This Is Civilisation (2007)
with Matthew Collings - Channel 4
Videos in this documentary
|1||Episode 1: Ye Gods||Play Video|
|2||Episode 2: Feelings||Play Video|
|3||Episode 3: Save Our Souls||Play Video|
|4||Episode 4: Uncertainty||Play Video|
This Is Civilisation
Artist and critic Matthew Collings embarks on an epic journey across the planet to explore the ways in which cultures of the past have shaped our civilisation
Mathew Collings makes a personal selection of the greatest artistic moments and monuments from history to examine how they have shaped our world. He embarks on an epic journey, to stunning locations across Europe, Egypt, China and the United States, to explore the changing ways in which cultures of the past have shaped our civilisation. In doing so, he offers a unique perspective on today's social and political issues.
Episode 1: Ye Gods
Whatever our religious beliefs, the feelings we have about civilisation today would be unimaginable without the religious art of the past.
Collings starts in ancient Greece. The Greeks absorbed the awesome power of representations of the gods left by older civilisations, particularly the ancient Egyptians, but it's the element the Greeks added that still fascinates us today: lifelikeness, the human body, the feeling that this is art that celebrates what it is to be human.
Collings then explores how the religion that replaced the paganism of the Greeks, Christianity, has reacted to that momentous change in human consciousness. He traces the story of Christian art from primitive daubs in the catacombs beneath Rome, through the shimmering mosaics of Byzantine cathedrals, to the great Crucifixion scenes of Western art.
Finally he visits mosques in Egypt, Turkey and southern Spain, to show how a third great religious tradition, Islam, proposed a very different view of how religious art should shape our lives.
Episode 2: Feelings
This episode looks at how art came to express our human emotions and the full range of what it is to be human.
Mathew Collings examines the work of two great 18th century artists - David and Goya - in a journey that takes him from the glories of Renaissance Italy to the turbulent, violent Paris of the French Revolution.
David's art is all about the nobility of man, our higher aspirations. Goya explores our baser side, our darker fears, our murderous drives. Together they're what Collings calls 'the yin and yang of feeling'. Freed to express itself, humanity can be great - but it can also be monstrous. It's a revelation whose consequences we're still living with today.
Collings also travels further back in time, to discover the first glimmerings of this art of human feelings in the Italian Renaissance. He celebrates the loveliness of the art of the great Florentine artist Giotto, and tackles the famous mystery of the most celebrated icon of the new vision of humanity that the Renaissance produced: Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.
Episode 3: Save Our Souls
The third programme in the series explores the impact of the industrial revolution on our ideas about art, nature and society, focussing on the visionary ideas of the British art critic John Ruskin. Collings follows in Ruskin's footsteps to locations including Venice, the Alps and, closer to home, Britain's stunning Lake District.
Ruskin is one of Collings' heroes. He believed that art could save our souls. It could reconnect us with nature, and heal the spiritual wasteland created by industrialisation. And Matthew Collings argues that - as it becomes ever clearer what damage we've been doing to nature - these days we need to listen to what Ruskin had to say more than ever.
Episode 4: Uncertainty
The final episode of Matthew Collings' epic sweep through the history of art and civilisation tells the story of modern art and culture, from its beginnings in artists like Picasso, Klee and Mondrian, right up to the present day. It's a journey which ends with the booming contemporary art scene in Beijing. But what does it tell us about the future of civilisation?
Collings argues that modern art is fundamentally different from the art of the earlier periods of history he's been exploring in this series in one fundamental respect. Instead of offering us a heroic vision of humanity, and reflecting back to us the higher values we might aspire to, modern art has always tried to show us as we really are: unheroic, free, confused, and, above all, uncertain.
Categories: ART, DESIGN AND LITERATURE, DOCUMENTARIES