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Understanding How John Berger’ Consider Art As Depicted In The Program Ways Of Seeing

In the 1970s there was a four part program hosted by John Berger called “Ways of seeing”. In this program Berger conveyed a fascinating viewpoint towards art. He questioned art’s value, the reason humans create it, its attitude towards the sexes, and how it allows people to communicate. Weather I agree with Berger is irrelevant to how brilliant he and his ideas are.

The first aspect of art addressed by Berger is reproduction. Art was always used as a way to depict a person’s feelings, and desires to others. But everything changed with the invention of cameras. Through the use of pictures, billions of people can be focused on one thing at the same time. In a way cameras give us the power to manipulate others more than ever before. The camera points to where we focus and essentially instills its objective into us.

Photos may themselves may be considered art. But with pictures, sacred relics can be displayed for all to see. But these relics at one point may have been hidden from the public eye. It is interesting that people are willing to pay fortunes for some works of art, which can be easily viewed through a google image search, or television. This concept brings up the idea of authenticity. Authenticity is held above everything else in art. If an artwork has gone through much to survive, as well being authentic it is likely valuable. Perhaps these values are sentimental, as many struggles, and cultural events were displayed through art. Thus some paintings are a souvenir, an artifact, even a window of time. It’s not always about the beauty of the art, but what story it holds.

The point of the art was to make the viewer think. But that’s only part of the artist’s intention. The real intention of an artist is to get you to think what they want. But it is easy to distort an opinion based on setting. A picture’s entire message can be altered when you change the background in which it’s placed, or add music to the scenery. Berger noticed this subtle quality of art and I believe it’s true.

So what is it that entices people to decorate their homes with various painted scenes? Berger believes that people consider the artwork they buy a reflection of themselves. A man may have a painting of an angry bull in his home to portray some metaphor of his power. Or perhaps an exuberant couple wants a regal scene with beautiful designs and pillars of great elegance to display their wealth. Many paintings of royalty show slaves, and peasants who seem to be in a submissive position near their masters. This is no accident.These paintings in an owner’s home sent a message of wealth and supremacy to their guests. Why decorate your walls with colors when you can decorate them with stories?

Women have been the center of attention in many artworks. But this is not necessarily a positive thing. Women are a spectacle, and this is to such a profound extent, that they are a spectacle to themselves. In all artworks with women, especially nude women, men are directed towards them. And the women? She’s looking off to where the camera man may be if it were a photo, or to some bystander. But there is a reason for this. It is because while men desire women, women desire to be desired.

They are an item, a possession, something you seek to acquire, and the reward for a women who is beautiful as we expect, is to be acquired. Since the beginning of humanity women were treated as second class. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they were both condemned but Eve had been the bearer of more blame. This carried over into later times where women became the center of blame and judgement. And what better way to judge someone than to put them in the center of a piece, naked.

In art women are used to create an appetite, a glutinous appetite. They are a symbol of lust and desire, but that is not their fault. Women are subject to the insecurities of others including men. And to feed an insatiable hunger for judgment and sex, women become objectified.

Why do people buy art? Many people are captivated with the idea of rarity. To have that which no other does. There is an ability to boast that is gained when purchasing art because the buyer can be the only person in the world who owns a certain portrait. This entitlement gives people a feeling of superiority, and richness, or as John Berger calls it “glamour”. This glamour is perhaps the driving force behind art’s mystique, and value. To me, it seems that one of the most important characteristics of art is being unique. And throughout the years the buyers of these artworks sought to gain uniqueness themselves. While Berger believes the reason for buying art is to gain glamour or portray superiority, I believe that people are drawn to something they may never see again, at least not in person.

I’d like to add that I’m actually pleased most of the class had not received their books. Had we received our books we would’ve likely proceeded with a predesigned and bland outline of instruction in our book. But instead we were able to see something you clearly had a fond opinion of. And through that I was able to understand art in a way more similar to what you had in mind. I enjoyed the show, and have gained more insight on art from it than anything else we’ve reviewed so far.

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