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Ways of Seeing

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John Berger’s Classic Text on Art

Ways of Seeing is one of the most stimulating and the most influential books on art in any language. First published in 1972, it was based on the BBC television series about which the (London) Sunday Times a critic commented: "This is an eye-opener in more ways than one: by concentrating on how we look at paintings . . . he will almost certainly change the way you look at pictures." By now he has.

"Berger has the ability to cut right through the mystification of the professional art critics . . . He is a liberator of images: and once we have allowed the paintings to work on us directly, we are in a much better position to make a meaningful evaluation" —Peter Fuller, Arts Review

"The influence of the series and the book . . . was enormous . . . It opened up for general attention to areas of cultural study that are now commonplace" —Geoff Dyer in Ways of Telling.

176 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1972

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About the author

John Berger

280 books2,020 followers
John Peter Berger was an English art critic, novelist, painter and author. His novel G. won the 1972 Booker Prize, and his essay on art criticism Ways of Seeing, written as an accompaniment to a BBC series, is often used as a college text.

Later he was self exiled to continental Europe, living between the french Alps in summer and the suburbs of Paris in winter. Since then, his production has increased considerably, including a variety of genres, from novel to social essay, or poetry. One of the most common themes that appears on his books is the dialectics established between modernity and memory and loss,

Another of his most remarkable works has been the trilogy titled Into Their Labours, that includes the books Pig Earth (1979), Once In Europa (1983) Lilac And Flag (1990). With those books, Berger makes a meditation about the way of the peasant, that changes one poverty for another in the city. This theme is also observed in his novel King, but there his focus is more in the rural diaspora and the bitter side of the urban way of life.

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Profile Image for Trevor.
1,302 reviews22.1k followers
September 29, 2014
This book is based on a television series which can be viewed on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnfB-p...

This is a really remarkable series and a remarkable, although annoying, book. The book is annoying because it should have been a coffee table book with large colour photographs and large font – instead it is a Penguin paperback with a font tending towards the unreadable and grey scale reproductions of the paintings that make them almost impossible to view. This is agonising, as really all you will want to do is studying and think about these images for hours.

There is something we sort of know, even if I suspect we are completely wrong in our intuition. We have been, as humans, looking at pictures for a lot longer than we have been reading books. For the vast majority of us, literacy is a disturbingly recent invention – perhaps a hundred , maybe a hundred and fifty years for people in the first world. Churches told their Biblical stories as much in images as in words. For a long time even here the words were spoken in a language that was not understood by those listening. Learning how to read images, something so many of us assume isn’t something we need to learn, but rather is somehow immediate, takes an entire culture and also takes perhaps as long as to learn how to read. To understand how images work on us – how we are manipulated by them – that takes at least as long as it takes to learn the same things about how words work on and manipulate us.

So, on one level this book is an exploration of the history of oil painting and what such paintings ‘mean’ – mean to us now in comparison to what they meant to earlier generations of people in Western societies. Because the Western tradition of painting is quite a separate thing from any other ‘world art’ traditions.

He starts by saying that paintings are both still and silent. This is an interesting thing to say, because how we generally experience paintings today – or at least, learn about them – is through shows like Sister Wendy’s World Tour of Art or Simon Schama’s Power of Art. Don’t for a second get me wrong here – I loved both. But the art works displayed are anything but still or silent. There is a voice track and there is a panning and a zooming-in that turns these still and silent works into something approaching a cartoon. I had never considered the implications of this before. The painting stops being what it is, in fact, cannot remain what it is on the screen, it stops being an object that the artist created so as to speak for itself, and now requires someone to mediate between it and us, to either speak over it (explain it) or to orchestrate it (quite literally, with music) so that we are taught the proper way to read this painting.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we ‘read’ paintings and images, particularly after reading a book called Reading Images: the grammar of visual design. It is interesting that in that book it is clear that linguistic grammar has been used as a way to structure our response to the grammar of images – quite effectively, I think – but this is almost counter-intuitive. If we have had a more immediate relationship with images than with written text, why is it that we need to use the organising principles associated with written texts so as to seek to understand images? Why doesn’t that work the other way around? I know in part this is because language has been formally codified, but this, again, raises the question of why images are so resistant to such codification. Why would it be daft to explain what a verb is by reference to Mona Lisa’s eyebrows?

The relationship between being naked (being without clothes) and being nude is presented here in what I take to be feminist art criticism. A nude is not merely someone without clothes – it is almost invariably a female and she is also on display, an object. In many ways she is not really the protagonist of the painting, even when she is the only person in the painting – the other person that is always present is the anonymous male viewer towards whom she is on display. He shows image after image of nude women, and even while being embraced, they are turned to the viewer, turned to their true lover, their fantasy lover, for not only are they the screen on which we project our lust, but also the reason for our weaknesses – they are, in the end, to be lusted over and to blame. No wonder they are invariably passive and languid. After corrupting the whole of male humanity, how could they not look exhausted?

And that is actually the point – it is only today that a painting can be seen by quite so many people. They were never intended to be seen other than by the very few. Today paintings are pretty much what Plato said of them, representations of representations – but as such they are a demonstration of just how wealthy the owner really was. Paintings put on display the wealth of their owners – and that was a large part of what had been their purpose. Here’s me, and here’s the missus, and we are standing in front of our house, this is our bedroom, these are the oranges we have shipped in from Spain, this is our cow and, despite the late summer sun setting, these are our furs.

The last program in the series looks at advertising and how it uses and distorts the language of paintings, to which it is the last dying breathe of a tradition spanning back 500 years. In oil painting we are looking at the current wealth of the owners – there is a now-ness about these paintings – this is what I look like now, this is what I own now – the fact that it is always ‘then’ in images is something everyone has become more aware of now we have cameras and something Barthes explains beautifully in his Camera Lucida. Time stops in the image, and as such all images are images of death. Life immediately marches away from them, leaving them as pure memory. So, paintings are always about the present and, as such, thus also immediately about the past – the present being just the past in waiting.

But marketing images are always about the future, never about the present. Selling something is about creating a desire and that desire is not here and now, it is sometime soon. In many ways advertising doesn’t sell products – it sells envy and desire. As he points out, the rich people in oil paintings are not glamorous – glamour is beside the point. To be glamorous the viewer needs to want to emulate the people they see in the images – but the people who own paintings see themselves – so, there is no need for glamour. To sell product you need to sell a fantasy and that fantasy needs to be just out of reach, but obtainable though an exchange not actually part of the image, an exchange of money for a good, but that exchange is the point of the image. That capitalism needs such constant exchanges and that advertising creates the desires that fuel these exchanges is the open secret of our society. That said, I’d never considered the relationship with time that this creates before – how, to be economically valid units, we need to be constantly living in a fantasy future, while also being prepared to put up with just about any boredom in our all too prosaic present. No wonder advertisement is uninterested in now, it needs to be – it needs to negate now for what is to come.

The book also draws a distinction between how we advertise to the working class (the promised transformation is based on Cinderella) and the middle class (the promised transformation is based on The Enchanted Palace) – for the working class buying this one product will be enough to transform you into the princess, for the middleclass investing in this bank will bring you all of the good things in life, which are, of necessity, an ensemble.

There is so much to think about in this tiny book and this short series of films. I watch shows like this and I think, imagine what television could have been – but, of course, it could never have been anything of the kind. This is very much the exception that proves the rule. So, to see what television could never have been allowed to be, watch this and then go back to reading books.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews37 followers
October 21, 2021
Way of Seeing, John Berger

Ways of Seeing is a 1972 television series of 30-minute films created chiefly by writer John Berger and producer Mike Dibb. It was broadcast on BBC Two in January 1972 and adapted into a book of the same name.

The book Ways of Seeing was written by Berger and Dibb, along with Sven Blomberg, Chris Fox, and Richard Hollis.

