ART THROUGH TIME: A GLOBAL VIEW
101 CONVERGING CULTURES
Short: Explores hybrid forms and motifs of visual art and objects produced as a result of cultural exchange – including African ivory carvings depicting Portuguese traders, Turkish ceramics emulating Chinese porcelain, Impressionist works inspired by Japanese printmaking, and contemporary works by Takashi Murakami and Miguel Luciano.
Long: Hybrid forms and motifs of visual art and objects produced centuries ago make clear cross-cultural encounters were frequent long before the age of the of the Internet. The first part of this episode focuses on products of cultural exchange along the ancient Silk Road. The second part looks at the artistic consequences of several sustained encounters Europeans had with Africa, South America, and the Middle East circa 1600. In the third part, the program turns to the reciprocal influences of Japan and the West, from the arrival of Portuguese traders in Nagasaki to Takashi Murakami’s present-day fusion of American pop culture and Japanese anime. Featured contemporary artist Miguel Luciano crosses cultural divides with his Manga-Mancha series, while performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña defies cultural boundaries with statements like “Mexico is California” and “Your house is also mine.”
102 DREAMS & VISIONS
Short: Shows how artists including Hieronymus Bosch, Aboriginal painters, Islamic miniaturists, Surrealists like Magritte and Dalí, and contemporary artist Sandy Skoglund have depicted ephemeral feelings, unknowable mysteries, personal fantasies, and inner visions in their work.
Long: Art, of course, is about seeing. But it is not always about representing the world as it exists, and sometimes it can allow the viewer to see with more than the eye. “There’s an alchemy about depicting art in which what art may often do best is expressing the internal,” observes Stanford scholar Patrick Hunt. From Aboriginal artists who paint the unseen forces of the universe to twentieth-century Surrealists who looked into the recesses of the unconscious mind for inspiration, throughout time people have found many ways to record ephemeral feelings, unknowable mysteries, personal fantasies, and inner visions. Leading experts discuss the ecstasy of St. Teresa as envisioned by Gianlorenzo Bernini; the Prophet’s night journey to Jerusalem as imagined by Islamic miniaturists; and Bosch’s nightmarish depiction of Hell in Garden of Earthly Delights. One segment focuses on Charles Meryon’s transformation of Paris into a premonition of a Hitchcock movie; another shows Indonesian weaver Sisilia Sii creating patterns she learned from her deceased mother, who provided guidance in dreams.
103 HISTORY & MEMORY
Short: Presents the wide range of approaches artists have used to recapture the past including Luba memory boards, Mexican lienzos, the Bayeux tapestry, Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series, the epic Persian Shahnama, Native American ledger drawings, Rubens’s Marie de Medici cycle, and the multi-media work of contemporary artist Shimon Attie.
Long: Contemporary artist Shimon Attie recalls: “I was in the streets of one of Berlin’s former Jewish neighborhoods and I kept feeling the presence of these individuals that I could not see. I wanted to give visual form to my experience.” So the artist gathered photographs of Jewish life from the Berlin archives and projected the images back onto the very streets where they were taken. Attie’s art is an attempt to recover the past, to make memory visible. Through Attie’s works and others—including Luba memory boards, Mexican lienzos, the Bayeux tapestry, and Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series—this episode explores different strategies for creating visual histories. By examining illustrations from the epic Persian Shahnama, Native American ledger drawings, and Rubens’s Marie de Medici cycle, the program also offers perspectives on artistic formulations of collective and individual memory. Neoclassicism draws in the appropriation of artistic motifs from previous historical eras and Attie’s moving works prompt reflections on commemoration and the ways art can help the viewer remember the past, while living in the present.
104 CEREMONY & SOCIETY
Short: Explores the role of masks, costumes, sculpture, and other objects used in rituals and spectacles around the world, including a Balinese Barong ritual, initiation rites performed by the Mende women of Sierra Leone, Caribbean Carnival parades, and performances at the annual Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert.
Long: People around the world engage in a wide variety of ceremonies that range from the ritual to the spectacular. Some of these are religious, others political or social. Almost all of them involve not only performance, but also tangible, and sometimes ephemeral, arts. This episode explores the role of masks, costumes, sculpture, and other objects in ceremonial practices ranging from coronations and parades to spiritual transformations and group initiations. Featured in the program are a Balinese Barong ritual, initiation rites performed by the Mende women of Sierra Leone, Caribbean Carnival masqueraders, and revelers at Burning Man—an annual festival held in the Nevada desert. In a segment taped at the Seattle Museum of Art CHiXapkaid, (Dr. Michael Pavel) and other members of the Pacific Northwest Skokomish tribe discuss the arts associated with their Soul Recovery ceremony, and how it serves to revive the soul of their society through the preservation of traditional culture.
