This is Civilisation is a book of analysis: it asks how does art work, what is it saying, what do we want from it, how does it tell us what we are? In four provocative essays, we go from the ancient Greeks to the present day, from statues standing around outside temples, beside graves, at cross roads and in religious sanctuaries, to a Chinese conceptual art-photographer staging a modern apocalypse in a studio in Beijing. We see different jostling realities, we encounter religions and revolutions, and we meet awkward, driven individuals whose resolutions to conflicts and dramas of their own time - distant, strange, disturbing - created the foundations for what seems familiar, natural and inevitable today. Matthew Collings's take combines expertise with experiment. He is both learned and chancy. If you want to be appalled, you can be, but if you want to be moved and surprised, you can get some of that to.
This is Civilisation by Matthew Collings is published by 21 publishing on 20th January 2008.