An unmissable conversation between the eminent Harvard Professor Steven Pinker and the author, playwright and comedian Stephen Fry on the challenges we face in the 21st century and what we need to do to defend the values and ideas of the Enlightenment. According to the headlines, the world in the 21st century is sinking into chaos, hatred and irrationality. The dominant narrative is of society in decline, and prophecies of doom are playing to our worst psychological fears – or temptations. So, are things really getting worse? Not according to Harvard’s world-famous cognitive scientist, Steven Pinker, who has argued eloquently and cogently that the case is other. That our lives have become longer, healthier, freer, safer and more prosperous – not just in the West, but worldwide. Epidemics, famine, extreme poverty, childhood mortality, deaths from infection disease and illiteracy are all decreasing – historically and globally. The reason? Because the project of Enlightenment has succeeded, and human life has become more precious. The dream of reason has become our reality. But progress is not an accident, or a cosmic coincidence: it is the consequence of a coherent value system that most of us embrace without even realizing it. These ideas and institutions are fragile, not fixed – and they can change. In a time of fundamentalism and fatalism they need vigorous defense, because they swim against currents of human nature which demagoguery is all too ready to exploit. The Enlightenment project is only a few centuries old. It has succeeded, but it can also fail. We can fall as well as rise. Join Steven Pinker and Stephen Fry for a discussion of the challenges we face, and hear the case for an Enlightenment newly recharged for the 21st Century. Read more.
An unmissable conversation on Photography between American photographer Lynn Stern and William Boyd. Lynn Stern is known for her unusual approach to the medium, creating images that, in the words of A.D. Coleman “are not about what they are of.” Stern considers photography to be essentially a medium of light, not literal representation. Working in the studio, she manipulates translucent white or black scrims backlit by natural light – sometimes the scrim alone, sometimes combined with symbolic objects – to create intense, seemingly introspective Images. As Donald Kuspit writes, “Conventional photography seems to render fact accurately, but Stern shows that photography can appear to render – not simply suggest –unconscious feeling.” In conjunction with the publication of SKULL, her eight series of skull images created over 25 years, Lynn will hold a conversation with novelist William Boyd, who was initially a painter and has published numerous essays on art. Boyd has written that we “go to photography for images of reality.” This dialogue can be expected to offer provocative ideas about the medium’s essential characteristics, as well as its relation to painting. Read more.