Civilization and It's Ruin

Civilization and It’s Ruin is a 12-piece collection of art objects and/or artifacts that connects stories of civilization, and its consequences, from The Epic of Gilgamesh, Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance, and The Sons. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu is a pristine and happy man-animal who has a long barley-like hair and runs with the gazelles. However, Gilgamesh has Enkidu lured into his kingdom where Enkidu defiles his own body and eventually is lead to his death. Similar to The Epic of Gilgamesh, Koyaanisqatsi gives an implied message that human beings have taken a world that was once clean and pure and have turned it into a polluted and overly populated planet. Both of these pieces we explored in class show that if you take something original and pure, and civilize it, you will destroy it. This is exemplified by Enkidu’s death and Koyaanisqatsi’s images of mass destruction of the earth and drivers of global warming.

            Opposite of Koyaanisqatsi and The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Sons tells a story about the metamorphosis of a civilized man into an animalistic insect. Gregor’s transition from a money-driven salesman to an uncorrupted and unselfconscious insect is going against the overwhelming trends of civilization on Earth. However, the end result is no different between the stories as Gregor dies, as well. This shows how we cannot avoid or fight civilization, as Freud says we try to, without a large amount of suffering. 

The first two pieces, one of clean blue water and another of heavily forested land with animals roaming, are similar to the first clips of Koyaanisqatsi. The artworks show land untainted by human intervention. The water is clean and the land is filled with vegetation that the animals can live off of.
The third and fourth picture begin to show how the earth first became polluted by human industrialization. The water in the third picture is more of a greenish blue now, and is swarmed with boats emitting toxic fumes from their steam engines. The land in the fourth picture has had an entire path of tree cut down so that the human-operated train may pass through. And just like the boats, the train is giving off more toxic fumes. These forms of civilization, boats and trains, have brought global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer to Earth. Koyaanisqatsi showed many similar forms of civilization (e.g. planes, cars, and fighter jets) that also contribute to the destruction of our planet.
This is the quintessential piece for showing how human civilization has nearly destroyed all that is natural and pure on Earth. There only sign of vegetation is the artificial trees that are surrounded by cement. The huge skyscrapers, which are also seen in Koyaanisqatsi, are consuming excessive amounts of energy that is vital to sustaining life on earth.
"There was a man came by the water-hole, mightiest in the land, strength he possesses, his strength is as might as a rock from the sky. Over the hills he roams all day, always with the herd he grazes on grasses" Before Enkidu met civilization and, more specifically, Gilgamesh, he was an untamed, dominant, force in the wild with no fear of danger or death. This picture exemplifies the quote as the man-animal is about to kill his prey.
"Shamhat unfastened the cloth of her loins, she bared her sex and he took in her charms... Enkidu had defiled his body so pure... Enkidu was weakened, could not run as before," This piece represents the above quote because on there is a part-man/part-animal pressed up against a half naked person. It is undeniably similar to Shamhat and Enkidu's encounter. Shamhat lured Enkidu in by taking her clothes off and having sex with him. By accepting Shamhat's offer Enkidu "defiled his body," and would never be the same pure and dominant man-animal that he once was. The life of civilization that Enkidu was about to enter was going to destroy that part of him.
This image represents how Enkidu was taken in by Shamhat and Gilgamesh. The man wearing the crown symbolizes Gilgamesh, King of Uruk. The person on the ground, lower than the other two both in status and physical position, is Shamhat. And the person fighting the "abduction" is Enkidu, who fittingly fights Gilgamesh, and his civilized ways, when he arrives in Uruk.
This piece represents the civilized and consequently weaker form of Enkidu. He does not have the matted hair and bear made of barley, as his once untamed version did, but he is also much less dominant and strong. This transition into a civilized man is what brings Enkidu to his death.
This next few pieces work opposite of the first two sections of Civilization and It's Ruin. The section starts off with a representation of one of the highest forms of civilization: a first world country salesman. This salesman is a symbol of Gregor from The Sons. Gregor makes a transition, as shown in the upcoming pieces, from this civilized form of a human to one of the lowest forms of civilization: an insect.
This final piece shows how when Gregor went against the trends of civilization, he was an outcast and was looked down upon by his family. As the man in the picture is doing to the insect, Gregor's family treated Gregor as something that needed to be observed and dealt with. "He must go, that's the only solution, Father. You must try to get rid of the idea that this is Gregor. The fact that we've believed it for so long is the root of all our misfortune. But how can it be Gregor? If this were Gregor, he would have realized long ago that human beings can't live with such a creature, and he'd have gone away of his own accord."
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