William Ewing, Bartomeu Marí and Holly Roussell Perret-Gentil have curated a collection of photographs illustrating “Civilization: The Way We Live Now“, for the Foundation for the exhibition of Photography. The work includes photographs from 100 photographers from around the world, including Edward Burtynsky and Chris Jordan, both of whom we’ve featured on this blog before. The exhibition opens at the National Museum in Seoul, South Korea later in 2018.
In an interview about the exhibition, curator William Ewing said “What is civilisation? I do not know.” I believe Derrick Jensen answers the question “What is civilisation?” the best, in his book Endgame. Derrick defines civilization as “a culture—that is, a complex of stories, institutions, and artifacts— that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities (civilization, see civil: from civis, meaning citizen, from Latin civitatis, meaning city-state), with cities being defined—so as to distinguish them from camps, villages, and so on—as people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life.” Derrick takes issue with the common conception of civilization as “higher” and “advanced” and its equation with “progress”, as if civilization always makes us better off. It is heartening that the exhibition is to include both “civilization’s great collective achievements and its ruinous collective failings,” because it is important to understand that we cannot continue human civilization on this planet as we know it now without destroying ourselves and much of the natural world in the process.
The photo from the collection included in this post is by Reiner Riedler and is titled “Wild River, Florida”. This civilized “wild” river is, of course, anything but wild and depicts the desperation as well as comedy that characterize the works in the exhibit.
I look forward to seeing more works from the exhibit when it opens locally.