Tag Archives: Green

Green art – from collapse to resilience?

In the Economist, Robert Butler writes that GOING GREEN is about artistic change as much as technological change, and that green art is moving away from themes of doom and collapse and towards themes of resilience, survival, adaptation and improvisation.  He writes:

Every big scientific moment is also a cultural one. The Lisbon earthquake that killed an estimated 30,000 people in 1755 gave birth to the science of seismology. It also inspired writings by Kant, Rousseau and, most famously, Voltaire, who describes the earthquake in “Candide”, and the impact it had on the notion that there was a benevolent God watching over “the best of all possible worlds”. A century later, the ideas in Darwin’s “Origin of Species” would be played out, absorbed and contested in the novels of George Eliot and Thomas Hardy. Fifty years after that, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity paved the way for modernism in all the arts. …

This may be the moment, in my last Going Green column, to spell out this column’s idea of going green. It is not first and foremost about changing to low-energy lightbulbs, driving a Prius, cutting back on flights, insulating your loft or growing vegetables on your roof. All these are worth doing, so long as you remember the words of the British government’s chief scientific adviser, David Mackay—“If everyone does a little, we’ll achieve only a little.” Going green is more about absorbing the scientific consensus that has emerged over the last 50 years: resources are finite, the planet is fragile, our activities are having a dangerous impact on the atmosphere. To take this on board is to change the way you see the world. Even people who resent the sanctimonious tendencies of the greens can see that a great cultural shift has taken place; one that, in the opinion of Tim Smit, who founded the Eden Project in Cornwall, may turn out to be as far-reaching as the Renaissance or the Reformation.

Does that mean that art-lovers and theatre-goers are in for many more gloomy, doom-laden paintings and plays? Perhaps not. The response from artists is moving rapidly away from the clichés of collapsing icesheets and polar bears perched on lonely icebergs. More and more, playwrights, directors and artists talk about approaching this subject through ideas of resilience, survival, adaptation and improvisation. They want to move audiences through stories of hope, endurance and resourcefulness. And that takes us back to the beginnings of narrative art, to Homer and his hero, Odysseus the Cunning.