This Is Civilization

This Is CivilizationMathew 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 civilization. In doing so, he offers a unique perspective on today's social and political issues.

Each episode in this four-part series addresses a watershed in artistic expression and explores how that transition has shaped Western culture and thought. 4-part series, 49 minutes each.

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.

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.

Save Our Souls. The third programme in the series explores the impact of the industrial revolution on our ideas about art, nature and society, focusing 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.

Uncertainty. The final episode of Matthew Collings' epic sweep through the history of art and civilization 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 civilization?

Watch the full documentary now (playlist - 3 hours, 12 minutes)

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Ratings: 7.28/10 from 29 users.

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Comments and User Reviews

  • http://www.krashbox.com HaTe_MaChInE

    I liked the "feelings" episode the best.

  • Epicurean_Logic

    'I liked the “feelings” episode the best.'

    wow, just wow. The hatemaster of critique displaying a sensative side.bring back the real HM. imposter.

    I watched episode 1 last night and liked it and now i'm definately gonna watch ep.2

  • Chief

    Matthew Collings is truly a specialist in his field. He is quite educated and applies his knowledge and analytical insights into the codes of artistic periods in a way that ties in the evolutionary aspects of nature, expression and religion. Christians and Muslims would do well to view "feelings". I especially liked his transitions from ancient art, to classical, pagan/Christian, Christian power and Islamic repudiation of images to geometric unity and oneness.

  • Komo

    Excellent documentary. I definitely recommend it.

  • DeathSSghosT

    very glad i watched this. the explinations he gives are fantastic and really makes you think and appreciate modern art.

  • lanvy

    I like everything and respected most that Collings has to say about Art and even how it relates to Religion (or vice versa) until he brought up the sh*t work of Jackson Pollock... Gag me with a crucifix, how can the beautiful abstract work of Islamic art even be compared with the nonsense drips of J.P.

  • esma

    ye gods..
    why is collins wearing that suit which makes him look like a yuppie rather than a doc narrator..

  • pieter graydon

    I felt this was full of clichés. It's much like a TV dinner, with art overly forced into tinfoil sections that don't relate. Above all, the section on modern seemed like a collection of bromides, and when Hitler was brought on stage, I wanted to check out.

  • jtl1985

    absolutely brilliant

  • ZoeLavita

    This is interesting.. i don't know when it was filmed but i believe now civilisation is coming to value values again, not old ones, i think we're on our way to sussing out our own.

  • gero2006

    @pieter graydon - could not agree more!

    This is 'in flight magazine' stuff - 80% eye-candy and 20% fluff. But what fluff! Collins ad hominem straight to the camera is totally cringe-worthy. He must be a deeply stupid and ignorant man. Think about it. He is making a documentary about 'civilisation' - not exactly a modest topic. Something as big as that and you are going to discuss it in four episodes. Less than four hours to cover the history of the world. Are you for real? Totally fatuous. An intelligent man might have been more realistic and set a more modest aim. Such a man would be worthy of respect. Collins just looks like a fool.

    Whilst engaged in this pointless exercise in reductivity he makes continous throw-away remarks about innumerable subjects any one of which is a huge topic in itself and a focus of intense scholarship and academic debate - examples from the first minutes of the first episode (a) The history of 'civilisation' can be reduced to the history of 'art' - only examples from Western art will be offered (b) The relationship between Egypt and Greece is that of parent to child - demonstrated by a simplistic discussion of the evolution of the 'Kouroi' (c) The Greeks 'invented democracy' (d) Late Classical paganism equates to the cult of Artemis in Ephesus (e) The West became Christian because of a political choice made by one man, Constantine. Need I go on? Is this clown for real? I expected someone to run on set and throw a cream pie. Scholarship or slapstick? Collins is not just a fool he is also a man with only a very superficial knowledge of his chosen subject (i.e. 'civilisation') who is seriously over-reaching himself.

    Does he really think that his audience are so ignorant that they will not know a great deal about 'civilisation', 'art', and 'world history'? Does he really think that he can talk down to his audience and spout crass drivel and not be greeted with derision? Collins seems to have no insight. He must be a very arrogant and conceited man.

    If Collins had any colleagues surely they would have advised him against making this series? What was his editor thinking?! Unless his colleagues are even worse than he is - but is such a thing possible? Taken all in all, Collins must live alone with only potatoes for company. Yep, amongst tubers, Matthew Collins is a god. Amongst educated men Matthew Collins is a spud.

  • Ian

    is this guy always out of breath or what? like hes ALWAYS panting. take a breather man, no hurry.

