge of your bedroom. It collects light and it allows contemplation. Below my wife traces aimless circles with a mobile phone pressed to her ear. And somehow I know she is speaking her language.
I don’t know if you died alone, but they say the storm clouds which loitered above convinced you in your last days that the battle against evil, against the horrors of industry and uncaring capital, had gone somehow biblical, was taking place in the elements now, a skybound struggle for the soul of the Island. I don’t know if you died alone, but they’ve placed your walking stick on your tiny single bed. Somehow this arrangement of objects suggests so.
We buy our liveries, and gild our prayer-books, with pilfered pence out of children’s and sick men’s wages, and thus ingeniously dispose a given quantity of Theft, so that it may produce the largest possible measure of delicately-distributed suffering.
Vince Stephen, 2009.
This last quote which I love was from John Ruskin (1817-1900) was from Ruskin’s book The Two Paths (available online at Project Gutenberg).