Contemporary art and Green IT

At a time of digital transformation of the art sector, both via virtual exhibitions, digital art, mobile applications and eCommerce platforms, questions about its environmental impact are being raised more now than ever. Because the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry is the most resource intensive, and plays a significant part in climate change.

Some key figures: the carbon impact of the digital world will represent 9% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2025. One euro spent on computer equipment generates 900kg of CO2 emissions. For a 120g smartphone, you need 70kg of material (including rare metals). In 2020, there were 12 billion connected objects in the world.

Yet the paths of contemporary art and Green IT still do not seem to intersect. 

However, some artists are trying to move in that direction. Camille Henrot announced her switch to Ecosia, a “green” search engine. Formafantasma communicates on its new website and its “dark” mode option. Because, yes, a black background saves energy and that should be the case for all our screens. French artist Fabien Léaustic explores the aesthetic options of the software he uses from an eco-design perspective. Artist Paolo Cirio alerted us to the abusive practices of the GAFAs to whom we entrust our data. Maarten Vanden Eynde led by example by changing his email address from Gmail to Protonmail. More broadly, all artists who use open-source software, use existing footage to make a film (like Ai Weiwei for Coronation), who lighten their digital archives or who limit their presence on social networks (Miquel Barcelo has no social media accounts)… support Green IT (often unknowingly!). Some decisions can really make a difference without spoiling everyone’s fun. For example, regarding the hosting of websites or data, it is better to favor a green web hosting provider powered by renewable energies (such as Green Geeks).

So what about Macs? Because yes, Macs are the worst offenders, even if it’s also the essential tool of the art world. As it is a proprietary system, it consumes much more power than open-source operating systems. But Apple announced a little miracle in 2020: it plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030, along with the development of innovative solutions to eliminate carbon dioxide for the 25% of remaining emissions. Do we believe it or not?

Alice Audouin


(Sources: Shift Project, ADEME, Art of Change 21 X B&L Evolution, NegaOctet)

February 2021

Credit: Formafantasma’s website / Business & Decision Eolas, Studio Erick Saillet

Find the Impact Art News n°27 – February 2021

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