105 COSMOLOGY & BELIEF
Short: Shows how people from different cultures and eras have expressed their ideas about their place in the universe through art – including the Notre Dame Cathedral, creation myths carved into the canoe prows of Pacific Islanders, Yoruba representations of deities called òrìsàs, and the paintings of contemporary Russian-born artist Vitaly Komar.
Long: What is our place in the universe? How did we get here? Is there a God? What is the meaning of life? And what happens when we die? These are some of the “big” questions with which human beings have grappled throughout time. This episode explores how people from different cultures and eras have expressed their attempts to answer these questions through art. The program examines conceptual maps of the universe created in the Amazon, creation myths carved into the canoe prows of Pacific Islanders, and Yoruba representations of deities called òrìsàs, while exploring the role of art in Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and other major world religions. Art historian Thomas Crow talks about painting and belief in the Rothko Chapel and Russian-born artist Vitaly Komar reflects on his desire to make art that speaks a language of essential spirituality.
Short: Reveals how art including the Egyptian Book of the Dead, early American commemorative miniatures, Ga fantasy coffins from Ghana, and luxurious embroideries by contemporary artist Angelo Filomeno help people come to terms with mortality, cope with loss, and express spirituality.
Long: “I will die.” The line is repeated over and over again—by a police officer, an old man, a young woman at a party donning a plastic tiara. Some laugh as they say it. Others appear somber, reflective, or emotionless, disbelieving. Yang ZhenZhong’s chilling, yet mesmerizing, video installation, “I will die,” belongs to an enduring tradition of art inspired by death. Featuring a wide range of objects and images that includes terrifying illustrations of the Buddhist Realm of Hungry Ghosts; early American lockets containing the portraits and plaited hair of deceased loved ones; colorful Ga coffins in the shape of cars, cell phones, and chili peppers; and the luxurious, humorous, and abject embroideries of contemporary artist Angelo Filomeno, this episode attests to art’s ability to help human beings come to terms with mortality, prepare for death, and cope with loss.
107 DOMESTIC LIFE
Short: Features depictions of home and family from seventeenth-century Dutch painters and photographer Walker Evans, shows that objects created for home use such as embellished leather bags crafted by the nomadic Tuareg and quilts sewn by women in Gee’s Bend, Alabama -- can be as beautiful as any painting.
Long: The activities and spaces of domestic life have provided the starting point for generations of artists. Seventeenth-century Dutch painters depicted families in neat, orderly spaces, Walker Evans’s black and white photographs of sharecroppers and their homes define Depression-era life for many Americans, and Faith Ringgold’s semi-autobiographical story-quilt Tar Beach gives us a glimpse of a family spending a summer night on a Harlem rooftop. Domestic life has inspired both the creation of images to be viewed and the creation of objects to be used. In this episode, Dutch portraits, Evans’s photographs, and Ringgold’s painted quilts are featured alongside elaborately embellished leather bags crafted by the Sahara’s nomadic Tuareg, abstract quilts sewn by women in Gee’s Bend, Alabama, white porcelain scholar’s utensils made during Korea’s Chosôn period, dematerialized furniture designs from the Bauhaus, and more. The episode makes clear that the traditional division between the fine and decorative arts is not always useful when looking cross-culturally. Bags, blankets, brush holders, and furniture can be as beautiful as any painting and can provide fascinating insights about the people who made and owned them.
Short: Focuses on the complex and dynamic interplay between images and words, including the ironic works of Conceptualists, Islamic and Japanese calligraphy, and the intentionally indecipherable calligraphic works by contemporary Chinese artist Xu Bing.
Long: Below an image of a pipe is a statement Ceci n’est pas une pipe. “This is not a pipe?” With this simple juxtaposition, Magritte’s well known painting challenges viewers to rethink the relationship between art and language, signs and the things they represent. The complex and dynamic interplay between images and words is the focus of this episode. From ancient cuneiform to the beautiful, intentionally indecipherable calligraphic works of contemporary Chinese artist Xu Bing, this program explores the inherently aesthetic nature of the written word throughout history. As it weaves through time, art historians, artists, and linguists examine the way that words and images have been used to enhance, explicate, and sometimes even contradict meaning. The program features scribal flourishes found in illuminated Hebrew manuscripts; Koranic text written in exquisite, flowing Kufic and Hijazi scripts; Japanese calligraphy in the “trembling style”; and ironic and iconoclastic works by Conceptualist artists in the 1960s and 1970s.
Short: Featuring examples from ancient Peru, medieval Japan, seventeenth-century Ghana, and the studio of contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley, reveals how complex visual constructions of identity may function as assertions of authority, declarations of status, psychological studies, or political statements.
