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How Do We Look?

Series 1 - Episode 2 How Do We Look?

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Review

Mary Beard hangs out with some of the 7,000 terracotta warriors fashioned to accompany a Chinese emperor in the afterlife. She admires a colossal, 3,000-year-old stone head in Mexico. She rhapsodises on a marble Greek maiden and marvels at monumental statues in Thebes.

Her aim is to understand ancient images of the human body as contemporaries might have done: “I’ll be trying to see these bodies through the eyes of the people who lived with them.” In particular she critiques “Western ways of seeing” – imposing our ideas and ideals on art history in a way that, she strongly suggests, Kenneth Clark did himself in the original Civilisation series (there’s a clip to prove it).

The end result is, like last week’s lecture from Simon Schama, on the wordy side and a little one-paced, but it’s certainly a feast for the eyes.

Summary

Mary Beard looks at images of the human body in ancient art, asking why people have always made art about themselves and how such images can influence the idea of what it means to be civilised. She looks at the colossal Olmec heads in Mexico, Egyptian statues and the terracotta warriors of China, considering how each represents its own culture. She also discusses the `Greek revolution', the fifth and sixth century BC process that saw the sculpture of the human body dramatically change from a series of static formulaic images to what is now accepted as living naturalism.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Mary Beard
Director Matthew Hill
Executive Producer Denys Blakeway
Executive Producer Michael Jackson
Producer Caroline Buckley
Series Producer Melanie Fall
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Documentary