'The unstable, mutable, untruthful realms of Once-upon-a-time are as much a part of human history and thought as the nations in our kaleidoscopic atlases, and some are more enduring. We have inhabited both the actual and the imaginary realms for a long time. But we don’t live in either place the way our parents or ancestor did. Enchantment alters with age, and with the age.'
Ursula Le Guin, Foreword from Tales of Earthsea, 2001
An extract from SHOW CAUTION AND RECKLESSNESS.
To paraphrase our tour guide while on a recent trip to Glasgow's Museum Resource Centre: ‘Museums are the first place people raid during times of civil unrest, as they are usually full of weaponry’. The GMRC Arms & Armour collection currently houses over 400 firearms, 430 edged weapons, around 80 crossbows and accoutrements and 17 near-complete and composite armours.
Compton Verney was requisitioned by english soldiers during the Second World War. Capability Brown’s decorative sphinxes on top of the Upper Bridge were used as target practise, and were subsequently rebuilt. In Danny Boyle’s post-apocalyptic horror movie 28 Days Later, Christopher Eccleston’s Army Major and his insidious band of soldiers fortify Trafalgar Park Country House, waiting for the infected to starve. The cultural value of a grade-1 listed Georgian mansion decreases considerably when you're in survival mode.
The first things we took were candles. Now we wander the Chinese Galleries repurposing the Bronze Age vessels for our resistance. Our ancient future cooking pots resemble four-legged beasts; our warning alarm, a military bell from the Zhou dynasty, with elaborate symmetrical intertwined dragons. Two Guardian figures, in ornate military costumes, which represent two of the Four Heavenly Kings who watch over the earth from the four directions, now watch over our camp; one to the West and one to the East. We search the Victorian Women's Library in the hopes of finding kindling and 19th Century feminist bedtime reading, but instead find only a re-interpretation, with imitation spines of books by female authors stuck on for the decoration.
Upton House is the closest possible replica of our experience, both geographically and architecturally, and is therefore our closest possible threat. National heritage sites have become outposts of the future.
Lying underneath Enid Marx curtains, our most recent apocalyptic acquisition from The Marx-Lambert Collection, we talk about the possibilities of permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next. In practical senses all things will come into use again instead of being cherished and stripped of their spines for display and preservation.
ANOTHER WORD FOR IMAGINATION IS RESOURCEFULNESS.
Rubbing taken from Capability Brown Chapel (1780), Compton Verney.