Entertainment & Arts

Brian Eno defends art at annual John Peel lecture

Brian Eno
Image caption Eno has produced albums for the likes of David Bowie, U2 and Talking Heads

Musician and producer Brian Eno has mounted an impassioned defence of the arts at BBC Music's John Peel lecture.

The artist, who has worked with the likes of Roxy Music and David Bowie, said the arts were dismissed as a "luxury" and called for a rethink of culture at the event.

He called art "everything that you don't have to do".

Eno follows Pete Townsend, Iggy Pop and Charlotte Church who have delivered lectures in previous years.

Delivering the inaugural lecture in 2011, The Who guitarist Townsend accused iTunes of using its influence to "bleed" artists like a "digital vampire".

He also argued against unauthorised file-sharing, saying the internet was "destroying copyright as we know it".

Last year, Pop gave his backing to independent record labels involved in a royalties dispute with YouTube.

Church accused the music industry of sexism when she spoke in 2013.

Eno instead focused on the importance of art in society and how it helps humans to function and interact as individuals.

He said ideas of art and imagination began at childhood during playtime.

"Imagining is possibly the central human trick, that's what distinguishes us from all other creatures," he told an audience at the British Library.

"We can imagine worlds that don't exist, so we can play out whole scenarios in our head and that helps us experience empathy."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Eno is also a celebrated artist, his work has been displayed across the world, seen here projected on to the Sydney Opera House

Eno, who has produced artists including U2, Talking Heads and Coldplay, also tackled education secretary Nicky Morgan, who claimed arts and humanities subjects did not offer job prospects as promising as the "Stem" subjects - science, technology, engineering and maths.

"There's an idea around that those are actually the important things," said Eno. "Even the acronym gives it away - the idea of 'stem', the thing that's at the centre, which everything else grows off from.

"So the idea is that those things are important. They're part of the economic mill, and they're part of what makes Britain great, and increases our GNP and what have you.

"And the arts, on the other hand, are sort of nice, they're a bit of a luxury actually, something you might do when you're relaxing after you come home from a hard day's work at a proper job."

"So I thought that attitude was part of what this comes from - this new idea of the arts as a kind of economic entity."

Eno said a rapidly changing world highlighted a clear need to find ways of "keeping in sync, of remaining coherent".

"And I think that this is what culture is doing for us," he added.

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