Long: When Gertrude Stein expressed concern that Picasso’s portrait of her didn’t actually look like her, the artist famously remarked “It will.” And it has. It is Picasso’s Stein that most people remember when they think of the woman. Portraits are powerful; they are much more than the mirror reflections they are often thought to be. As Picasso’s painting of Stein demonstrates, portraits have the capacity to shape the way we perceive reality. In this episode, a host of distinguished scholars and curators reveal portraits for what they really are—“collusions,” “contests,” “inventions,” and “setups.” Complex constructions of identity, portraits may be records of living likenesses or memorials to the dead, but they can also function as assertions of authority, declarations of status, psychological studies, or political statements. An exploration of the genre through ancient Peru, medieval Japan, seventeenth-century Ghana, and the studio of contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley, this episode is likely to change how viewers look at portraits from the past and present.
110 THE NATURAL WORLD
Short: Examines how people throughout history have worked with and against nature to produce art, features Liberian animal masks, Amazonian coiled pots, British gardens, American earthworks, and a variety of landscapes, including examples by contemporary Native American artist Kay WalkingStick.
Long: Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty is a 1,500 foot spiral of black basalt rock and earth jutting out into the Great Salt Lake. For four decades, it has changed with the rise and fall of water levels, disappearing and re-emerging in an ongoing cycle. So where does Spiral Jetty end and nature begin? It’s hard to say. From the earliest times, people have worked with and against nature to produce art. They have found fodder for the imagination in the world’s stark deserts, foreboding forests, lush jungles, craggy mountains, even in its barren wastelands. And they have been inspired to create art as varied as nature’s climes. In this episode, scholars and curators discuss Dutch and Chinese landscapes, Liberian animal masks, Amazonian coiled pots, British gardens, American earthworks, and international eco-art. In the process not only do they raise questions about the relationship between art and nature, but they also ruminate on representations of the natural world as expressions of spiritual, national, and personal identity. These three aspects of identity intersect in the featured landscapes of contemporary Native American artist Kay WalkingStick.
111 THE URBAN EXPERIENCE
Short: Shows how cities from New York to Djenné have been shaped by the creative visions of architects, sculptors, and planners, and how the work of Mexican muralists, French Impressionists, and Japanese printmakers reflect city life.
Long: It all started, as art historian Marc Van De Mieroop explains, in Uruk. There along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the first true urban society developed. Home to a dense population, Uruk became a center of innovation and culture, defined visually by its monumental art and architecture. For thousands of years since, cities across the globe have been defined by similar qualities. The dynamism of cities, the diversity of their denizens, and the unique relationships that city life requires of people have inspired the French Impressionists, creators of Japanese ukiyo-e, and countless other artists through the centuries. At the same time, cities around the world have been shaped by the creative visions of architects, sculptors, planners, painters, and performers. Featuring stunning aerial footage of numerous cities, this episode takes viewers on an exhilarating journey that includes Rome’s ancient forum, Mexico City’s influential murals, New York’s Chrysler Building, and the Great Mosque of Djenné, Mali, a massive mud-brick structure rebuilt every year by the city’s inhabitants. Contemporary installation artist Olafur Eliasson discusses the New York City Waterfalls and why he chooses to make public art.
112 CONFLICT & RESISTANCE
Short: Features iconic paintings by Manet, Picasso, and Goya, satirical drawings by Daumier, Soviet propaganda, and photographs by contemporary artist Lalla Essaydi, explores the role of art in shaping conflicts over politics, religion, morality, and social justice.
Long: As art historian Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw states, “The importance of the visual, the power of the visual, the power of it to change the ways that people think is a way to express dissent.” In this episode, Shaw and others reflect on art not only as a vehicle of dissent, but also as an instrument of revolution, a commentary on the state of society, and a source of conflict itself. Photojournalism, caricature, iconoclasm, and anti-war art are among the topics covered in this program, which shows the role of art in shaping conflicts over politics, religion, morality, and social justice. Satirical drawings by Daumier, Soviet propaganda, posters from China’s Cultural Revolution, and silhouettes by Kara Walker are featured, as well as iconic images by Manet, Picasso, and Goya. A segment on gender politics includes Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi and her provocative images of veiled women inscribed with Islamic calligraphy.
113 THE BODY
Short: Focuses on how the human body has been central to the art of every culture – evidenced in the sexually ambiguous representations of an Egyptian pharaoh, Polynesian tattoo traditions, ancient Greek nudes, Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling, and the multimedia performances of contemporary Samoan-Japanese artist Shigeyuki Kihara.
Long: There is perhaps nothing more essential to the human experience than the body. It is no wonder then that it has been a central theme in visual culture for tens of thousands of years. As Andrew Bolton, Associate Curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, observes, “The body is constantly in vogue and it’s constantly in vogue in art.” Adorned, idealized, naked, clothed, and distorted, the human body has a place in the art of every culture. Sexually ambiguous representations of an Egyptian pharaoh, Polynesian tattoo traditions, ancient Greek nudes, Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling, and the multimedia performances of Samoan-Japanese artist Shigeyuki Kihara are among the works featured in this episode. A diverse group of art historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists look at the body in art through the lenses of gender, sexuality, ethnic identity, fashion, religion, and power.