The book consists of seven numbered essays: four using words and images; and three essays using only images.

عنوانها: «شیوه های نگریستن»؛ «شیوه های دیدن»؛ «شیوه های نگاه»؛ نویسنده: جان برگر (جان برجر)؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: از روز ششم ماه فوریه تا روز دوم ماه مارس سال2013میلادی

عنوان: شیوه های نگریستن؛ نویسنده: جان برگر (جان برجر)؛ مترجم: غلامحسین فتح الله نوری؛ تهران، ویژه نگار، سال1388؛ در77ص، مصور، شابک9789649461748؛ موضوع: ادراک بصری، فن، هنر، از نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده 20م

عنوان: شیوه های نگاه؛ نویسنده: جان برگر (جان برجر)؛ مترجم: محمد هوشمند ویژه؛ تهران، بهجت، سال1390؛ در160ص، مصور، رنگی؛ شابک 9789642763528؛

عنوان: شیوه های دیدن؛ نویسنده: جان برگر (جان برجر)؛ مترجم: زیبا مغربی؛ تهران، شورآفرین، سال1393؛ در122ص، مصور، رنگی؛ شابک9786006955278؛

جان برگر در کتاب «راه‌های دیدن» می‌گویند: (مردان به زنان می‌نگرند و زنان به خود نگاه می‌کنند، که مورد تماشا قرار گرفته‌ اند؛ این روزها، دیگر برای دوربین‌ها آسان نیست، که زنان را تنها به صورت ابزاری جنسی به نمایش بگذارند، زیرا زنان کارگردان و بازیگر، از نقش‌های خود برای عرضه‌ ی هوش و قدرت آرمانی‌شان بهره می‌گیرند؛ زنان آمریکایی تلاش فراوانی کرده‌ اند، تا دنیایی از آن خود بسازند، دنیایی که در آن اصل نگاه مردانه، نمی‌تواند از وجود آنها، هویت جنسی‌شان را به نمایش بگذارد، بلکه مجبور خواهد بود آنها را زنانی با استعداد و باهوش به تصویر بکش)»؛ پایان

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 26/10/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 28/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Justin Evans.
1,553 reviews814 followers
June 2, 2014
I am not the audience for this book, mainly because I've already read and more or less digested the handful of essays and ideas on which it is based. The seven chapters break down fairly simply.

1: Benjamin's 'Work of Art'--the ability to reproduce images alters the way we encounter works of art. This seems reasonable. Nobody gets to see a Giotto without having seen a reproduction first, except someone who has no interest in the Giotto in the first place. But Berger et al* go a step further: we need to use the fact that we encounter works of art differently to undermine the ruling class's privilege and the "specialized experts who are the clerks of the nostalgia of a ruling class in decline." That's on page 32. Part of me, a large part, laments the fact that you'd never get that published today, not even on a website. Another part of me laments the stupidity of intellectuals who put their faith in the inherent goodness of The People. The People does not have a good track record when it comes to art appreciation. That's not to say that people can't learn to appreciate art, only that We are no better and no worse than the ruling class was. We need to learn, we need to be taught, you can't do that if you assume that We are inherently able to do the right thing.

2 & 3: Women are depicted differently from men, and, frankly, not in ways that are healthy for anyone, but particularly not for women. I agree. Which makes it breathtaking to see the authors get so many things wrong, either intentionally (cutting short the bible verse in which God punishes Eve *and Adam*); stupidly (non-Western art forms show women as active participants in sex, so that are isn't morally dubious); or in ways that are, ahem, temporally bound ("Hair is associated with sexual power, with passion." Seventies!).

5: Oil paintings are bourgeois and generally not morally okay. Holbein's 'Ambassadors' is read as an example of this; the incredible distorted skull in the painting is the exception which proves the rule of oil paintings rather than, you know, showing that oil paintings can be self-critical, as are most good artworks of any kind. In general, the lesson of this book is that all art is bad for you, except the pieces that the authors of this book like. They like pieces by artists who can plausibly be turned into radicals, because only radicals can be interesting (Franz Hals; William Blake). They don't discuss the 20th century at all (I know they know that twentieth century art exists; perhaps, as good Benjaminian Marxists, they don't like abstraction or difficulty). They're also very uncomfortable with religious art, and want to group, e.g., Ambrosius Benson's Mary Magdalene with the absurd and/or pornographic Magdalene of later times, rather than admitting the rather obvious differences (Benson's is rich, but not, how can I put this... naked and disheveled.) Since the authors have a hard time saying what they actually like (vs. what they suspect is oppressive), you get idiocies like this: Rembrandt's famous late portrait shows a man for whom "all has gone except a sense of the question of existence, of existence as a question." A little thought would show that this is the sort of conservative pablum Great Artists have been serving up for generations.

6 & 7: Advertizing uses art to make you think you want things you don't want and that you can get them, so you don't need to think about what you really want, e.g., more time away from the office. This is true.

In sum: I was sucked in by the idea that this was a book about understanding art. It is not. It is critical theory for high-school readers. Good for what it is, but extremely narrow in scope, and quite harmful for anyone who swallows it whole rather than taking a few minutes to worry away at its assumptions. Harmful because those who accept it will say silly things, and because those who read it and reject it out of hand (due to the rhetoric, bad arguments, or conceptual confusion) won't be challenged to, you know, care about other people.

* Humorous aspect of this book: it makes a big deal about how it was written by a group of people, because, you know, individuals are bad, and groups are good. You'll note that the book is sold as a book by John Berger. You can draw the conclusion.
Profile Image for Pierce.
183 reviews72 followers
May 25, 2008
First of all, this entire book is set in bold. I don't know what crazy crazyman let that through the gate at Penguin but I just felt I had to point it out right away. It's still worth reading.

4 essays and 3 pictorial essays. Really interesting stuff cutting away some of the bullshit associated with our appreciation of art. It seems like museums are doing a lot of things wrong as well as right.

Chapter on oil-painting was particularly interesting but it was the last one about advertising (or "publicity" as it's exclusively referred to in this book) that has me thinking. Advertising not only needs you to want this shirt, this car, the entire industry must endeavor to narrow the scope of your desires to make you amenable to the culture. The mindset must always be a future, better you achieved through important purchases. The essay is horrifying enough until you realise that it's thirty years old, and this is now only one facet of a business that's grown much more insidious. The ads shown are almost quaint in their straight sell.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,494 reviews2,377 followers
March 12, 2020

This was a great introduction to the work of John Berger, and my doubts that this would turn into something rather dull were swiftly blown away. His approach to art isn't overly complex thus you don't have to be a cultural boffin on the subject, yet its deep on a theoretical level to challenge and stimulate the old grey matter. Ways of Seeing offers not just an idea but also an invitation to see and know the world differently. As the TV series aired in 1972 (four years before I was born) I will likely turn to youtube and try to catch an episode or two, and hopefully find it as fascinating as this book. Bravo John!
Profile Image for Casey Aonso.
95 reviews2,763 followers
October 23, 2022
loved this but printing a book near exclusively in helvetica is absolutely insane
Profile Image for Violeta.
87 reviews77 followers
November 19, 2020
Interesting little book. The author’s matter-of-factness annoyed me at times and I had the sense that he kept looking for the worst in the human nature of artists, art owners and consumers alike. If nothing else, he gives us food for thought.
I enjoyed the essay on publicity images the most. For what it’s worth, I couldn’t help comparing Berger’s view that “Publicity is about social relations, not objects. Its promise is not of pleasure, but of happiness: happiness as judged from the outside by others. The happiness of being envied...” to that of Don Draper’s, leading character and quintessential ad-man of Madmen, as is expressed on the Netflix trailer: “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams with reassurance that whatever you are doing is OK. YOU are OK”.
I agree with both but the latter is kinder.
Profile Image for J.
730 reviews456 followers
April 11, 2014
Almost laughably disappointing. Berger obviously has the best of intentions, but his analysis is amateurish at best, pathetically reactionary (almost to the point of seeming to whine) at worst, and largely cribbed from thinkers of far greater intellectual originality and power than himself.

