So far I’ve only seen the Simon Sharma first excellent episode of BBC2’s Civilisations, but plan on catching up. This morning I read Kenan Malik’s review piece from the Observer, and right now I’m listening to all three presenters with Andrew Marr on BBC R4 Start the Week.

Malik’s excellent piece sees a lot of tension between the “certainty” of Clarke’s original UK perspective, and the alternative perspectives of John Berger and the latest BBC series. Strangely he sees the inability to provide (definitive) answers as a weakness of the new series? (I’ll say more when I’ve digested the whole.) The Marr conversation also goes some way to correct any suggestion that Civilisations is a “corrective rebuke” to Clarke’s Civilisation. Far from it. There are many overlapping perspectives (cf Berger’s “Ways of Seeing”).

One question that struck me right from the outset – Clarke and Sharma – is why the land-grab for “art” as the cypher for civilisation as a whole? Marr asks the same question, and we get the sense that art is enabled by the technologies of the day, but art is the human pinnacle. I don’t disagree, simply question how uncontentious is this?

Holding thoughts …

[Deep and long-standing topic. Art & Craft – the “rt” Pirsigian root – even in Engineering / Ingenuity / Built-environment is key.]

[And talking of alternative perspectives, well done BBC R4 for following Start the Week with “An Alternative History of Art” – inspired.]

[In terms of “the greatest ever documentary” I’ve always seen Clarke’s Civilisation as being of a pair with Bronowski’s Ascent of Man. Never seen any need for one culture to launch a land-grab competing with the other. Good fences. A real third-culture.]

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