Major exhibition ‘Civilisation: The Way We Live Now’ opens in Seoul

Wang Qingsong, Work! Work! Work!, 2012


A major new exhibition featuring the work of 100 of the world’s most significant photographers – including Huxley-Parlour artists Wang Qingsong, Olaf Otto Becker, Valérie Belin and Alec Soth – has opened at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul. The international offering takes its cue from Edward Steichen’s seminal 1955 Family of Man exhibition, and explores major aspects of our increasingly global civilization.

Curated by William Ewing, Bartomeu Marí and Holly Roussell Perret-Gentil, the exhibition is organized around approximately twelve chapters, to be visited sequentially. Large-format photographic works address topics such as environment, transportation, production and communication, however the scope of the chapters remains broad enough to include the more conceptual, existential themes of alienation, belief and hope.

Taking an anthropological view and exploring the relationship between the individual and the collective in modern society, the exhibition includes work by Wang Qingsong and Alec Soth, who explore similar narratives within very different contexts. Soth’s work profits from the meeting of strangers; namely, those between the artist and his sitters, who are often photographed alone against the prosaic landscapes of modern America. By contrast, Wang Qingsong’s works are heavily populated, emphasising the collective power of group identity, but equally implicating its capacity for loneliness.


Olaf Otto Becker, Point 660, 2, 08/2008 67° 09′ 04″ N, 50° 01′ 58″ W, Altitude 360M, 2008


The exhibition also includes work exploring the environment by Olaf Otto Becker and Valérie Belin. Belin was awarded the Prix Pictet in 2015 for her still life images, illustrating contemporary consumerism’s wasteful use of plastic and other non-biodegradable materials. In his project Above Zero, Becker was able to visit the only place in Greenland where tourists can encounter the country’s Inland Ice – the second-largest ice sheet in the world – and find traces of climate change. The series depicts how nature reacts causally to climate change and how these developments are confronted by humans.

The exhibition will travel to the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, and the Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée (MUCEM), Marseille, France over the next three years. Civilisation: The Way We Live Now by William A. Ewing and Holly Roussell is published this month by Thames and Hudson.


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