For starters, he seems either ignorant of or unwilling to admit that what we broadly call 'mainstream visual art' is, was, and quite likely almost always has been directly tied up with wealth; with commissions, patronage, really with human commerce itself. Visual art isn't some pure, 'virginal' endeavor sullied by capitalism. Visual art is a creative activity which is intimately tied into and dependent on capitalism (really, on wealth) in the first place... and with displaying and re-affirming that wealth.

His naive disgust with modern capitalism's collusion with art assumes that there was some magical time when art existed in a vacuum of economic/ideological purity, unsullied by the lucre of having to actually pay someone to produce a canvas or carve a church door or gild something. If such 'pure' art even exists in the first place, Berger provides literally no evidence for it: no examples from non-western European, 'traditional' cultures or even folk arts which might conceivably hint that some people make art for nothing more than their own personal pleasure.

As if his shallow reading of these issues wasn't bad enough, he then goes on to make the utterly ludicrous claim that portraits of women, nudes, etc, show us that all women everywhere (and only ever women) are essentially shaped (really, he means warped) by the erotic gaze of male longing and domination. That's a powerful idea. It's also utterly indemonstrable and reeks of cheap psycho-analysis. Worse than that...it's a theory concocted to explain and reduce the female experience, which to be sure, has been cruelly unfair for the vast majority of human history, down into a narrow category of sexual expectation.

Has John Berger ever MET an actual woman? What could be more bigoted, what could be more misogynistic, than dismissively generalizing all members of the female sex as simply 'damaged' by the male gaze, as if a single tiny statement was enough to claim to understand the full totality of the female experience and female suffering through out history? And of course, his visual examples of this are, again, cheaply cherry picked...just a few nudes (which to be sure, are pathetically offensive). Berger manages the odd feat of trying to empathize with the female subject in art and somehow making himself come across as an arrogant misogynist in the process.

The problem with this book is that underneath it's crummy pseudo-analysis is a person who already knows how the world is to such a level of satisfaction that he has nothing left to discover or even really demonstrate about it. Capitalism? Oh it's ruined art. (Never mind telling us about what art from a non-capitalist culture is like) Women? Oh the poor things, they're so warped by male expectations its a miracle they can even stand up (Never mind that you don't relate any actual woman's experience at any point). Photography? Oh that's ruined art too by making images ubiquitous (never mind really examining photography fairly to see the myriad ways it has changed modern culture and modern art) This book proves one thing above all: the complacent intellectual smugness of the person who wrote it.

Look, the relationship between the commercial world and the ever-changing world of visual artistic endeavor is a hugely diverse and complicated subject, as is the relationship between art and advertising. As is, especially, the relationship between gender roles and visual art through out history. Thinkers as diverse as Susan Sontag, Walter Benjamin, Virginia Woolf, Naomi Klein, etc. have all written elegantly and movingly about these topics. John Berger's "Ways of Seeing" tries to stand on the shoulders of such thinkers and falls off on nearly every page. Largely because the only thing Berger seems to 'see' is his own self-satisfaction.

Profile Image for mehg-hen.
402 reviews54 followers
September 11, 2012
On the top floor in the Strand Bookstore in New York, I saw a self-consciously bored worker show a struggling-to-be-bored kid with his mom to the art table. The worker was like "well, you need this, and this, and this" and I realized the kid must be in art school and the worker must have graduated pretty recently. The worker was like "have you read Ways of Seeing? By John Berger?" and wanted to have geeky enthusiasm, but kept her eyes half closed and only lifted the book two inches. The kid was like "no, what is that?" and trying not to care. The worker was like, totally monotone, "well, it's really amazing. You'll have to read that. Everyone reads it. Anyway, it's awesome." Then they went away and I picked it up, because I would like to go to art school, learn 1,000 techniques and become spiritually fulfilled, kind, married, a terrific cook, and understand flowers etc. and make informative life-affirming web shorts that are not irrelevant. In the bookstore, Ways of Seeing was boring but I decided it was my fault. Months later, I found it in a library in Santa Cruz, California. It is printed in bold type for no reason. I guess it is interesting. Oil paintings were about conspicuous consumption back in the day. Only women are conscious about what they present to the world looks-wise. Fetishizing the past helps aristocrats stay aristocrats. Capitalists turned art into a commodity. This is apparently all pulled from a BBC special which I bet is more interesting. At a certain point in your life this will BLOW YOUR MIND, but if you know in your heart that one day we will all hate stainless steel kitchens and be like "ugh, so old fashioned, barf" you will probably be like "yeah, this was okay."
Profile Image for alper.
186 reviews44 followers
July 16, 2019
Berger’in düşünme biçimine, üslubuna, tezlerini temellendirme & derinleştirme tarzına bayıldım. Ne yazmışsa okumak, ne anlatmışsa dinlemek istiyorum. Bana daha çok Berger verin, üzerime Berger atın, beni Berger'e boğun. 🤓🤓🤗🤗 Bu nidalar ile okudum ve tamamladım bu kitabı.

Kitap, John Berger’in BBC için 1972 yılında yaptığı 4 bölümlük televizyon diziden hazırlanmış. Ek olarak bir giriş bölümü var. Ben bu giriş bölümünü çok sevdiğim ve kitaba o açıdan bakacağım, anlatacaklarımı 3’e ayırdım:

1. Kitabın birincil önceliği mutlu azınlığın sırlarının geniş kitlelerle paylaşılması
2. Yaygınlaştırma çalışmaları kapsamında bir yağlıboya incelemesi
3. “Like” Butonunun Evrimi - Bir Bergercilik denemesi (hadsiz ama nezaketsiz değil, galiba nezaketsiz de offff)
(Bir de lafımı bağlamak niyetindeyim (becerebilirsem))

1.Kitabın birincil önceliği mutlu azınlığın sırlarının geniş kitlelerle paylaşılması

Mutluluğun, neden azınlık bir kitlede olduğunu anlatmak için biraz geriden başlıyor Berger. (Mümkün olduğunca onun kaleminden)

Bir doğa resmi ‘gördüğümüzde’ kendimizi onun içine koyarız. Geçmişte yapılmış sanata ‘bakıyorsak’ o zaman kendimizi tarihin içine koymuş oluruz. Bu sanatı görmemiz engellendiğinde aslında bizim olan tarihten yoksun bırakılmış oluruz. Bu yoksunluktan kim yarar sağlar? Sonuçta geçmişin sanatı, mutlu azınlığın kendine bir tarih yaratmaya çabalamasından dolayı bulandırılmaktadır. Bu tarih, geriye bakıldığında yönetici sınıfların oynadığı tarihsel rolü haklı gösterebilir. Böyle bir haklı çıkarmanın çağdaş dilde hiç bir anlamı yoktur. Bundan ötürü ister istemez bulandırıcıdır. (11)

“Görsel sanatlar için her zaman belli bir koruyucu kabuk içinde varolagelmişlerdir; başlangıçta bu kabuk gizemli ya da kutsal bir şeydi. Bu kabuğun bir de maddesel yanı vardı: Bu, yapıtın içine oturtulması ya da içinde saklanması için yapılan yer, mağara, binaydı. Başta yaşantısı olan sanat yaşantısı, yaşamın geri kalan şeylerinde ayrıldı - bu da sanatı amaca göre kullanabilmek için yapıldı. Sonra sanatın sarıldığı koruyucu kabuk toplumsal bir şey oldu. Yönetici sınıfların kültürüne girdi. Bu arada bu sınıfın yaşadığı saray ve evlerin içinde insanlardan ayrıldı, koparıldı. Bütün bunlar sırasında sanatın yetkesi, koruyucu kabuğun taşıdığı özel yetkeden ayrılmaz oldu. (31)

Ama günümüzde bunların hiçbir anlamı kalmadı, artık sanat eserlerinin “unique” (kitapta biricik diye geçen sözcük, bu ifade kulağımı fena tırmalıyor) bir durumu yok. Öyle aldım şatoma koydum bir yandan şöminemde kestane pişiririm bir yandan şarabımı yudumlarken misafirlerime gösteririm ve “O”na hayran hayran bakan misafirlerimin takdirini toplarım (buna ayrıca değineceğim) dönemleri geçti.

