Brian Eno – 2015 John Peel Lecture

Brain Eno topical on several axes and interesting to compare with Grayson Perry 2013 Reith Lectures on Art.

In the Peel spirit of encouraging novelty and possibility beyond any established lists or genres, but Eno’s topic not specifically music. Very much on art in the broadest view of culture as the creative arts; and arts, as those things – aspects of stylisation and ornamentation of stuff – that we don’t need to do.

The whole lecture a plea for proper understanding the value of the arts & humanities. Contrasting arts & humanities with “STEM” contribution of distinct numerical quantities to “the economy”, as opposed to patterning & stylisation of information and stuff. Also topical for other reasons, and as a basis for humanity to understand how those “STEM” things do relate to our world.

Creative arts – Creating worlds to imagine, experience and learn from whilst avoiding dangerous crashes in the “real” world. And they can be switched off or stepped away from, if they cause anyone a problem in the external objective world. But not just safe, and not just a luxury or add-on to that objective world; necessary quality and value beyond the quantifiable. We can experience far more through art that we can in real life, and from it learn far more about real life in the real world.

They’re a vehicle to synchronise views of things we cannot all possibly know expertly, or even know of at all, in the “real” world, and anyway even the real world is really the established objective model – an abstraction – of an actual reality. An accepted narrative, with art as alternative narratives. Collectively they also provide “scenius”, an interdependent ecosystem or “scene” for genius, creativity in a synchronised genre of art or culture. That ecosystem includes far-sighted institutions and altruistic social engineering that support such possibilities. Like the NHS, benefits and the dole – without which budding would-be artists wouldn’t be free to discover their art. No individual piece of art is created in isolation, no artist is a genius in isolation.

Interestingly Eno cites Paul Mason in searching for economic models that recognise activity beyond the objective core that contributes to the numbers. The more we have abundant, productive, automated activity on the “STEM” economic inputs and outputs game, the more important to ask the question how do we live a coherent meaningful life outside that objectively productive core of countable-scarce-resource-based economic activity.  The more competitive the capitalist free-market core;’ the more efficiently our living can be sustained by less resources and labour, the more Culture, Art & Humanities form a greater part of our existence – not less. Quoting Barbara Ehrenreich – they simply provide us with the joy of simultaneous existence.


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