tv Amanpour on PBS PBS April 16, 2018 6:00am-6:30am PDT
. welcome to "amanpour" on pbs. tonight from the cave to the canvas, what history of art tells us about the rise of human times, what makes us, us. my conversation with two eminent historians about their sweeping new pbs documentary series, civilization. good evening everyone. in our age of political demonization, chemical weapons attacks, economic despair, it will be easy to lose sight of all the good humanity has
achieved. the long view is the focus of a kn new series. it tells a story of progress through what uniquely makes us human. that is odd. >> from the dawn of time, to the birth of the modern, a new series for a new age. >> it's impossible. an amazing work of art. >> nobody had ever taken that step. >> art tells us something about the creative. >> among those telling this thrilling story, the historian simon, and david, who take us on a truly compelling and beautiful journey through millennia of human history, adding an s to the original and critically acclaimed 1960's series called
simply civilization. gentlen,elme to the program. this is just as they say, m jess tierial -- the original was civilization. why the s? >> i think it's because it's 50 years later. it would be unimaginable to focus on one part of the world and try to tell a story on this scale. >> did you get a lot of pushback, were people so rev rent toward kenneth clark this they didn't want to see change? i think there's this dreaded phrase judeo christian. he either was a farrpharaoh or . >> if you say something as gentle as guess what, renaissance perspective would not have happened had not arab
scholars had not recovered. they're -- aagainst the judeo. we're not doing that. it's just a mat matter, a rather wonderful matter of the historical truth. of course you tend to get fantastic sort of t fantastic sort of tirades. >> is there a change in the way culture is looked at today than maybe 50 years ago. is it more inward looking or outward looking today? >> from my point of view, i'm somebody who's a product of outward looking expansionism empire. i'm half british, half nigerian, and to make sense of who i am, i've always an interested. most exciting places are place that is were in contact, that were imagine -- in their imagination were looking to the
outside world. for me they're some of the best stories. >> homosapiens started to evolve in africa 200,000 years ago. do you think that people will be surprised to know that africa, particularly southern africa, south africa as we know today was the first outpost of human creativity in terms of art? >> well, only if they think that everything that is creative birthplace is in europe, or maybe in asia. in which case they've been asleep for some time. but no, there shouldn't be. crucial moment is when actually -- neanderthals, we think might have been making some of these extraordinary what seemed to be decorative designs as well. that begins -- it's been found in a place.
a lump of red oka. it was most certainly used for decorative design, possibly and the body or on the walls of cave. >> and this spread west and we have a lovely clip of you in the european kaye cave in spain. >> what do you think about this, your head spins because they would have had to transpose them here and when all that was done, they managed to preservemir rack c ra eulusly this. suddenly expanded human mind. >> however it was caused, the cognitive revolution sired early humanity from its creative slumber. and the images it produced continued to humble even our greatest modern artists,
including pablo po cas so. >> he liked to call himself a modern primitive. and in those images, he found, he thought, the fountain of everything that was truly creative about the artistic instinct. >> i just love that. i mean i love the fact that something so ancient was made so alive by one of the greatest 20th century painters. >> it's very interesting that at the end of the 19th century david speaks eloquently about this. there's a sense among some european artists that it was sort of exhausted. something else is lurking. it's almost akin to that moment, all those millennia ago. >> david, you're part nigerian, in one of the episodes you give
us a guided tour around. city is now part of nigeria, and you also talk about the advent, first time europeans came to africa. which was in the 15rd century. portuguese. everybody thinks they came to dominate, to conquer, but that wasn't the case in the beginning. >> it wasn't. i've always been interested in the story of empire before the dominance part. we rush to the darkness really, when europeans had the technology and power that is dominate. most of history, that's not the case. the contact europeans have with africa and asia they encountered societies about military equal to where they are. and so they have no choice but to trade. and in those moments of trade and encounter, you -- one of the commodities it art, how other people see the world, how they represent the world, how they represent themselves and also how do they represent you as a
newcomer. within the arts, we see the portuguese as depicted by africans in the 15rd and 16rd century. >> we have a clip when you are actually back in lisbon and there's this amazing anticipating that you walk us through. let's play the clip and talk about it. >> incredibly, it's believed that 1 in 10 of lisbon's population were africans. the africans in this painting are existing at every level of the social strata. there's a criminal who's been arrested here. there are the people across the river. there are the water carriers. they are certainly slaves carrying water. but there were white slaves as well as white.