“...Ne var ki büyük kitleler yeniden canlandırmalar yoluyla bir zamanlar yalnızca kültürlü azınlığın yaptığı gibi, sanatın tadına varmaya başladı. Halk kitleleri bugün bu sanat karşısında ilgisiz ve kuşkuludur; bu da anlaşılabilir bir şeydir.” (32)

Kısaca bir grup azınlıkta olan bu mutluluğun geniş kitleler tarafından tadılmaması için günümüzde bir engel kalmamıştır. Sadece baktığmız/bakmadığımız (aynı şey) değerleri görmek için kanıksadığımız bu durumun farkına varıp, bunu kırmak için çaba sarfetmemiz gerekir. Bu kitapta bunun için bir BAŞLANGIÇ olabilir. Bir örnek üzerinden kitapta bu misyonun nasıl yerine getirildiğine bakalım.

2. Yaygınlaştırma çalışmaları kapsamında bir yağlıboya incelemesi

“Yağlıboya gerçek nesneleri elimizle dokunabilecekmişiz gibi gösterir bize. Bu tür resimdeki imgelerin iki boyutlu ol masına karşın gözü aldatma etkisi yontunun etkisinden çok daha büyüktür. Çünkü yağlıboya, nesnelerin renklerini, dokularını, sıcaklıklarını yansıtabilir. Nesnelerin bir yeri kapladığını bize imleme yoluyla gösterir. “(88)

The Ambassadors - Hans Holbein (1533)

Bu resim seyredende gerçek nesnelere, malzemelere baktığı sanrısını uyandırmak üzere büyük bir ustalıkla yapılmıştır. Birinci denemede dokunma duygusunun sınırlı, durağan bir görme duygusu olduğunu belirtmiştik. Bu resim yüzeyinin her kesimiyle bir yandan salt görsel etki uyandırırken bir yandan da dokunma duygusunu kullanmaya çağırır bizi. Göz kürkten başlayarak ipeğe, madene, tahtaya, kadifeye, mermere, kâğıda ve keçeye doğru kayar. Her kaymada gözün resimde gördüğü şey dokunma duygusu diline çevrilir. Resimdeki iki adamın belli bir ağırlığı vardır. Adamlar fikirleri simgeleyen birçok nesneyle çevrelenmiştir. Oysa resimde ağır basan şey, adamları çevreleyen, onların vücutlarını örten malzemeler ve kumaşlardır.
Resimde yüzler ve eller dışında kalan yüzeylerin hepsinde dokumacıların, nakışçıların, halıcıların, kuyumcuların, dericilerin, mozaikçilerin, kürkçülerin, terzilerin, sarrafların herşeyi nasıl inceden inceye işledikleri göze çarpıyor. Sonra da bu ince işçiliğin, bundan doğan yüzey zenginliğinin, resmi yapan Holbein tarafından yeniden nasıl ince bir biçimde resme geçirildiği görülüyor.
Bu vurgulama, bunun ardında yatan ustalık yağlıboya resim geleneğinin değişmez bir öğesi olarak kalacak biçimde ortaya konmuştur.
Daha önceki sanat geleneklerinde sanat yapıtları zenginliği gösteriyordu. Şu var ki servet o zaman değişmez bir toplumsal ya da dinsel düzenin simgesiydi. Yağlıboya resimde yepyeni bir zenginlik sergileniyordu —tek haklı nedenini paranın satınalma gücünde bulan bir zenginlikti bu. Böylece resim parayla satın alınabilecek şeylerin istenirliğini gösteren bir şey oluyordu. Satın alınabilecek nesnelerin görsel istenirliği de dokunulabilecek nesneler olarak bunların sahibin dokunma duygusuna, eline nasıl cevap vereceklerini gösteriyordu.
Holbein’in Elçiler adlı yapıtının önünde gizemli, yan yatmış, söbü bir şey vardır. Çok çarpıtılmış bir kafatasıdır bu; çarpıtıcı bir aynada yansıyan bir kafatası. Kafatasının resme nasıl girdiği, elçilerin bunu neden istediği konusunda çeşitli yorumlar vardır. Yorumların hepsi bunun bir tür ölüm simgesi olduğunda birleşir. Ortaçağ da, kafatası ölümün varlığını sürekli anımsatan bir imge olarak kullanılıyordu. Bizim savımız açısından önemli olan bu kafatasının resimdeki öbür şeylere göre (gerçek anlamda) bambaşka bir görüş açısından verilmiş olmasıdır. Kafatası da resmin geri kalan kesimi gibi resmedilseydi fizikötesi anlamı kalmazdı. O da öbürleri gibi bir nesne, ölü iskeletinin bir parçası olurdu.
Gelenek boyunca sürüp giden bir sorundur bu. Fizikötesi simgeler resme sokulduğunda (sonraları resme ölüm simgesi olarak gerçek kafatasları koyan ressamlar da vardır) resim yönteminin katı ve cansız olması yüzünden bu simgeler, çoğu zaman inandırıcı ya da doğal bir etki uyandıramıyordu.(90-91)
Blake’in yağlıboyanın ‘maddesel yoğunluğu’nu aşmaya çalışması, bu geleneğin anlamını, sınırlarını çok derinden kavramasından doğmuştur.
Şimdi gene iki elçiye, resimde bunların insan olarak bulunuşlarına dönelim. Resmi başka bir biçimde, çerçevenin içinde gösterdikleri düzeyinde değil, dışında gösterdikleri düzeyinde anlamlandıralım:
Resimdeki iki adam kendilerinden emin ve resmidirler: Aralarındaki ilişki açısından bakıldığında rahattırlar. Peki, ressama —ya da bize— bakışları nasıldır? Gözlerinden, duruşlarından, kimse onları tanımasa da olurmuş gibi bir şey okunmaktadır. Sanki başkaları onların değerlerini anlayamazmış gibi bir bakış. Adamların ait olmadıkları bir şeye bakar gibi bir halleri vardır. Onları çevreleyen ama adamların dışında kalmak istedikleri bir şeydir bu. En iyisini düşünürsek onları çevreleyen, onları alkışlayan bir kalabalık, en kötüsünü düşünürsek, rahatlarını kaçıran insanlar olabilir bunlar.
Bu gibi adamların dünyanın geri kalan kesimiyle ilişkileri nelerdir?
Resimde adamların arkasındaki rafta görülen nesneler — imleri çözebilen birkaç kişiye — bu adamların dünyadaki yeri hakkında belli bir bilgi vermek amacıyla konmuştur oraya. Dört yüz yıl sonra biz bu bilgiyi kendi görüşümüze göre yorumlayabiliriz artık.
Üst raftaki bilimsel araçlar denizcilikte kullanılıyordu. Deniz yollarının tutsak ticaretine, ticaret gemilerine açıldığı sıralardaydı bu. Öbür kıtaların zenginlikleri bu gemilerle Avrupa’ya aktarılıyordu. Bu zenginliklerle sonra sanayi devrimi'nin çıkış noktası olan anamal birikimi sağlandı.
1519’da Magellan, V. Charles'ın desteğiyle dünyayı dolaşmak için yola çıkmıştı. Magellan'la bu yolculuğu planlayan gökbilimci arkadaşı, kazandıklarının yüzde yirmisini ve ele geçirdikleri topraklardaki yönetim hakkını kendilerine ayıracaklarını İspanya Sarayı’yla yaptıkları bir anlaşmayla saptadılar.
Alt raftaki küre Magellan’ın bu yolculuğunu gösteren yeni bir küredir. Holbein Fransa'da bulunan ve, soldaki elçiye ait olan toprakların adını küreye yazmıştır. Kürenin yanında bir aritmetik kitabı, bir ilâhi kitabı, bir de ut vardır. Bir ülkeyi sömürgeleştirebilmek için insanlarını Hıristiyan yapmak, onlara hesap öğretmek gerekiyordu; böylece onlara dünyada en ileri uygarlığın Avrupa uygarlığı olduğu kanıtlanıyordu. Elbette Avrupa sanatı bunun dışında değildi. (93-95)