  • Modest

    I have to agree with the haters up to one point. True, there's a lot of "over-simplification" and a bit of arrogance to the man's tone. Also, his interpretation of history is indeed a bit "off" at times. Plus, I find nothing more ironic than someone trying to explain abstract art let alone its impact on "civilization". Yet, from a layman's perspective I find this documentary quite useful. The part where he explains how art became "socialzed" and "democratized" is the driving essence and intention of the whole series and it struck a powerful chord. Besides, we must remember that it's made for T.V. It is meant to be broadcasted; to offer a small window into to the world of art and its power to express and to shape expression. Beats the heck out of watching Jersey Shore and for that I thank him.

  • Dusan

    Brilliant, every bit of it!
    What is the name of the Chinese artist at the end, I couldn't catch it...?

  • francuccio

    He's out of breath, doesn't wear the right suit, likes art that some traditionalists don't and often relies on cliches. Such "profound" criticism hardly undermines an attempt to outline and summarize. Teachers do it all the time. We are expected to delve, on our own, more into the details of a narrower aspect that interests us. Collins couldn't possibly be as arrogant and shallow as his critics. (Also, cliches can be useful, having survived for good reasons, and Pollack's art is exuberant and exhilarating to the less fossilized among us.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/timothy.aymar Timothy Aymar

    I enjoyed this series. Collins put to words the thoughts and feelings that I have had about art and life. It makes me ask questions. Isn't that what constitutes "learning?"

  • chikitachikita

    I wanted to learn more about civilizations NOT listen to another Anti-Christ doing so under the name of Art and History and Civilization, noble big themes. Mr. Collings, you are boring and un-imteresting and you full of grudges against Christ and your concept of Christianity and understanding of it could not be more false. Where did you learn about it? Goodness! I think when one has the dignity to come forth as an expert on such an important subject matter, one should keep his religion convictions to himself and tell history truthfully WITH NO JUDGEMENT. YOU OWE THIS TO YOUR AUDIENCE, to the value of our time. I hope you make a second version that is objective and in which you keep your own religious beliefs to yourself.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_A3T4IRJ6XGJT4UTB6LZ46X43OE OccultAlien

    sorry i side with collins, bloody christians chiselling out egyptian culture. they even chisel out the bible to suit themselves. :( . . i'll refrain from saying more.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_A3T4IRJ6XGJT4UTB6LZ46X43OE OccultAlien

    There used to be awesome stone statues in Sydney in the 1800's, but christian moral crusaders went on a campaign to have them removed because they depicted the naked human form. the only statue that was 'moral' enough to stay was one of a naked boy pulling a thorn out of his foot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1002456105 Carl Jodoin

    I dont like how they show Athens as the caucasian marvel of thinking. Athens was a metropolis and with a metropolis comes immigration bringing new ideas. Athenian democracy comes from the reflexions of many people from many NATIONS.

  • Bethel11

    Well Carl, sure...Athens was a multicultural wonderland...

  • Chad Christopher

    this is a must watch for lovers of history, society, or art. loved it.

  • http://twitter.com/EmmR1 EmmR

    Collings is a great presenter. and **** all you christians out there. you think you know the history of christianity? well its a cult that, like rampant capitalism, has destroyed much more than it has cultivated

  • Timothy Paterson

    Loved this documentary. I am ignorant of art beyond; I like that, I don't like that. I found this very illuminating. As far as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin who are often mentioned in comments. I don't care for them. Don't hate em but could care less. They do not inspire much in me. I think I get their challenge, just can't be bothered with it. I imagine a walk through an active land fill would be just as enlightening.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Casey/650420792 Mark Casey

    Excellent documentary, what an insight!

  • EAG Bohui

    WOOW you have no idea of what you are talking about. Instead of looking at everything on surface, DIG more you might come back with the truth! hALF OF WHAT YOU ARE SAYING IS CRAP! REVIEW YOUR HISTORY, TAKE LOOK AT THE BOOK OF ENOCK TO FIND OUT WHERE THE GODS ARE COMING FROM! AND READ HOMER'S ILLIADE TO HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE GREC PHILOSOPHIES AND OFFERINGS. Riview your historical facts! Don't just make a documentary to make a documentary about how YOU think people where living... STUDY the facts! I am not interested about the history accord. to YOU!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Prince.Delirium Shervin Maddah

    Full of biased and one sided "opinions" which are stated as facts in this show! Typical!

    I stopped when he says Greeks were the ones that this Greeks that, Greeks this! He jumped halfway through the history of Human civilization into what he believes is the most important, instead of going in a chronological order, which to be fair disproves all the nonsense he spewed!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Prince.Delirium Shervin Maddah

    Read a book! It's crap and full of wrong information and most importantly he states "personal opinion" as facts!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Prince.Delirium Shervin Maddah

    People are complaining because this documentary is full of biased and incorrect information! The very first segment of the show is totally incorrect and is simply the personal opinion of the creator! Don't just accept what you see as fact and say you were "illuminated" you want to learn about art and civilization? go read a book, preferably "The Story of Civilization" by William Durant!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Prince.Delirium Shervin Maddah

    This is a must NOT watch for history lovers as the majority of the information presented is WRONG! It's all personal opinion and wrong interpretations! It is NOT in a chronological order, therefore making certain points SEEMINGLY correct, but if it was approached in a chronological order you would realize how insanely incorrect this documentary and all its information is!

