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Civilization: The Way We Live Now opens at NGV: Ian Potter Centre

Sep 13, 2019
  • Article by Madeleine Swain

Civilization: The Way We Live Now opens at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia today, an international photography exhibition featuring over 100 contemporary photographers from Australia and across the globe.

The exhibition features over 200 original photographs from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe. Presented in collaboration with the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis/New York/Paris/Lausanne and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, the exhibition explores photographic representations of life in cities and journeys through the shared experiences of life in the urban environment.

Sean Hemmerle American born 1966 Brooks Brothers, WTC, New York 12 Sep 2001 2001 type C photogrpah 93.7 x 113.6 x 4.5 cm © Sean Hemmerle
Sean Hemmerle, American born 1966 Brooks Brothers, WTC, New York 12 Sep 2001 type C photograph, 93.7 x 113.6 x 4.5 cm © Sean Hemmerle

Looking at the complexity of urban life in the 21st century, Civilization: The Way We Live Now reflects on the ways in which photographers have documented, and held a mirror up to, the increasingly globalised world around us. The selected works create a picture of collective life around the world and document patterns of mass behaviour.

Gjorgji Lichovski Macedonian born 1964 Macedonian police clash with refugees at blocked border 2015 type C photograph 70.7 x 104.0 x 3.5 cm © epa european pressphoto agency / Georgi Licovski
Gjorgji Lichovski Macedonian born 1964
Macedonian police clash with refugees at blocked border 2015
type C photograph, 70.7 x 104.0 x 3.5 cm, © epa european pressphoto agency / Georgi Licovski
  • Hive, featuring the work of photographers such as Robert Polidori and Michael Wolf, explores how civilisations press their citizens into cities and the pictorial possibilities offered by the unceasing ebb and flow of crowds, the often precarious plight of the individual, and the spectacular, ever-changing backdrop of the built environment.
  • Alonetogether, featuring the work of photographers such as Lauren Greenfield, Pieter Hugo and Australians including Trent Parke and Anne Zahalka, considers how, despite living in such close proximity to our neighbours, an increasingly digitised world is leading to decreasing social interaction, causing an increase in people’s isolation.
  • Flow, featuring the work of photographers such as Lee Friedlander and Edward Burtynsky, tracks the visible and invisible movement of people, materials, money and ideas around the world and the impact these systems have on our depersonalised relationship with food, material goods and nature.
  • Persuasion, featuring the work of photographers such as Andreia Alves de Oliveira, Sato Shintaro, Amalia Ulman and Alec Soth, looks at the influence of advertising, religion, business and politics.
  • Control, featuring the work of photographers such as Ashley Gilbertson, NOH Suntag and Luca Zanier, highlights the reach of governing bodies around the world and our desire to impose increasing structure on how our civilisation develops through governments and their armies, surveillance, architecture, education and business.
  • Rupture, featuring the work of photographers including Taryn Simon, Richard Mosse, Pablo López Luz, Taloi Havini and Stuart Millar, forces us to confront civilisations failures and blind spots through images of detention centres, the flow of refugees, border crossings and environmental degradation.
  • Escape, featuring the work of photographers such as An-My Lê and Olaf Otto Becker questions the sometimes dark side of the pleasure industry for all ages ranging from dance floors, cruise ships and amusement parks to communal sport, outdoor pursuits and the joys of solitude.
  • Next, featuring the work of photographers such as Valérie Belin, Michael Najjar and Robert Zhao Renhui, looks to the future but more importantly to the present, where newness and technological advancement have become the norm, investigates the dangers of the speed at which civilization is developing.
Taloi Havini & Stuart Miller Sami and the Panguna mine 2009–10 80.1 × 119.9 cm type C photograph National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2014 © Taloi Havini and Stuart Miller
Taloi Havini & Stuart Miller, Sami and the Panguna mine 2009–10 80.1 × 119.9 cm, type C photograph, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2014 © Taloi Havini and Stuart Miller

Tony Ellwood AM, director, National Gallery of Victoria says, “Civilization: The Way We Live Now is a rich and varied portrait of our times. The exceptional quality of the work included is testament to the talent and vibrancy present in contemporary photography today.”

Civilization: The Way We Live Now has been produced by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis/New York/Paris/Lausanne and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, in consultation with the National Gallery of Victoria.

Ashley Gilbertson 1,215 American soldiers, airmen, Marines and sailors pray before a pledge of enlistment on July 4, 2008, at a massive re-enlistment ceremony at one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces in Baghdad, Iraq 2008 from Whiskey Tango Foxtrot series type C photograph 69.0 x 94.0 x 5.5 cm Courtesy of the artist © Ashley Gilbertson / VII Network
Ashley Gilbertson, 1215 American soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors pray before a pledge of enlistment on July 4, 2008, at a massive re-enlistment ceremony at one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces in Baghdad, Iraq 2008, from Whiskey Tango Foxtrot series. type C photograph, 69.0 x 94.0 x 5.5 cm Courtesy of the artist © Ashley Gilbertson / VII Network

 A major publication has been published by Thames & Hudson in parallel with the exhibition.

 Civilization: The Way We Live Now is on display from 13 September 2019 to 2 February 2020 at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square. Tickets available from: NGV.MELBOURNE

 

Image at top of page: Gjorgji Lichovski Macedonian born 1964 Macedonian police clash with refugees at blocked border 2015 type C photograph 70.7 x 104.0 x 3.5 cm © epa european pressphoto agency / Georgi Licovski

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