Kitabın tek olayı bir resim ve onun manasının anlatılması değil farklı farklı denemeler üzerinden görme biçimleri de ele alınıyor. Onlara değinmeyeceğim. (şükür)

3. “Like” Butonunun Evrimi - Bir Bergercilik denemesi

ÖNEMLİ UYARI: Çok kıymetli Goodreads ve onun çok tatlı like butonu bu anlattıklarımın dışındadır. (ne olur ne olmaz)

Kitap 21. yüzyıla kadar uzanmıyor. Bir durak daha ekleyerek günümüze kadar getirmek niyetindeyim. Berger bugün bu kitaba son bir bölüm ekleyecek olsa oturup bununla uğraşır mıydı bilmiyorum. Ama onun tarzıyla konuyu biraz geriden alarak bugüne geleceğim. Biraz Bergercilik oynamaya çalışacam:

Mr and Mrs Andrews - Thomas Gainsborough (takriben 1750)

Bay ve Bayan Andrews Rousseau’nun düşündüğü Doğa içinde yaşayan bir çift değildir. Toprak ağasıdırlar. Çevrelerindeki her şeye karşı edindikleri ağalık tutumu duruşlarından, yüz ifadelerinden okunur. (107)
Yağlıboya resim sahibin mülkleri arasında, onun yaşamı içinde, zaten tadını çıkarmakta olduğu nesneleri gösteriyordu. O sahibin bir insan olarak değerli olduğu duygusunu doğruluyordu. Zaten içinde bulunduğu durumda kendi gözünde kendi imgesini güçlendiriyordu. Gerçeklerden, onun yaşamının gerçeklerinden yola çıkıyordu. Sonra, sahibin gerçekten içinde yaşadığı yapıların iç duvarlarını süslüyordu bu resimler. (kaçıncı sayfa tekrar bakarım? baktım bulmadım)

Seyirci-sahip olarak tanımlıyor Berger bu sanatseverleri. (Bu kardeşlerimizi mutlu azınlık içinde görmüyorum bu arada. Bu arkadaşlar like butonuna herkesin sahip olamadığı dönemde sahip olabilen teşhirci azınlık. ) Son bölümde de 20 yüzyıla geliyor ve Seyirci-sahip’in Seyirci-alıcı’ya dönüşmesi:

Reklam hiçbir zaman bilinen bir zevkin alıcıya yeniden tattırılması olamaz. Reklam hep gelecekteki alıcıya seslenmek zorundadır. Alıcıya satmaya çalıştığı ürünle ya da olanakla çekicilik kazanmış olan kendi imgesini yansıtır. Bu imgeyle alıcıda, kendisinin gelecekte olabileceği durumu özleten bir kıskançlık uyandırır. Bu kıskanılası Ben’i yaratan nedir öyleyse? Başkalarının duyduğu kıskançlıktır elbette. Reklam nesneleri değil toplumsal ilişkileri amaçlar. Reklam, zevk değil mutluluk vadeder bize: dışardan, başkalarının gözüyle görülen bir mutluluk. Kıskanılmanın getirdiği bu mutluluk da çekicilik yaratır. (132)
Kıskanılmaksa insanda, ancak yalnız başına tadılabilecek bir kendine güven duygusu yaratır. Bu duygu da yaşantınızı, sizi kıskananlarla paylaşmamanızdan gelir.(133)
Seyirci alıcının, ürünü edindiği zaman erişeceği durumuna bakarak kendini kıskanması beklenir. O ürünle, başkalarının kıskanacağı bir nesne durumuna dönüştüğünü düşünmesi amaçlanır. Bu kıskançlık, onda kendini beğenme duygusunu güçlendirecektir. Bunu başka türlü de anlatabiliriz: reklam imgesi alıcıdan, aslında onun kendisine karşı duyduğu sevgiyi çalar; sonra da bu sevgiyi ona, alacağı ürünün fiyatına yeniden satar. (134)

Önceden ne kadar soylu olduğunu resmettirip, ya da eşsiz resimleri duvarlarına asıp (yukarıdaki kestaneli bölüm) bu durumu teşhir ederek insanların beğenilerini / kıskançlıklarını kazanma durumu vardı. Bu çok sınırlı bir kitle için geçerliydi. İnsanların küçük bir kısmı ekonomik olarak bu durumun tadını çıkaracak durumdaydı. Reklam dönemiyle markalar ön plana çıkmaya başladı. Taşıdığımız sahip olduğumuz markalar, biz onlara sahip oldukça, olmayanlar tarafından beğenildiğimiz / kıskanıldığımız bir dönem. Ama nereden bakılırsa bakılsın yine sınırlı yine sınırlı ! Bugün ise teknoloji sayesinde bu imkan tabana yayıldı. Artık herkes çok rahat bir şekilde beğenilip / kıskanılabilir. Kim durabilir teşhir etme özgürlüğümüzün önünde?? Onun için Allah ne verdiyse abanmakta hiçbir sakınca yok deklanşöre basarken. Ayrıca bu fotolarda birer sanat eseri değil mi? Işık, açı, mesafe, derinlik, enstantane hepsi şahane. O zaman gelsin “like”lar. Vaktiyle direkt toplanan övgüler bugün bir buton aracılığıyla geliyor. Olsun, onla da tatmin olmaya yetinelim artık :) Ve içinde bulunduğumuz bu durumun yargılanmasına bu açıdan bakarak gönül rahatlığıyla çemkirelim :)

“Ne oluyor bu insanlara her geçen gün iyice zıvanadan çıkıyorlar” gibi bir durumu olmadığını sadece imkanların genişlediğini de anlattık, fakat bu durumun nasıl doğduğuna, bu boşluğun temeline girmedik, o boşluğun nasıl doldurulabileceğine dair biraz mutlu azınlığı bakabiliriz. Belki biraz ruhumuzu beslenmek, biraz böyle bir doyum, biraz kazanacağımız derinlik bu tip sığ atraksiyonlarımızın daha dengeli bir hal almasına yardımcı olur.

topla gel, topla gel, topla gel,

"Mutlu azınlık" o zamanlarda da aslında çok sınırlı. Genelin böyle bir derdi yok erişimi de. Farkındalığı ve bu farkındalığı oluşturacak kanalları da yok. Bugün ise durum farklı olabilir. Bu farkındalığın yaratılmasında "Görme Biçimleri" gibi eserlerin katkısı olacağını düşünüyorum. Başlangıç için gayet güzel bir eser. Keşke daha çok anlatsaymış Berger Üstad, ha bir de baskı renki olsaymış :)

Tekrar başa dönerek tamamlıyorum,

“Geçmişin sanatı, eskiden olduğu gibi değildir artık bugün. Yetkesini yitirmiştir. Onun yerine bir imgeler dili oluşmuştur. Şimdi önemli olan bu dili kimin, ne amaçla kullandığıdır…. Çoğu zaman dendiği gibi bunlar sanatı ilgilendiren, sınırlı sorunlar değildir. Bu denemenin amaçlarından biri de gerçekten tehlikede olan şeyin çok daha büyük olduğunu göstermektir. Kendi geçmişinden kopmuş bir halk ya da sınıf, seçmede ve eyleme geçmede tarih içinde kendi yerini bulmuş bir sınıf ya da halktan çok daha az özgürdür. İşte bunun için -tek neden de budur zaten- geçmişin tüm sanatı bugün siyasal sorun olarak karşımızdadır.” (32)

TV dizisi: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1302546/
Türkçe altyazılı youtube linki: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8Irt...

