I cannot overstate how immensely John Berger contributed to awakening a critical understanding of Western cultural aesthetics and ethics in me. I feel deeply indebted. Here’s a wonderful recent interview with the man.
On this, his 90th birthday, I thought it fitting to look back on this BAFTA award-winning TV series from 1972, which rapidly became regarded as one of the most influential art programmes ever made. Ways of Seeing is a four-part BBC series of 30-minute films, created chiefly by writer John Berger and producer Mike Dibb. Berger’s scripts were adapted into a book of the same name.
The series and book critique traditional Western cultural aesthetics by raising questions about hidden ideologies in visual images. The series is partially a response to Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation series, which represents a more traditionalist view of the Western artistic and cultural canon.
In the first programme, Berger examines the impact of photography on our appreciation of art from the past.
The second programme deals with the portrayal of the female nude, an important part of the tradition of European art. Berger examines these paintings and asks whether they celebrate women as they really are or only as men would like them to be.
With the invention of oil paint around 1400, painters were able to portray people and objects with an unprecedented degree of realism, and painting became the ideal way to celebrate private possessions. In this programme, John Berger questions the value we place on that tradition.
In this programme, Berger analyses the images of advertising and publicity and shows how they relate to the tradition of oil painting – in moods, relationships and poses.
More John Berger on Fleurmach:
From one of the most arresting albums of the twentieth century, Maxinquaye (Island Records, 1995). I bought this CD in my final year of high school, and spent hours and hours in its company over the next few years, lying prone, alone, on the floor, curtains drawn, drowning. The album’s fractured claustrophobia felt so exactly right for the time, particularly in South Africa… its heart of darkness festering quietly while the rainbow nationalist rhetoric raged outside.
“It was the most bizarre record I’ve ever worked on,” says Mark Saunders about Maxinquaye, the 1995 Tricky album that, with the exception of the previously released singles ‘Aftermath’ and ‘Ponderosa’, he co-produced with the artist, in addition to taking care of the engineering, programming and mixing. “It was a complete un-learning experience and it was also a total re-learning experience. Think of how to make a record, then forget everything you’ve learned and start completely backwards and upside down. I could write a book about Tricky. He’s such a great character.”
Read more about the highly unorthodox way in which Maxinquaye was made, HERE.
THINK first. More at http://longliveirony.com.
The Rolling Stones cover, live on Aligre FM, from Session Planet Claire, recorded on March 3, 2000.