this is a black knight. on his horse with his sword and cloak and all his finery. it's a snapshot of a world we've forgotten about. lisbon at the center of the first age of globalization. >> so it's beautiful painting, the kings's fountain. and as you narrated there, who knew there were white slaves and blacks and all the sort of -- all happening at the same time. give us a sense of that moment of history. >> that's a a rare painting. most of the records were it was the center of europe's age of exploration were lost. what it saks t is a moment when africs and europeans are in contact with each other, where europeans are in contact with asia, japan. and it's a moment when there has to be some sort of equanimity because nobody is capable of m
dominating anybody else. representatives of the courts, royal families, in lisbon alongside enslaved people. you have a moment when empire did not look nic like it was going to look tragically in the 19th century. >> i guess what do you want to tell the viewer, what do you want to leave them with this series. i ask because you talk about africa and the evolved state of art and the origins, frankly, homosapie homosapiens. but people don't look at it that way. same with one of the episodes you did on indian art or persian art. most people look at that part of the world as trailing the west in terms of its art, culture and civilization. what are you trying to say with this history? >> there's much more connectedness than the great master narrative of most
traditional art histories lead you to believe. and i suppose actually, one thing, not because it may be morally eddie fiing, although i happen to think it is, in an age where we're all so busy building fences around ourselves but because it simply happens to be true. we're trying i suppose to supply a corrective to a notion that civilization means entirely our inheritance from greece, rome. wherever you look, even in modern art, i think, you find the extraordinary kind of fruitfulness of looking sideways. >> you just mentioned great japanese artists. >> yeah. >> europe moving towards japan, towards asia, how did that sort of happen in terms of art?
>> well, in two ways. again, there's no dou that there was in the period david talks about, the kind of arrogance, self-possession of the per range of motiferocious. >> they're the most visually greedy people. people who need to be magp magpie-like. it's not a surprise. it's not a surprise that they're going to see the art being brought over from the new world from the aztec civilization. >> interpret art very broadly. that's to say in the same period, holland, a spectacular success is ming china and
porcelain. >> what did surprise you most? because you did the china, japan episode. what surprised you most? >> i was surprised by the extent to which art we think of is being quintessentially all one culture and one silization. when you drill down to it, actually often has elements that has that culture as outward view. portuguese faces in the art. chinese crockery in the paintings of another. we think of these things as quintessentially african or dutch when actually there is an element within the dna which is about global. >> the two great moments in the career, when the hot shot is slightly holding the noses. >> castro and his friends. >> kind of complicated relationship. but that is the se. he goes throu the first great
show of hislamic art. >> the great russian artist. >> yes, so we could not -- i wanted to do a sequence on that but it was sort of life changing for him. this was the first islamic art that wasn't about belly dancing and all that. it was very severely presented. and then in 1912 he goes to tan enginee gier. he sees that art is about rugs costum costumes, anything but -- it's anything but sort of life denying. just the opposite. it has a kind of spontaneous life on the street, really that he sees. >> then just sort of scale back. many, many hundreds of years and you are in the pal mere ra area. that's how it opens, the first
episode. palmira. syria. isis just wreaks such havoc on the hart there and in related areas. let's play the clip and talk about the destruction. >> in 2015, the great syrian trading city of palmira was attacked by isis. world feared its treasures would be destroyed. as isis had already done in the ancient iraqi city of mosul. much of the legacy of century, when isis seized the city. he refused to say where he had hidden the city's treasures.
for that crime, isis beheaded him in the rowman theater. >> a lot of us spend days talking about art. i doubt many of us are prepared to lay down our life for it. but for him, the stone statues and columns were more than simply an ensemble of an an -- antiquity. we can spend a lot of time debating what civilization is or isn't. but when all the pbrutality and in tolerance for destruction, we know what it is. we know it from the shock of it imminent loss as mew till lation
on the body of our humanity. >> that's so powerful. it was there in iraq. it was the taliban who destroyed the famous famous buddhas. >> culture is under threat from main -- the deeply tragic thing was as the sequence said, it's kind of unforced meeting place of different kinds of culture. helenistic culture, persian culture, all those jumbled up and producing the own kind of synthesis. also the fact that it was pre islamic was why isis was determned to wipe it absolutely out of existence. so, there are all sorts of ways in which you can kind of shock
down the openness, which is the life blood, the oxygen of culture. you can do did by censoring press, dictating what artist correct for your country or state, or not. and the you kind of -- you absolutely cut off the freedom of creativity. to be much more cheerful, i usually end up being. what is interesting for example in china is actually how with all the apparatus at its command, it can't quite ever manage to do that. i'm no the saying, when you think about the purchase in 1930's, thousands of art iists d poets disappear into kind of howling void of prisons and mass executions, and yet i suppose it's part of our message. humanity has this almost unvoluntary inzingstinct to res
that. as long as we recognize our own humanity, i don't think we'll ever stop. >> let's talk about the cradle of civilization, as they called that area between the tigres and euphrates in what it today, iraq. 7,000 years ago that the first towns and cities were made there. describe how society came to flourish. >> i got a very, very complicated question. i think what the series is trying to do is not trace the thread of civilization but to show it's being recorded in each case in art but specific and yet int intercorrect intercorrected. what i was drawn to and why i think the series is important is for that point that simon makes in the opening is that that story of civilization has to be told partly through art, and
that this stuff that is the record of us and that journey from the present to here is fragile. it's not always. what i remember about watching that shocking film was feeling a sense of loss. i'd never been there, but that idea that things that had been preserved for millennia had been lost. that's almost physically painful. and it is shocking, and it's the beginning. civilization is debatable what it is. it could become a parlor game that people with full stomachs play, when you see it, dynamite. when you realit's more important than that. it's not an indulgence. it's central to who we are. >> i think that is what's so clear about this whole series, that you can trace politics, religion, art, obviously, everything on the sort of dna of what art is. art really gives you the road map, doesn't it?
