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Week 1 Civilisations: The debate

Updated Monday, 19th February 2018

Dr Kathleen Christian, Senior Lecturer in Art History and academic consultant on Civilisations, responds to the first episode and starts up our discussion hub...

Dame de Brassempouy (BBC USE) Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: BBC Dame de Brassempouy c. 23000 - 20000 BC Welcome to the first post-viewing discussion of Civilisations. I was one of the OU's academic consultants on the series and for close to two years now we have been watching this hugely amibtious series develop. Tonight's episode was the first of nine that are going to take you chronologically all the way from cave paintings up to the present day, in a sweeping series looking at gorgeous works of art, filmed in a mind-boggling range of locations, in response to Kenneth Clark's original Civilisation of 1969. Tonight's episode was presented by Simon Schama, who will host five episodes, but there will also be two each presented by Mary Beard and David Olusoga. 

Along the way the OU has been a partner on the program, and Gill Perry and I have been providing feedback on the episodes, even if they are in the end the ouevres of the producers and presenters. For us at the OU this has been an important collaboration stemming from the partnership between the BBC and the OU and our shared committment to public debate about the arts. Gill and I have also contributed by making a Civilisations poster, which you can order for free (and teachers and parents are encouraged to order one for classrooms!)

Luckily we've also been able to use some of the footage shot for Civilisations on the third-level module which overlaps with it, A344, Art and its Global Histories. Students on A344, and I very much hope some of them are here now, have been studying art from the Renaissance to the present, from a global perspective. The series will thus overlap quite a bit, although the topic of A344 has been not a history of separate 'civilisations', but cross-cultural connections and the legacies of colonialsm, empire and globalisation.

Civilisations is indeed a visual spectacle, but what the series is doing is important, and the questions the series asks are big ones.

Which brings us to the discussion and debate, and to your thoughts and reactions to the programme. Over the course of the next hour I'll be here to moderate a discussion about the first episode, and we have planned for academics to hold live discussions here after every subsequent episode of Civilisations.

Join in the discussion by posting a response in the Comments section below.

I'd like to start just by asking what you think of Episode 1 and what your hopes and expectations are for the series as a whole. Why remake Civilisation now, as Civilisations in the plural, and what do you hope the series will accomplish? If it was your job to remake Kenneth Clark's Civilisation now, in 2018, how would you do it?




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