Sevgili "Mutlu Azınlık" !! Beni de alın lan aranıza, n'olur ? :)
("lan" ifadesi duyulan arzunun şiddetini, imrenme duygusunun yoğunluğunu vurgulamak amacıyla eklenmiştir, herhangi bir art niyet aranmamalıdır, çok kırılırım)
Profile Image for Vartika.
401 reviews634 followers
May 25, 2020
John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, based on a four-part 1972 BBC documentary series of the same name, is considered one of the most influential and accessible works of writing about art in the English language — and rightly so. Consisting of four textual essays and three picture essays bereft of text, this book deconstructs the dominant cultural ‘gaze’ towards art and connects it with the way we regard and ascribe meaning, both to works of art and to the world around us.
Particularly insightful, even path-breaking, is the essay on the tradition of the Nude and how it relates to the power (and gender) dynamics between the surveyed and the surveyor. It is here that Berger illustrates the social existence of men as subjects and women as objects:
“A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself (…) From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life. Her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another (…) One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object – and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”
The distinction created here between nakedness and nudity is also notable:
“To be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognised for oneself. A naked body has to be seen as an object in order to become a nude (…) Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display.”

One of the most important tasks performed in Ways of Seeing is that it democratises art and meaning-making, freeing it from the mystification of the art-critic and the exclusive enjoyment of the status-quo (a function also performed, albeit differently, by the invention of camera and the possibility of reproduction – both ideas dealt with in the first essay in this volume). I also found the essay on the Publicity Image and Advertising to be a particularly important theoretical intervention, revealing publicity as both a tradition of continuity and a break from the oil painting as a methodical construction of a new aspirational way of seeing (while seeing the same things: prosperity and happiness), situating envy and glamour as its centerpiece.

Despite being written in the 1970s, Ways of Seeing continues to be a thoroughly important and relevant read, well into the second decade of the 21st century. I would, however, advise a word of caution with regards to its eurocentrism (and certain incorrect notions about art in the East, especially with regards women and sexuality) in some places.

Note on the Penguin Edition
Given that one of the chief aims of this book is to demystify and democratise art appreciation, it makes sense that this book appears as a paperback instead of the more thematically-appropriate coffee-table format. However, what makes no sense whatsoever is that the entire book is set in a headache-inducing bold sans-serif font. My second reading of this book was from an e-copy, but the typeset was still bold and only marginally less annoying. Moreover, I’m glad that I read this in an age when paintings can be looked up on the internet, because the miniature black-and-white reproductions printed in the book are barely decipherable, let alone offering a chance for the kind of assessment this book recommends. The Penguin paperback edition of Ways of Seeing is paradoxically at odds with the book’s intrinstic argument for accessibility; a visual iteration of the value-divide between authors and publishers if you will.
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
656 reviews7,105 followers
June 26, 2012
If you are really impatient, you may go and see Trevor's brilliant review for this book. Otherwise you may wait a few weeks for mine - I don't think it would be fair to review the book without seeing the documentary.
Profile Image for Oguz Akturk.
280 reviews492 followers
September 13, 2022
YouTube kanalımda sizin için sanata en iyi başlangıç kitaplarını önerdim ve bu kitabı da yorumladım: https://youtu.be/PegBH1HDrr0

Nü tabloların ve kadınların çıplak resmedildiği sanatsal çalışmaların erkeklerin başarısızlıkları karşı bir avunma oluşu erkeklerin o zamanki görsel açlığını doyurması için yapılmış olabilir. Cinselliğin gizemli ve erkek için olması nü tablolarda görülen bir durum.

Görünüşe sahip olmak ve resme sahip olmak arasında ince bir çizgi var. Biz beğendiğimiz bir resmi aldığımızda ona sahip olmuş gibi bir kibre bürünürüz.

Kadınları nesneleştiren her sanatsal çalışma reklamda da karşılığını bir şekilde bulabiliyor. Resmi bilgi ve mülkün karışımı olarak gören zenginler kendilerine nedensel bir taban bulabiliyor.

Görme Biçimleri kitabı da zaten bu konuları anlattığı için sanat alanında çok farklı bir bakış açısına sahip, herkese öneriyorum.
Profile Image for صان.
402 reviews246 followers
March 2, 2018
فکر می‌کردم قراره یک کتاب آلن‌دوباتنی باشه درباره دیدن و نحوه تحلیل آثار هنری. اما بحثاش کمی عمیق‌تر و سخت‌درک‌تر بود و شاید کمی تخصصی‌تر. برای کسی می‌تونست جذاب باشه که علاقه به تاریخ هنر و فلسفه هنر داشته باشه. بخش سوم‌اش رو کمتر می‌فهمیدم اما بخش‌های دیگه با دقیق خوندن؛ درنهایت قابل فهم بود!
Profile Image for Mehmet.
Author 2 books423 followers
January 18, 2022
Böyle şahane bir kitabı siyah beyaz basan Metis'i kınıyorum. Tamamen tablolarla dolu bir kitabı siyah beyaz basmak... Akıl alır şey değil.
Profile Image for Narjes Dorzade.
270 reviews252 followers
April 11, 2018
اگر کتاب رو خوندید و یا حتی نخوندید . حتما مستند " راه های نگریستن " رو که خود جان برجر ساخته ببنید . مستند بی نظیری که حتی جامع تر از کتابه .
ممنون آقای جان برجر
بیشتر برای مستند ❤
Profile Image for cypt.
526 reviews664 followers
March 25, 2018
Mixed feelings. Pradžia buvo visiškai nostabi, po kas antro sakinio žymėdavausi ką nors paraštėje, bet po to kažkaip atšalau. Bet visgi apskritai gera. Kaip kažkas komentaruose rašė - puikus high-school įvadas į kritinę teoriją. Aš jau nebe high-school, bet, matyt, įvadas nepamaišo :)

Nežiūrėjau serialo, pagal kurį parengta knyga, tai viskas buvo šviežia (sort of). Esmė - Bergeris ir 4 jo kolegos (neįtraukti ant viršelio - nice? "nice"?) kalba apie vaizdų, vizualiojo meno, suvokimą. Tokius bazinius dalykus - kas yra klasikinė perspektyva, unikali Vakarų kultūrai nuo Renesanso, ką ji gali pasakyti apie pačią kultūrą, kokį/kokią žiūrėtoją formuoja. Šita dalis žiauriai faina. O toliau - kuo ypatingas moters vaizdavimas Vakarų mene (objektas, skirtas žiūrėti), kas yra aliejinė tapyba (turtuolių išsidirbinėjimas ir statuso įtvirtinimas), kas yra viešumas (bandymas prakišt senovės vaizdų kaip vertingos prekės).

