LOVE IS THE HIGHEST ECONOMY OF LIFE

Love is the Highest Economy of Life is a new installation covering the top five storeys of the 14-storey Civic Centre by local artist collective Still Moving.

The inspiring scrolling messages have been made in collaboration with poet and novelist Sir Ben Okri, edited from a longer text. It uses the same materials as the globally renowned No New Worlds light installation from 2020.

We caught up with the minds behind the installation to delve deeper into the meanings and processes behind it.

Join Still/Moving Co-Directors Martin Hampton and Léonie Hampton as they discuss the intricacies of the installation, from initial ideas through to set up. Plus, hear from Sir Ben Okri on the formation of his seven word poem that now shines brightly from the top of the Civic Centre building.

Watch the interviews in the video below.

We’ve been asking the people of Plymouth what scrolling messages they would like to see on the Civic Centre, inspired by the installation.

We received dozens of responses – here are four selected by Still/Moving and reworked into animations that show how they would look. Thanks to everyone who took the time to contribute.

The screen shows the following poem on loop:

Love is the highest economy of life

We have grown too complicated for our own good

If we woke up to our love for the earth we would stop doing most of the things we are doing

Maybe living simply is the evolutionary thing

Love is the last power that stands between us and extinction

This earth, our body

Our love must save the world

These emotive sentences emanate from the central refrain:  ‘LOVE IS THE HIGHEST ECONOMY OF LIFE’, and together call for collective change towards a more simple way of living within the finite resources of our beautiful planet. The installation will be visible from early October.

The poem will scroll across the building day and night, viewable from different parts of the city

The installation echoes the regeneration of the city centre and how it can be used inclusively to embrace different cultures and communities. The project has been commissioned by Plymouth Culture, the organisation which supports cultural organisations and projects in the city, with funding from Historic England’s  High Street Heritage Action Zone cultural programme.

The installation has been created by the artistic collective Still Moving with Josh Kopeček, in collaboration with the poet Ben Okri. Still Moving designed the remarkable NO NEW WORLDS installation that stood on Mount Batten Pier in 2020 – the very same light discs have been used to create the scrolling 14m high message atop the Civic Centre. They are super efficient, low-power LED bulbs, that will use less than 1kw of power when running – less than a toaster.

Like NO NEW WORLDS, this new message looks to a future threatened by the climate crisis – asking what else can save our world but love and working together for a common good.

Hannah Harris, CEO of Plymouth Culture, said: “This emotive message prompts us to think how our public spaces could be used differently in our urban centre for different communities.

“For example, the Meanwhile Use project over the past year has seen empty or neglected spaces brought back to life for creative or artistic uses.

“It also speaks to Plymouth’s identity as a city whose people are proud to support each other and come together in times of need. This special kinship and innate kindness have very much driven this concept.”

The powerful phrase would appear on the screen on a cyclical schedule, interspersed with additional passages from Okri’s text “Our Love Must Save The World” which have been re-edited by Ben to form the poem.

The return of the light discs to their ‘home city’ of Plymouth is a poignant moment. The original No New Worlds installation by Still Moving sparked global headlines and it was recreated with the support of Greenpeace during the COP26 conference in Glasgow in 2021 to huge acclaim.

The artistic collective believes this new installation will resonate with people in Plymouth and turn the normally static Civic Centre into a canvas for conversations.

They said: “The chance to powerfully reuse these materials in their home city brings a truly exciting focus to the work of regenerating Plymouth, reactivating the city centre in a way that is not dominated by the monetary economy, but forefronts the economy of a community.

“The health of our home very much depends on the health of our planet and its equilibrium has suffered greatly by prioritising money.

“This message aims to stimulate debate across the city about these critical questions, animating the Civic Centre and providing an alluring focus for image making and sharing across traditional and social media.”

This is the second time the Civic Centre has been lit up with a message this year – in January the statement ‘What Will You Make Of It?’ read from the building’s windows, as part of the visit of British Art Show 9 to Plymouth.

Rebecca Barrett, South West Regional Director at Historic England, said: “The light installation, part of the High Street Heritage Action Zone Cultural Programme,  promises to be inspiring and thought-provoking. It’s great to see the Civic Centre as a focus for hopeful messages, particularly around working together. That’s fundamental to the success of Plymouth’s regeneration, which we’re proud to be part of.”

Councillor Tom Briars-Delve, Plymouth City Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, said: “Culture has the power to shock and inspire. We hope that spotlighting artworks like this in prominent Plymouth locations will encourage people to further engage with the climate emergency and, more importantly, the opportunities we all have to reduce our impact on the planet.”