As part of BBCs agenda to generate public awareness about art history's relevance to contemporary culture, the documentary series How Art Made the World
is a landmark. Host Dr. Nigel Spivey, a Classical Archaeology professor from Cambridge, asserts, over five episodes, that not only have cultures thrived according to their abilities to communicate visually, but also that, though art, we can historically trace human needs and desires because our minds drive us to create images. Questioning how and why art influences society, Spivey employs art criticism, archaeology, political theory, and anthropology in order to posit theories in each hour-long segment. Episode one, "More Human than Human," traces our obsession with the human body by analyzing the Venus of Willendorf, Egyptian art, and Ancient Greece's preoccupation with athleticism. "The Day Pictures Were Born" discusses the birth of cave painting. "The Art of Persuasion" contextualizes Tony Blair and George Bush's political communication strategies with those in ancient cultures. "To Death and Back" ponders our preoccupation with death. "Once Upon A Time," the highlight in the series, insightfully connects our fascination with feature films to the cultural beginnings of storytelling. Starting with Mesopotamias birth of the written tale, the Grecian invention of theater, and the Assyrian invention of pictorial narrative, this episode also stars BBC champion, David Attenborough, discussing the Australian Aborigine's use of art to trigger ancient cultural memories and myths. Potent, smart, and interdisciplinary, this series, filmed mostly on-location for full-effect, really does prove that culture dictates art. --Trinie Dalton
Why does our world look like it does? That great modern mystery is spectacularly unraveled in this international landmark series and epic quest across five continents and 100,000 years?via some of the greatest treasures of the ancient world?to the heart of human creativity. Encompassing everything from cave paintings to ceramics and pyramids to palaces, How Art Made the World probes the global trend for unrealistic depictions of the human body; the secret powers of the feature film; how politicians manage to manipulate people so easily; visions of death and the afterlife; and, crucially, why we use imagery at all.