Iš tiesų tas vienaplanis neomarksistinis žvilgsnis, kad tipo viską valdo kapitalas ir viskas atspindi piniginius santykius, mane ir biesino, bent truputį. Jei Holbeino ambasadoriai žiūri atsainiai (o kaip mums tą patikrint ar su tuo diskutuot??), tai dėl to, kad nori būti nepasiekiami buržujai. Jei vaizduojama žemė, tai turbūt kaip privati nuosavybė, jei gyvūnas - tai būtinai fermerio turtas. Ir būtinai pabrėžiama, kad tai matyti iš vaizdavimo būdo (+karvės piešinukas šalia). Sorry, o koks yra kitas karvės vaizdavimo būdas? Jei karvė iš šono - tai jau būtinai čia skerdienos perspektyva? Nu nžn. Po to - jei moteris vaizduojama visada išsirengusi ir atsisukusi į žiūrovą, tai dėl to, kad ji pateikiama kaip prekė. Su šituo nesiginčyčiau - bet gal nebūtinai tai turi rodyti kapitalizmo apraišką? Gal tai rodo mentaliteto lūžius? Moralės kažkokius dvigubus žaidimus? Ką noriu pasakyti - šita knyga nėra kultūros studija, tokia kavoliška prasme, ir būtent dėl to biški nuvylė, nes būčiau norėjusi skaityti tą patį, tik kavoliškai. Tipo aš negaliu už tai nuimt žvaigždutės? Bet juk mes kapitalistiniam pasauly. Aš mokėjau už knygą pinigus (nevogiau, mind you), aš nebuvau patenkinta knyga, aš, kaip buržujiška vartotoja, nuimu žvaižgdutę. Ir aš tą galiu, thanks to kapitalas!

Bet - labai daug ką jie įvardino gana anksti. Visą moters kaip žiūrimos sampratą aprašė dar iki svarbiųjų Mulvey tekstų. Kitų idėjinių kontekstų nežinau, bet ir popvaizdinių studija atrodo gana ankstyva. Tai mums dabar, jau prisiskaičiusioms visokių ten teorijų, viskas būk tai žinoma. O knyga visgi parašyta 1972 ir, kaip teorinis veikalas, yra tiesiog žavingai suprantamai paskaitoma.
Profile Image for A. Raca.
739 reviews153 followers
August 3, 2019
"Bir şeyi gördükten hemen sonra, aynı zamanda kendimizin görülebileceğini de farkederiz. Karşımızdakinin gözleri bizimkilerle birleşerek görünenler dünyasının bir parçası olduğumuza bütünüyle inandırır bizi."


Kadına, reklama, sanata güzel bir bakış açısı...
Sonu okuyucuya bırakılmış...
Profile Image for Z. F..
298 reviews93 followers
October 27, 2022
"We only see what we look at. To look is an act of choice."

An indispensable starting point for anyone who wants to think deeply about visual art, its meanings, and its uses in the (post)industrial age. If you're an art lover like I am (my "art" tag on a certain largely-defunct blogging platform runs to something like 1,300 images, for an account I started less than two years ago) Ways of Seeing is both troubling and extremely enriching.

Troubling because it's impossible not to feel uneasy once you start acknowledging the commodity status which is inherent to virtually all "high" art produced in the age of capitalism, whether it be an oil painting commissioned by a successful merchant in 1671 to gratify his vanity and affirm his perception of the world, or a more contemporary piece fated to become a sort of monetary storage unit for the obscenely wealthy, regardless of the artist's intent or the conditions in which it was created. (Though Berger is more concerned with older works in this short book.) Troubling also because of the ease with which artistic iconography can be used to mold subconscious perceptions, to enforce entrenched attitudes and prejudices, and to lend authority to advertisements and propaganda. (For instance, there's an excellent and much-quoted essay here on the patriarchal function of "the nude" in western art.)

Yet enriching because—well, to start with, it's always good to be attuned to the realities of the world one lives in, unpleasant or not. But also because Berger himself is not a Hater of Art or anything ridiculous like that: he simply wants us to be smarter about the way we engage with images, to internalize the notion that works are shaped by the context in which they are created and viewed, and to start to be able to pick out what is truly innovative or inspired or subversive in the visual arts by way of a contrast with what is hackneyed, safe, or insidious.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the book's origins as a TV special, Berger is about as clear and direct a prose stylist as can be imagined, and provides some great illustratory images if you can find a copy that doesn't shrink and drain them of color. (I highly recommend reading the book here, where the pics are large and vibrant.) Actually, about half the essays are entirely pictorial, chains and collages of images which we are invited to fill in with our own interpretations and associations. The whole thing could be grasped by a teenager and read in an afternoon, which is not to say that it's rudimentary or unserious. It's definitely not.

I've been depressed lately by discussions I've run into online about art and ideology, particularly regarding "modern" (i.e. abstract expressionist) works: conversations which, like so much web discourse, tend to drain the topic of all nuance and complexity in the rush to arrive at the most "correct" and politically defensible position. The advent of NFTs and the emergence of art-generating AI software are also spurring plenty of fervent discussion across the web; in other words, the nature and ethics of visual art are very far from settled issues. Though Berger himself sticks mostly to the block of centuries post-Renaissance and pre-photography, it was refreshing to be reminded of how good these kinds of conversations can be, when facilitated by someone who knows what they're talking about and wants to encourage thoughtful examination rather than algorithmic engagement.

If for my own part I've been vague about what he actually has to say, it's only because I'd rather not summarize such an already-concise and graspable work. Please read it if you can. As for me, I think it's time to dig into some Walter Benjamin.
Profile Image for Marc.
3,110 reviews1,177 followers
May 29, 2019
“There is more than meets the eye”
I recently reread Kenneth Clark's Civilization. It was based on a British documentary TV series, from the end of the 1960s. In it Clark offers a very own, but still fairly classic introduction to art. The book of John Berger (1926-2017) and the accompanying TV-series (look it up on You Tube!) was released in 1972 and was the antipode of Clark’s. Berger looked at the works of art very differently, or more correctly: he looked at the way we "see" very differently.

To start with, he makes the reader-viewer aware of the world behind the artworks, the social context in which they came about. It is an exquisite analysis that he borrows from philosopher Walter Benjamin. Knowing that the 17th-century Dutch painter Frans Hals, for example, lived in bitter poverty when he painted group portraits of well-off citizens, does indeed make you look at those works of art very differently. With this other approach, Berger knocked down quite some sacred houses, especially those of traditional art critics and their emphasis on the creative genius and timelessness of works of art. He was forcefully criticized for it, but it must be said that he himself did not shy away from sharp polemics, also in this booklet.

But Berger offers more: he also shows that ‘seeing’ happens in a specific, social context. His analysis of how women take into account how they are viewed (especially by men) is particularly lucid and unfortunately still topical. The way in which publicity influences and manipulates our visual language is also aptly articulated and represented. Berger also demonstrates the enormous impact of new techniques (reprography and the camera in Berger's time), making artworks available permanently and everywhere, regardless of their context, and therefore they are seen in a different way than before.

I can imagine that 50 years ago this little book was a real eye-opener (pun intended). Nevertheless, during the reading, the impression came to me that the work is not really fresh anymore. Perhaps that is because a number of his views have since become commonplace. Perhaps it is also due to the layout of the booklet, with small black-and-white illustrations. But probably it’s Berger's rather classic marxist discourse that makes it seem a bit outdated: using words such as "capitalist exploitation of the masses", "deprivation" and "proletariat" now, in the 21st century, seems quite dated and even touching. Times evolve rapidly, and so does ‘seeing”.
Profile Image for Deborah Palmer.
54 reviews47 followers
July 7, 2009
This book though initially written in 1972 is still relevant to the reader today especially the essays dealing with the way women are seen in society. It is composed of seven essys, four use words and images, three only images. It discusses how women are view in society with an emphasis and concentration on European or Western culture. The images are from ads and famous European paintings. Being that I work in a museum and see paintings all day long this aspect interests me in particular.

Basically the book is saying that in our European based culture women are objects, men are subjects. Men survey, women are surveyed. Since women are always on display in our society, they adjust their behaviour in order to please and fit in with our male dominated society.

I reference this book many times in my own personal writings. What Mr. Berger has written still has value today. Actually in many ways not much has changed for women. We in the USA and Western Europe are a little better off because we can work, make money and have legal rights but that is not true for women in the rest of the world. Living in a Democratic or secular society does give women more control over their lives as opposed to dictatorships and theocracies. However even in the United States our actions as women and men are based on social constructs and society's defintions of how men and women should behave towards each other. Even how women view and interact with each other to the point that women are very competitive, jealous and vindictive in order to get or keep a man. But that is another story for discussion in the essays I have written.
Profile Image for Ярослава.
789 reviews371 followers
August 12, 2020
Жила-була і переклала (для IST Publishing).
Про місце Берджера в наших серцях уже розповідала тут.

