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SAATCHI Press Preview: Civilisation

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

Civilisation, The Way We Live Now, The Saatchi Galleries new eight-chapter exhibition exploring the modern human condition and all that it entails. Chapter One, Hive, finds itself opening the eclectic exhibition as it serves as the environmental backdrop for the chapters to follow. This opening chapter informs its viewer of the end of a “rural dominance” that, “for the first time in homo sapiens’ 200,000 years of existence, more people live in urban centres than outside them.” As these urban hives therefore set precedents for individuals learning, thinking and approaches to community it may come as no shock to some that the theme of the second chapter we are guided towards is, Alone Together.

Despite what may seem to some a chapter to be afraid of, the photographers, such as Ann Mandelbaum, invite us into a space of something that’s “always been there”, something “that is not visible” yet shared among us all. Alone Together, explores the complexity of loneliness, how it can be found in both isolated and congested surroundings, and how one can be alone and yet not necessarily lonely. When therefore, offering viewers a chance to look beyond loneliness Mandelbaum discusses the importance of the “lens” and how it can be used to utilise connection; “the lens is magic, it’s right there, it’s easy, all you’ve got to do is click and you’re automatically connected to something you just saw.” As Chapter Two presents the humanity of change and the loneliness it may entail, chapter three, flow, reveals that change now occurs “within the context of technology.”

Chapter three, however, manages to differ from the standard dialogue of the controversial equipment and instead allows us to see it as a tool with a purpose to bring one another together, a purpose that with the help of “human civilisations wonderful way of coming together through communities” has the hope of being restored. As we follow along into the last gallery of the first floor we arrive at chapter four, Persuasion, an exploration of our innate desire to get things done and more importantly the “convincing others of a course of action” that furthers our results. The photographers of the fourth chapter “lift the lid” on the way in which persuasion is evident within society and allows viewers an opportunity to be both aware and understanding of the way in which we can use persuasion to look beyond loneliness.

As we venture up the stairs to the final four chapters we are introduced to chapter number five, Rupture, the chapter documenting collective troubles, breaks in natural order, and conflict. The photographers of the fifth chapter call viewers to confront civilisation and “the way in which we live and coexist” before leading us into the sixth gallery, Control. Chapter six, Control, and chapter seven, Escape, share a sense of unity as they explore themes of systemic constraint and the breakout of individuals affected. One piece that stands in particular features an isolated individual floating through the ocean, an image encapsulating what it means to be alone but not lonely. When discussing the piece and its relation to loneliness with Lily Waterton, an exhibition programming executive for Saatchi, she commented on the importance of nature, “and the power that it has to improve our mental health” how “the undulating water and this calm figure just floating” reminds us viewers “to go back to nature and reflect, to have that quiet time.” that “quiet solitude and that solitude itself is not a bad thing it's just a reminder to reflect.”

Next?, the final chapter of the William Ewings stimulating exhibition airs the question many viewers may find themselves pondering as they approach the last room of the second floor,

What’s next? A question posed daily by those in both public and private settings finds itself on display in the final gallery as photographers “search for signs” of the approaching world, using their “lens” to document our ever-changing way of living. Civilisation, The Way We Live Now, offers individuals an opportunity to ponder the modern human condition, a collection inviting discussion, community, and togetherness whilst simultaneously celebrating those moments of solitude so common to us all.

Harmony Tunbridge, 18

June fifth, 2023

Correspondent for Positive TV & Beyond Loneliness

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