How Art Made The World (2006) KCET / BBC Co-Production

Once Upon a Time

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Video Description

 

When we watch a good film, something extraordinary happens. We become so involved with what's going on that we feel we are living the story ourselves. Films enchant, terrify and inspire us, yet their visual storytelling techniques are not a modern phenomenon; in fact, they go back to the ancient past. But how did film really get its ability to transport us to other worlds? Where did the ingredients of visual storytelling come from? The first story ever written is four thousand years old, and tells the tale of Gilgamesh, the legendary lion-killing king who is the world's first action hero. This story is unique in that it's the first narrative to exploit the universal human desire for a hero. But just having a hero in words is not enough. An ambitious King in Assyria wanted to capitalize on the heroic popularity of Gilgamesh, so he created the first complete visual story in stone relief - for people who could not read. The frieze not only had a hero, but it also had a story structure, a beginning, middle and end. Unfortunately, it was hard to get emotionally involved in the tale.

It took the Greeks to come up with a visual storytelling style that made you really care; that had psychologically credible characters. The Romans took storytelling one-step further; they combined the three elements of a strong heroic lead, a gripping storyline, and emotionally involving characters into a single visual narrative. Trajan's Column in Rome (see Storytelling Interactive) is perhaps the best example of this type of visual communication. In the end, however, as impressive as the column may be, it's still missing something - it still lacks the power to captivate. But this missing piece can be found in the non-classical civilization of the Australian Aborigines, whose storytelling combines the visual, as well as music and singing. It is this soundtrack that provides the power for the Aboriginal story to have survived thousands of years, and which is so critical to the success of modern film's ability to transport us into other worlds.

Documentary Description

HOW ART MADE THE WORLD, a lively and provocative investigation into the far-reaching influence of art on society, airs on PBS over five consecutive Mondays, June 26-July 24, 2006. Check local listings. Acclaimed art historian and University of Cambridge lecturer Dr. Nigel Spivey hosts. Dr. Spivey takes viewers on a quest to comprehend mankind's unique capacity to understand and explain the world through artistic symbols. Speaking in colorful, non-technical language and aided by state-of-the-art computer graphics, Spivey explores the latest thinking by historians, neuroscientists and psychologists regarding the deep-seated and universal human desire to create art.

Each one-hour episode begins with a modern-day mystery that Spivey seeks to untangle through examinations of some of the most exquisite artifacts ever discovered. Combining aspects of history, archeology, forensics, sociology and aesthetics, Spivey leads an extraordinary video expedition that spans 100,000 years and five continents: from the vast galleries of prehistoric art in the caves of Altamira and Lascaux, to astonishing Native-American and African rock paintings, to the treasures of Ancient Egypt and Classical Greece, right up to the pop culture and advertising imagery that bombards us in the digital age. Far more than a survey of art history, HOW ART MADE THE WORLD explores the essential functions art served in early civilizations and, in some cases, still serves in modern society. Beyond that, the series seeks answers to such vexing questions as: What made our ancient ancestors create art in the first place? What are the forces that subconsciously guide the artist's hand? Why, from the very beginning, have we preferred images of the human body with distorted or exaggerated features? 

HOW ART MADE THE WORLD takes advantage of the latest computer-generated imaging (CGI) technology to bring to life the dazzling sights of the ancient world that time and humanity have destroyed. Whether it's the splendor of Persepolis or Luxor, the glory of ancient Rome or the Biblical city of Jericho, CGI allows the modern viewer to exult in sights that haven't been seen for thousands of years.

Source: PBS

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