In nine episodes, CIVILIZATIONS travels across the globe, visiting such cultural landmarks as the great mosques of Istanbul, the ancient cities of Mesoamerica, the Buddhist caves of Ajanta in India, and the funeral site of China’s first emperor. CIVILIZATIONS explores a sweeping range of topics, including the earliest human cultural artifacts and the representation of the body in art, what happens when different civilizations encounter each other, and the nature of “renaissances” around the world. Underlying the series will be an exploration of the premise that it is through the creative imagination that humanity expresses its most essential self and looks for the fundamental meaning of life.
Find a listing of the entire series below:
Episode 1: The Second Moment of Creation (Tuesday, April 17) - Seventy thousand years ago, the first known examples of humans expressing themselves creatively were simple, abstract etchings. Over tens of thousands of years, this impulse evolved into painted and sculpted depictions of the animal world…and eventually of the human form itself.
Episode 2: How Do We Look? (Tuesday, April 24) – From the Terracotta Army of China to the Colossi of Ramses II in Egypt, the human form has been a dominant subject for artists throughout history. Each civilization and era, however, sees the meaning of this art differently.
Episode 3: God and Art (Tuesday, May 1) – Spiritual devotion has inspired some of the most spectacular works of art the world has ever seen, raising challenging questions about the relationship between humans, the divine and the act of creating.
Episode 4: Encounters (Tuesday, May 8) – As the technological advances of the late 15th century sent human beings around the planet further and faster than ever before, distant and disparate cultures began to meet for the first time. As a result, art became the great interface by which civilizations judged and understood each other, and continues to be a potent force in shaping our increasingly globalized world.
Episode 5: Renaissances (Tuesday, May 15) – The burst of artistic advancement known as the Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries was not confined to Italy and Europe; at this same time, the Islamic Empires were experiencing their own explosion of creativity, with artists in the east and west competing with and influencing each other.
Episode 6: Paradise on Earth (Tuesday, June 12) –Explore one of humanity’s deepest artistic urges: the depiction of nature. But landscape painting is seldom a straightforward portrayal of observed nature; it's a projection of dreams, idylls, escapes and refuges—the elusive paradise on earth
Episode 7: Color and Light (Tuesday, June 19) – Explore the story of light and color in art—both in the search for greater realism and spiritual ecstasy. Journey from Gothic cathedrals and Indian courtly painting to modern art.
Episode 8: The Cult of Progress (Tuesday, June 26) – Examine the rise and fall of “progress” as an ideology, and see how the “civilizing” project that arose from Enlightenment ideas was fraught with contradictions that troubled European artists in different ways.
Episode 9: What Is Art Good For? (Tuesday, July 3) – Explore art in the age of revolution, war and profound scientific change and consider the question: Should art create a separate realm, a place of escape, or should it plunge into the chaos, transforming the way we see and live in the world?