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The carbon crisis calls for a re-­examination of our faith in the technological basis of western progress. A change in belief is a cultural change; art and artists are implicated. As Paul ­Ehrlich and others have pointed out, human evolution has been driven by cultural rather than biological change; our brain size, synaptic activity, physical characteristics have not changed much in the last million or so years. What has changed is the material culture that we have made and which has in turn made us, from stone tool-making, farming, printing, the industrial revolution, the information revolution and now, maybe, the most critical and difficult revolution of all: a complete reversal of many of the values that we have held dear. We can no longer assume that more is better. Technology that was in some senses made to make life better has now become the problem.

But art is not technology; it is useless but vital. It is through art that we communicate what it feels like to be alive. When you ask “what is the point of art?” you could reformulate the question to “what is the point of ­human beings?”

Antony Gormley

Gormley Essay


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