Part of the problem with all this sustainability stuff is that there isn’t a really good version of what a sustainable future looks like. The majority of the visions of the future are fairly apocalyptic where things turn out worse than they are today. This kind of vision is run through films like The Day After Tomorrow, or Avatar which portrays our negative relationship with nature.
So, it seems that we need a bit of positivity to help counter the negative view and give us something to aim for. And it seems that artists should be part of the answer. On this, Alain de Botton talks about artists being able to come up the words and images that to make visible and important the most abstract and impersonal. So, they can envisage a positive world that can be. This reminds me of Andy Warhol who said that in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes back in 1968. And it came to pass that we had Michelle McManus and now have Cheryl Cole. This is the prescience of the artist. On this, I heard an interview with Bob Geldof. He was talking about music and the ability of great musicians to sense what people are conscious of before they are aware of it. The musician makes a record based on this feeling and when released, it puts into words and music what the people were thinking of and becoming an important record for that reason.
So, where are the artists when it comes to sustainability? Where are the positive songs, words and images that bring the issue to life? Now, it might be that many people aren’t conscious of it yet, so we’ll have to wait. But, it’s possible that it’s the role of the artist to accelerate the issue into the front of people’s attention. Back to Geldof and this time, Live Aid. I think that the stimulus were Michael Burke’s reports from Ethiopia on the BBC News.
Now, in total, there might have been say an hours footage that appeared on the news. Geldof, the artist, converted that hours footage into the UK’s second best ever-selling single and into one of the most significant musical events of the century in a simultaneous global spectacle that changed our relationship with charity and raised $150 million on the day. Not a bad conversion rate in turning something small into something massive.
So, what the sustainability equivalent? What’s the creative event that really kicks off the public caring about the future of the planet and those that will live on it. I don’t know, but I reckon it’s not going to be another image of a worried looking polar bear.