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Maskull Lasserre’s burnt wood sculpture, Murder, 2012, in David Revere McFadden, Swept Away: Dust, Ashes and Dirt in Contemporary Art and Design, Museum of Arts and Design, August 2012
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by James Croak

“Dirt is not dirt, but only matter in the wrong place.” Variations of this quote have been attributed to William James, Sigmund Freud, Mary Douglas, John Ruskin and a host of others, but an 1883 issue of Longman’s Magazine confirms its author was Lord Palmerston. He aired his starched Sunday shirt on a gooseberry bush only to have it flitter into the mud, but he donned it anyway, uttering this now famous line.