David Olusoga

David Olusoga

Civilisation and Civilisations: The Revolutions of Art in Television

Festival of the Future City/
Tue 24 October 2017
18:15-19:15
Wills Memorial Building
Free Admission

David Olusoga

Civilisation and Civilisations: The Revolutions of Art in Television

David Olusoga
Tue 24 October 2017,
18:15-19:15
Wills Memorial Building
Free Admission

The 1969 TV series Civilisation: A Personal View by Kenneth Clark was a landmark event in broadcasting of the visual arts and was seen by millions of people around the world in over 60 countries. It remains influential today. For some the series’ focus on the civilisation of the art, architecture and philosophy of Western Europe since the Dark Ages made it Eurocentric, with little discussion of African works of art. But there’s no question that it could change lives: Clark was deeply moved to discover that people on the verge of suicide had recovered after watching Civilisation. It changed Clark’s life, too – he went from being a respected academic to facing huge and affectionate public attention. At an early public screening of one of the programmes he received loud applause and cheers and was so moved that he wept in a nearby lavatory for fifteen minutes. What made it such an important series? And how should it be seen now, especially in terms of how much television – and, most importantly – our view of civilisation has changed so much? Historian and broadcaster David Olusoga – one of the presenters on the new series Civilisations – looks at art on television, the meaning of civilisation and whether art on television can still help change lives.

This event is one of six University of Bristol art lectures taking place in 2017. The concepts of ‘art’ and ‘revolution’ intersect in many and various ways. This year’s Autumn Art Lecture Series explores some of them. It does this in the year of the anniversary of one of the world’s most profound revolutions, that of Russia in 1917 – the lecture on this, given by John Milner the curator of the Royal Academy exhibition (2017), takes place on its exact anniversary, according to the Gregorian calendar – 7 November (25 October Julian).  Other lectures address art and the Chinese cultural revolution (Robert Bickers), the visual culture of the French revolution (Valerie Mainz) and more diverse revolutionary topics such as the representational revolution of the first exhibition dedicated to queer British art (at Tate Britain 5 April – 1 October 2017), given by its curator Claire Barlow; the revolution in the presentation of art on television represented by Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation in 1969, given by the presenter of the new series Civilisations David Olusoga. We start with the American artist Molly Crabapple talking about the role of contemporary art as weapon of protest and revolution.

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