After the first meeting of 'The Autonomy Project' at the Van Abbe Museu in Eindhoven (www.vanabbemuseum.nl/en), I caught up with Van Abbe Director, Manchester City supporter (and all round good egg) Charels Eshe and asked him for some thoughts on Big JR. Being from Manchester (or a 'Manc' as we call those of the Manchester persuasion here in the UK - Alistair Hudson is one too) Charles' first memories of Ruskin were associated with his influence on 'News from Nowhere' and other 19th Century radical free press. It is also interesting that Charles also saw some parallels between Ruskin's struggle with the aesthetics/ethics question and the difficulties of making a meaningful socially engaged practice in today's neo-liberal economy. Charels also has some very interesting things to say on the show he would work on with Ruskin - should the big man himself come back to work with us today.
Charlie Gere wants to do wonderful things to the corps of John Ruskin and, to my surprise, I don't just want to watch, I want to join in!
Charlie, like myself, thinks that the heritage vampires have tried their hardest to reduce Ruskin to nothing more than an anachronistic token of neo-conservative Victorian Chic. In thier eyes, nothing remins of Big JR and his legacy besides a sign-post to a lost past and dreams of medieval craft-based evangelism.
In this interview, shot in the heartland of the academic Ruskinian heritage industry - Charlie outlines his conviction that Big JR may still be able to influence us positively from beyond the grave of museology. Tipping a wink and a nod to Derrida's book 'Spectres of Marx' (in my hazy left-wing mind his finest work), Mr Gere asserts that Big JR haunts us still, like a spectre of the undead, reminding us that ethics is at the heart of any re-assessment of what art actually is and can do.
I recently received this image of the Migratory Dairy School, the only known photo, a Ruskin inspired idea executed by the reliable Cannon Rawnsley to huge success. The school took eduction to the people, in this case teaching farmers how to farm diary cows and produce butter. The school, centred on a caravan and tent, set up for 10 day periods in small villages in Cumbria and helped many farmers out of economic straights during the 1890 recession, anyone for butter.
When Ruskin was in charge of the Oxford museum, he, following his own doctrine that the architect should have practical skills - insisted on building one of the columns himself. It was later rebuilt by the builder. I feel a column coming on.