A question came to my mind after leaving the exhibition “Civilization – The Way We Live Now” at NGV Australia. What exactly constitutes living these days? Author Sasha Grishin makes it plain how he felt about the exhibition “powerful, troubling photographs of a crowded planet with an uncertain future.”
The show brings together over 100 contemporary photographers from Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and Australia with over 200 photographs. Some of the works are large in scale and all are thought provoking. There are very few images of people in rural settings, highlighting the fact that most of the world’s population now live in cities.
“For the first time, there is a real prospect that the human species stands to comprehensively annihilate itself, not through an act of war, but through man-made climate change and over consumption. It is also the first time that photographers are virtually everywhere and are photographing virtually everything.” GRISHIN
The exhibition is divided into 8 broad themes which, we are told, occupy many of the world’s photographers today. There are images of military conflict, mass migration as a result of it and poignant scenes of the bedrooms of US servicemen who have died during the Iraq conflict.
“A hallmark of a memorable exhibition is that it seduces the viewer through its sheer beauty, while at the same time making us question the reality that we inhabit.” An example of this is the theme Escape which, for some people, involves fleeing from a war zone while for others it involves the positive connotation of ‘getting away from it all’ – hence the blossoming pleasure business.
One of the photographers featured in the exhibition, Nick Hannes, believes our civilization is reaching social and ecological limits. His ambiguous and ironic imagery expresses his confusion and incomprehension with what’s going on. He hopes to hold a mirror up to ourselves and create a moment of self-reflection.
The exhibition will run until February 2020 after which it will travel to Auckland.