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More than fifty per cent of the world’s population currently lives in urban environments. But this growth has been so recent – from mid-20th century onwards, majorly – that we’re still adapting to the new lifestyles cities offer. Until February 2020, the exhibition Civilization: The Way We Live Now lands at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia in Melbourne to show the work of more than one hundred contemporary photographers portraying how our societies are living, behaving and evolving. As Tony Ellwood, the centre’s Director defines it, it is “a rich and varied portrait of our times”.

The exhibition, presented in collaboration with the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, explores “photographic representations of life in cities and journeys through the shared experiences of life in the urban environment” and how mass behaviours repeat around the world regardless country or culture. With more than two hundred pieces on display – including the likes of Edward Burtynsky, Lauren Greenfield, Pieter Hugo, Anne Zahlaka, Hong Hao, Richard Mosse and Amalia Ulman, among others –, Civilization: The Way We Live Now is divided into eight different key themes: Hive, Alonetogether, Flow, Persuasion, Control, Rupture, Escape and Next.

By organising it around these main eight themes, the exhibition tackles many issues that our globalised society faces as a whole: from the increasing isolation of individuals caused by digitalization to the controversial (and oftentimes terrible) management of the flow of immigrants and refugees by many governments, to the dark side of the entertainment industry (mass tourism, cruise ships, amusement parks, etc.) and the overall influence of religion, advertising and business in our everyday life. In all, a fascinating exhibition that shows how we’re not as different as we might think and that portrays some of the most pressing issues of today through the lens of photographers from all over the world.
The exhibition Civilization: The Way We Live Now is on view until February 2 (2020) at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Federation Square, Flinders St & Russell St, Melbourne.

Arnau Salvadó
Tom Ross

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