>> it's not a a separate part of history. art history isn't a field subject that doesn't -- it leads out into everything. you couldn't tell the story of this city in the century without encountering holocaust. you wouldn't -- so many moments. you could not understand the dutch golden age without rembrandt. and you would be insane to attempt to do so. it's not an additional nice to have, extra. it is integral. >> talking about the dutch golden age, you profile a woman, a german naturalist who, because of the times, was no the allowed to practice what she was good at. shoe he had to go to the netherlands. let's play that clip. >> in her native germany there's no way she would have been allowed to produce a book like this in which she laid out her
observations and detailed meticulous water colors. >> even in the free city of amsterdam, there were restrictions on the way maria could paint. >> there's a reason why these paintings are executed in water color. rather than in the more polished medium of oil paint. it's because -- this is almost unbelievable today -- the system of guild, the controlled the artistic profession didn't allow men to paint in oils. >> honestly, that is just gob smacking. tell us a little bit more about that. >> the story of maria is really interesting. she goes to the freest place she can go, which is amsterdam. that doesn't mean she's free or equal like we would expect today. but it is the best place she can be to be an artist. and she is to an extent welcomed into a world which allows her to be an artist in the scientist in a way not possible in native germany.
>> why not in there? it's not that they were backwards, it's that amsterdam was a special place where especially freedoms, not complete but more doors were open than elsewhere. i think because of the existence of amsterdam at that moment, we get to see the creativity that might not have been bequeathed to us had she not gone there. >> you're a professor and historian an film maker. is history of art taught enough to us, to the younger generation? >> well we just had a debate in britain about whether it should be taught at the advanced level in schools. and that had to be saved. there was talk of removing it. i don't think a society that feels that that's a subject we can throw away is taking on. >> i mean there is this kind of crude utilitarian which pre supposes all education should do is prepare you for a job. all of education, the leading
force to go back to the et tomorr e tomology of it. guided by those who don't engage properly. looking at pretty pictures, well, guess what? it's not. it has a structure of language. it can be about -- if you want, there's a great field of neuroscience debating how we respond. philosophy, poetry, virtually every humane discipline you can think of it complicated in works of art. so if you do get a good solid sound, deep education in art history, then you're set for life. >> on that note, simon, david, thank you so thank you so much for joining us. >> s great to be immersed in
the past as we try to navigate the future. art isn't the only way. just before we go, a reminder that my new series, sex and love around the world continues on cnn this saturday. in this week's episode, i head to a capital of ghana in west africa. ♪ >> ghana, the fastest growing economic in africa, and yet. >> you need to develop a strong faith and audacity to survive in this system. ♪ ♪ >> what happens when religion colors every aspect of love, sex and relationship?
welcome. >> so many different layers of society there in ghana. sex and love around the world continues this saturday at 10:00 p.m. eastern time on cnn. that is it for our program tonight. thanks for watching "amanpour" on pbs. thanks for watching "amanpour" on pbs. join us again next time. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com ,?ó
♪ (female speaker) support for "yoga in practice" is provided by the etv endowment of south carolina. ♪ ♪ welcome to "yoga in practice." my name is stacey, and i will be your teacher. please close your eyes and breathe deeply. this class will build toward a fundamental arm balance called side plank. in this posture, it is important to create alignment and integration in the shoulders and the core to support your weight while simultaneously maintaining balance. more than many postures, side plank encourages us to accept the possibility of falling.