David Stephenson – ‘Night for me is emblematic of everything that is good and bad about our modern civilisation. On the one hand there are these glowing jewels that are extraordinarily beautiful but at the same time they suggest many issues around urbanisation, urban sprawl, light pollution and our dependency of fossil fuel energy systems and its contribution to climate change.’
Dona Schwartz – ‘My photos are from the series On The Nest, which shows book ends of the life experience of being a parent, making the transition to a new identify as a parent and to an empty nest. The bedrooms are really important because they tell the story of those parents and those families and the lives that are lived. I would like people to feel reverence and respect for the whole enterprise of parenting. I think it is something we take on as an imperative but it is such a leap of faith.’
Simon Terrill – ‘I am interested in the lure of the crowd and the right of passage of festivals that were a really big part of Australian culture for a decade or so. This image isolates a single figure but is really about the relationship between the individual and the mass, getting lost in that ecstatic madness of the crowd.’
Charles Green – ‘We were embedded with Australian soldiers in Afghanistan as Australia’s official war artists in 2007-2008. We were commissioned to do large paintings but we were carrying about five cameras and what we were seeing was huge geopolitical forces colliding. There was no chance this was going to work out. We were documenting disaster.’
Lyndell Brown – ‘This image has a strange calm that belies the tragedy of the area. The pathos of this image in particular is in the chair staring out to the empty mountainous landscape, which you know is hiding Taliban who will return. The shipping container in this land-locked mountainous country and a military base in the middle of Taliban country was quite incongruous. The golden afternoon light is a counterpoint to the latent violence that underlies the image.’
Civilization: The Way We Live Now
The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia | 13 September 2019 – 2 February 2020| Admission fees apply
Civilization: The Way We Live Now is an international photography exhibition of monumental scale, featuring over 200 original photographs by over 100 contemporary photographers from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe. Presented in collaboration with the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis/New York/Paris/Lausanne and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, the exhibition explores photographic representations of life in cities and journeys through the shared experiences of life in the urban environment.
Looking at the phenomenal complexity of urban life in the twenty first century, Civilization: The Way We Live Now reflects on the ways in which photographers have documented, and held a mirror up to, the increasingly globalised world around us. The selected works create a picture of collective life around the world and document patterns of mass behaviour.
Through eight key themes, Civilization: The Way We Live Now takes a diverse and multidimensional look at what photographers around the world, including the likes of Candida Höfer, Edward Burtynsky, Amalia Ulman, Hong Hao and Richard Mosse, are telling us about the state of early twenty-first century civilization.
- Hive, featuring the work of photographers such as Robert Polidori and Michael Wolf, explores how civilizations press their citizens into cities and the pictorial possibilities offered by the unceasing ebb and flow of crowds, the often precarious plight of the individual, and the spectacular, ever-changing backdrop of the built environment.
- Alonetogether, featuring the work of photographers such as Lauren Greenfield, Pieter Hugo and Australians including Trent Parke and Anne Zahalka, considers how, despite living in such close proximity to our neighbours, an increasingly digitised world is leading to decreasing social interaction, causing an increase in people’s isolation.
- Flow, featuring the work of photographers such as Lee Friedlander and Edward Burtynsky, tracks the visible and invisible movement of people, materials, money and ideas around the world and the impact these systems have on our depersonalised relationship with food, material goods and nature.
- Persuasion, featuring the work of photographers such as Andreia Alves de Oliveira, Sato Shintaro, Amalia Ulman and Alec Soth, looks at the influence of advertising, religion, business and politics.
- Control, featuring the work of photographers such as Ashley Gilbertson, NOH Suntag and Luca Zanier, highlights the reach of governing bodies around the world and our desire to impose increasing structure on how our civilization develops through governments and their armies, surveillance, architecture, education and business.
- Rupture, featuring the work of photographers including Taryn Simon, Richard Mosse, Pablo López Luz, Taloi Havini and Stuart Millar, forces us to confront civilizations failures and blind spots through images of detention centres, the flow of refugees, border crossings and environmental degradation.
- Escape, featuring the work of photographers such as An-My Lê and Olaf Otto Becker questions the sometimes dark side of the pleasure industry for all ages ranging from dance floors, cruise ships and amusement parks to communal sport, outdoor pursuits and the joys of solitude.
- Next, featuring the work of photographers such as Valérie Belin, Michael Najjar and Robert Zhao Renhui, looks to the future but more importantly to the present, where newness and technological advancement have become the norm, investigates the dangers of the speed at which civilization is developing.
Tony Ellwood AM, Director, National Gallery of Victoria said, ‘Civilization: The Way We Live Now is a rich and varied portrait of our times. The exceptional quality of the work included is testament to the talent and vibrancy present in contemporary photography today.’
Civilization: The Way We Live Now has been produced by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis/New York/Paris/Lausanne and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, in consultation with the National Gallery of Victoria.
A major publication has been published by Thames & Hudson in parallel with the exhibition.
Civilization: The Way We Live Now is on display from 13 September 2019 to 2 February 2020 at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square. Tickets available from: NGV.MELBOURNE