Ep 2/9

Thursday 8 March



Episode two: How Do We Look?

Mary Beard looks at images of the human body in ancient art, seeking answers to fundamental questions at the heart of ideas about civilisations.

Why have human beings always made art about themselves? What were these images for? And in what ways do some ancient conventions of representing the body still affect us now?

In raising these questions Mary argues that the way we look at art can influence our ideas of what it is to be civilised. The colossal prehistoric Olmec heads in Mexico set the scene. In a culture with no written record, all we can do is puzzle about what these images were for, whom they represented, and why they were constructed.

Mary Beard moves to other ancient cultures where more evidence has survived. She looks at images that are far more than art objects: from Egyptian statues to the terracotta warriors of ancient China, representations of the human form that actively participate in the social world, that teach men and women how to behave, that assert power and assuage loss.

Mary explores what makes a ‘realistic’ image of the human form. She looks at the ‘Greek Revolution’, the extraordinary process in the sixth and fifth centuries BCE, which saw the sculpture of the human body dramatically change from a series of static formulaic images to what we now take as living naturalism. Mary shows that reverence for Greek ideas of the human form influence the way we look to this day.

How Do We Look? is written and presented by Mary Beard. Executive Producers for the BBC are Mark Bell and Jonty Claypole. Executive Producers for Nutopia are Michael Jackson and Denys Blakeway; Series Producers for Nutopia are Melanie Fall and Ian MacMillan. How Do We Look? is produced and directed by Matthew Hill.

Civilisations is produced by the BBC and Nutopia in association with PBS and the Open University.