    It's ALL personal opinion and biased! Sticking bits and pieces of history which the creator likes, they managed to create a show that seems to make sense to the individual that has no knowledge of history!

    It is WRONGFUL information and should not be taken as fact!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Prince.Delirium Shervin Maddah

    Majority of the information in this show is Biased and incorrect AND personal opinion, so I wouldn't be too shocked about how Athens and the "white man" is dominated and shown as the "light" of the world!

    The whole show is providing flawed information in a VERY biased manner! I'm sorry but this isn't even worth the watch!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Prince.Delirium Shervin Maddah

    Read books to learn not documentaries!

    If you are a History and Civilization fanatic read the series titled : "Story of Civilization" By William Durant!

    It's complete, unbiased, in chronological order AND accepted by almost every single historian alive or dead!

    This documentary is useless!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Prince.Delirium Shervin Maddah

    Raising questions isn't what constitutes learning, asking the right questions and OBTAINING the answers YOURSELF is learning!

    Especially when the information that is being provided to you is 100% biased and inaccurate!

    If this show is considered thought provoking and informative for you, then I am sorry to say that you have little to no knowledge about the topic, and all you have learned is mis-interpreted and biased personal opinions of a rambling individual that simply edited together random segments of history in order to prove his personal opinion...

    Which is exactly why this show is not in chronological order of Civilization, and skips so many important points, which if mentioned would completely destroy and shatter his so called documentary!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Prince.Delirium Shervin Maddah

    What part of this show is brilliant?
    The incorrect information? or the Biased ones? The improper use of facts, or the misinformation stated as facts? The missing gaps? or the mistakes? The information provided in this documentary are mostly inaccurate and wrong! Certain things which were LEARNED by certain civilizations are considered to be invented by them, when in fact they were invented and created THOUSANDS of years before, by other civilizations!

    You really need to reconsider your sources of information!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Prince.Delirium Shervin Maddah

    You're being too lenient! This documentary offered little if NOTHING at all! The information provided was incorrectly portrayed and explained, all the "facts" mentioned were inaccurate and biased, and the conclusions derived from all the false information were flat out WRONG!

    Of course this is only noticable to those who have actual, unbiased and correct knowledge about our planet and the human civilization on it!

    The amount of biased and misinformation in the first part of the whole show made me throw it away for months before forcing myself to watch it again and see if it will change!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Prince.Delirium Shervin Maddah

    If people believe that this is interesting and correct, then our civilization is going ANYWHERE and EVERYWHERE but the correct direction!

    This documentary provided NOTHING but incorrect and biased info!

    Anyone with a little bit of first hand knowledge regarding this topic could tell you how insanely incorrect and biased this show is!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Prince.Delirium Shervin Maddah

    Not at all!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Prince.Delirium Shervin Maddah

    To who? mindless baboons that can't and haven't read a single book or attempted to learn something themselves?

    This guy is full of misinformation and biased personal opinions which he delivers as facts...

    Anyone with a little bit of knowledge and correct information regarding this topic can tell you that this show is a pile of dirt!

    Do yourself a favour and read more books about the topic and watch this again! See if you'll still recommend it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Prince.Delirium Shervin Maddah

    If he is so educated and knowledgeable how come he is ignoring facts which would disprove his personal opinion, which he is throwing at peoples faces with 100% bias??

    I'm sorry but this show had nothing but misinformation to offer! If you have previous knowledge about the topic, (gained from sources other than modern biased ones) you will understand what I am saying!

  • mastersux

    talk about beating a dead horse, how come you just keep repeating the same thing over and over? How about some facts, how about some quoates? Repeating it over and over makes you sound uneducated. What "books" do you suggest and are not those books just somebody elses opionion/ art is opionion is it not?

  • Alithia Toussaint

    looks like the europeans are desprate for relevance now. what a pompous people!

  • Edward Codina

    This is sanitized art history — if it can even be called that. I gave up the moment he said the early Kouri had gotten it wrong and the Classical style had gotten it right. Rubbish. Style is just that — style — an artist's vision, then a school's, then a city's, then a civilization's and so on such that the greater the distance from it the farther away from the vision and the style and the more opinion intrudes and prevents us from appreciating it the way the artist did. How can one be specialized in art history? Really now? Ask your kids coming home with their latest drawing from kindergarten. Are they specialized in line, in color, in form? No kids just paint, or draw or sculpt and play with their Play-do the way all geniuses do — non-specialized, non-rationalized, non-sanitized. Picasso said it best: "I paint with my stomach!" If you truly have the gift to appreciate art, forget what you know and how you came to know it. Then look at the line, the color and the form and rediscover what it means to truly know once again!