Monday, June 06, 2005

To death and back: watching the BBC

Tonight is the fifth and final episode in the BBC documentary series How Art Made the World. I found it difficult to watch after the first one. The presenter has been shoe-horned into an over-written, over-dramatised script - every group of archeologists was "totally unprepared for what they discovered"; each discovery was "astounding". But this is standard practise now as the BBC seeks to appeal to audiences who like being patronised. Sometimes the series has addressed interesting questions even if it supplies unsatisfactory, science-based answers. In one episode it ended an investigation into cave paintings by claiming the reason why the paintings look like they do is because they represent drug-induced trances which ancient humans "wanted to capture". But why they "wanted to capture" them went unaddressed.

This evening's looks like it might belatedly try to answer:

Today in the 21st Century people see fewer real dead bodies than at any time in history. Yet in the modern world we seem almost obsessed with images of death. In an investigation encompassing ancient Jericho, Aztec America, and classical Italy, How Art Made the World discovers what it is that has compelled human beings to surround themselves with images of death for thousands of years.

"Images of death" is, of course, a pleonasm. :)

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