Arts Lab

Brian Eno on play & art

‘We all know that children learn through playing. Everybody understands that when kids are doing things like tipping liquid out of cups and playing with stones and building things and singing songs and so on …. we know that that’s all part of their way of coming to understand the world. Nobody says “why are those children wasting their time doing that? Why don’t they do something useful?” You know that that’s what children have to do. That’s their way of becoming acquainted with reality. Children learn through play ….. and adults play through art. We’re continuing that process that children do and which we’re sort of told to stop doing after a certain age. But throughout their lives, adults are engaging in this kind of play that we call art. And they’re either doing it vicariously by watching other people doing it, going to the movies or going to galleries or they’re doing it themselves by doing versions of it like styling their hair, or wearing their clothes in an interesting way or finding new ways of telling stories …. all of these things, I think, are art that we do because our primary power as beings is that we are imaginative creatures. That’s the only thing we’ve got over animals. The fact that we can imagine; we can imagine a bridge and then build it. We can imagine a new kind of treatment for an illness and then implement it. We have to practice imagining all the time. We’re born with the equipment to do it but we aren’t born with the capability of doing it. We develop that through life and through play and through art.’

(Adam Buxton podcast ‘Play & Art- Brian Eno in conversation with Adam Buxton’ – April 2018)