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An Artistic View of Circularity

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World-famous artists Es Devlin and Hans Zimmer come together in this DLD session to share their perspectives on sustainability and a circular economy with moderator Hans Ulrich Obrist (Serpentine Galleries).

Devlin has been called “the world’s most influential set designer” by The Observer and is known for “performative sculptures”, as she calls them, that fuse music, language and light. She designed the Olympic closing ceremony in London, for example, and has collaborated with artists like U2 and Beyoncé.

Hans Zimmer is one of Hollywood’s most successful composers ever. His scores include the music to Gladiator, Rain Man and Blade Runner 2049, among many others, earning him an Oscar, two Golden Globe and three Grammy awards.

Asked what artists can contribute to fundamental change in society, Devlin points out that collaboration will be key to success.

“I think a lot of what prevents collaboration can be fear”, she observes, noting that she herself used to be afraid that the ideas of others might be better than her own. “The way through that is to try and practice a lack of fear”, she advises. “And if we want to shift our practices… we’re going to have to collaborate in order to achieve that, and we’re going to have to overcome fear of other people’s ideas being perhaps better.”

The Art of Listening

Zimmer sees great value in the ability of many artists to support each other, for example in an orchestra. “We musicians”, he says, “we don’t need to look at each other. What we’re really good at is listening.”

And “if you use that as a model for society, that’s is not necessarily a bad thing”, the composer adds. “So ask us musicians – and we won’t give you an answer, but we’ll listen to you.”

Hans Zimmer, DLD, talk, video, DLD Circular

Zimmer’s advice is to bring more artists into the fold, to the benefit of everyone. “You shouldn’t just surround yourself with art, you should surround yourself with artists”, he says. “And curiously, BMW seem to have the same feeling and wanted to surround themselves with artists as well.”

The result: Zimmer is now collaborating with BMW on the sound-design of electric cars. The composer sees his contribution as an opportunity for artists like him to shape the world of tomorrow.

“We get to decide a certain aspect of our future”, he says. “We get to decide an aesthetic about our future […] which I think is very important.”

Performance Art in the Recycling Center

Devlin sees both a challenge and an opportunity in changing people’s perception of recycling and reusing materials, from something associated with garbage removal to an attractive goal of more sustainable consumption.

“How do we as a group, all together, agree about what is now beautiful?”, she asks, as she describes a recent trip to a BMW recycling plant. “Anything that could be used in any other car had already been picked off. And then this machine was specifically wanting to rip anything with copper in it”, she recalls.

The machine, in her eyes, was giving a kind of performance, carefully choreographed to extract anything of value that could be used for the production of new vehicles.

“What it made me realize is the aesthetic”, Devlin recalls. “How do we as a society, as a culture, fall in love with the new aesthetic of reuse and recycling?”

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