«Побачивши» пейзаж, ми шукаємо собі місце в ньому. «Побачивши» мистецтво минулого, ми знайшли б собі місце в історії. Коли нам не дають його побачити, то позбавляють історії, що нам належить. Кому ця втрата вигідна? Мистецтво минулого містифікують, бо привілейована меншина намагається винайти таку версію історії, що ретроспективно виправдає роль панівних класів, хоча в сучасному світі таке виправдання вже не має сенсу. От і доводиться вдаватися до містифікацій.

Полемічний, азартний і злий текст, віховий для свого часу й читаний донині, що величезна рідкість для полемічних текстів - про те, як ми бачимо і чому; як ми взаємодіємо з мистецтвом і чому; про те, як і чому традиція олійного живопису вироджується в рекламу; про різницю між голим тілом і оголеною натурою; про роль різних жанрів олійного живопису в закріпленні різних владних ієрархій; про зображення жінок у мистецтві; і багато про що інше. Чудове.
Profile Image for Malihe bayat.
20 reviews18 followers
January 30, 2018
کسی که این کتاب رو بهم هدیه داد در موردش گفت که "این کتاب با تمام کم حجم و کوتاه بودنش یکی از بهترین کتاباییه که خوندم" منم در موردش همین رو میتونم بگم. کتاب شرح رک و پوست کنده ای از تصاویر به خصوص نقاشی های رنگ و روغن دوران رنسانس و ردپای سرمایه داری و قدرت طلبی (فصل ۲) و تبلیغات و تاثیرات اونها و روشی که برای جلب ببیننده استفاده میکننه(فصل ۳). از صراحت جان برجر لذت بردم. من تقریبا هر فصل رو چهار بار خوندم چون میخوام مدام یادم باشه وقتی در برابر تصویری قرار گرفتم این شیوه از نگریستن هم مد نظر داشته باشم. خیلی خیلی توصیه میکنم. خصوصا به افرادی که با هنر در ارتباطن‌‌.
Profile Image for Stephen.
793 reviews30 followers
June 27, 2012
2007 wrote: This book, based on a television series, explores how the art world of now has come to be by exploring what art was to humans in the past. The theories presented are very interesting and are posed with pictorial references that do very well to prove points. One interesting chapter deals exclusively with the 'Nude' in art overtime. Overtime it has been reviled, reveared, copied, censored, hidden, hoarded and abstracted. Another great chapter deals in the context in which people see art, in contrast to how they might have been meant to see it by the artist. Many pieces are painted as singular wall decorations, but now are hanging in museums next to a hundred other of these decorations. Overtime people now view art online or in sections of video, where a director controls the viewers eyes as what to see through camera tricks and narration. The chapter contemplates and guesses how this might change to experience of art over time. Changing from entertainment, to a more scholarly subject. A very interesting read.
Profile Image for Patricija || book.duo.
587 reviews388 followers
January 15, 2022

Viena vertus, greitai skaitoma ir nesunkiai suprantama, net tokiai ne ekspertei kaip aš. Kita vertus, truputį per paprasta, net tokiai ne ekspertei kaip aš. Gausu gerų minčių – apie meno atkartojimą šiuolaikinėje reklamoje, meno vertę, moterų ir vyrų vaidmenis ir atvaizdus mene, bet man jau buvo girdėta – dalis studijuojant žurnalistiką ir reklamą, dalis – iš lyčių studijų, kita – iš filosofijos ir sociologijos. Todėl vadinkime tai tiesiog nebloga įžanga – tik tikriausiai geriau tinkama prieš aukštuosius mokslus, arba juos ėjus kažkokioje labai labai nuo meno nutolusioje srityje. Man pasirodė keista, kad knyga parašyta 4 autorių IR John Bergerio, bet ant viršelio įvardintas tik jis vienas. Keista buvo ir kiek daug kalbama apie kapitalizmą ir kiek daug dėmesio skiriama tam, kad viskas mene kažkam priklauso ir bandoma tą priklausomumo santykį išreikšti – per moterų, gyvūnų, namų, žemių vaizdavimą.

Nesiginčiju su autoriumi ir neabejoju jo visapusiškai geresniu temos išmanymu, bet kai kur pasirodė labai pritempta – na, maždaug moteris visur sekso objektas, išskyrus gal keliasdešimt atvejų, kai vis tiek nuoga, bet ownina tą savo nuogumą per odos netobulumą (vis tiek vyro nutapytą) ir per kitokią nei įprastai pozą (bet vis tiek nuogai būnant autoriaus lovoje). Kartais sutikčiau, bet abejoju, ar kalbant apie 16-18 a. meną galima manyti, kad nuoga moteris vis tiek turėjo daugiau vaidmenų, nei tuos kelis – tiek mene, tiek už jo ribų. Buvo ir nemenkas socializmo, marksizmo vaibas, per kurį Bergeris gali matyti kiek tinkamas, bet man prailgo (net jei knyga šiaip suskaitoma ir per kelias valandas) ir aš per jį meno matyti nenoriu. Galiausiai, tikėjausi daugiau meno kūrinių sugretinimo, „x dažniausiai reikšdavo y“ tipo įprastų simbolių paaiškinimo, bet gavau nemažai autoriaus politinių pažiūrų ir idėjų, kurios įdomios, bet jau girdėtos. Skaityti galima, bet ar labai rekomenduočiau – abejoju.
Profile Image for Matthew Ted.
767 reviews660 followers
April 20, 2020
62nd book of 2020.

20th April, my birthday. I got this as a present today, and have spent the day, on and off, reading it (between cake and beer and garden sunshine). This is usually regarded as the 'most influential' book on art ever, or at least one of them. Berger writes in a clean, no-nonsense kind of way. Despite discussing nudity in art, or the history of art, or discussing the paintings printed in the book, it's never hard to follow. I suppose someone with even no background interest in art could read it without any trouble. That being said, without any interest in art, I'd say this book wouldn't be for you. Though the book is 'Ways of Seeing' - that is very much in relation to art. A more suitable name may be 'Ways of Seeing Art'. Though, the final essay on capitalism/consumerism and publicity is very interesting, whatever your passions are.

But, as for me, an art lover, I found this deeply insightful and fascinating. And Berger's writing was just an added bonus as he takes us on this short romp through art. There are many reproductions of art inside, and for some reason, the text is all bold. Not sure whose bright idea that was.
Profile Image for Mina.
65 reviews70 followers
March 31, 2015
If you think you like looking art and going to galleries - ha - then you need to take a minute to read and listen to this conversation Berger is going to have with you.

Link to the documentary (which I definitely recommend you watch to supplement the reading of the text): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pDE4...

Will add my proper in-depth review of this later (as it really does deserve one). For now, I will just say that Berger makes us think: he makes us think about the impact of images, their history, their place in society and their role in furthering capitalist agendas. He makes us think about the image of women, the role they play in the system, the condition of modern galleries and museums, and most importantly, Berger makes us think about the modern day photograph and what it means for me as a functioning member of society - it's all very insightful and he demystifies art in a fashion which is simple to understand as far as theory goes. Very marxist in his views and vocabulary (which I know will bother some) but I enjoyed that part hah.
Profile Image for Mia.
336 reviews205 followers
December 9, 2019
I admit I’m not well-versed in art history and theory, so that may be a reason this book affected me so deeply, but I was really struck by these essays. They’re incisive. They’re structured well. And they truly made me think. They made me think about art as a sign, a symbol, an argument, a brag, a promise, a prison.

Berger is very clear about his purview here, which I appreciate. Though he mentions photography and advertising and film, and he draws contrasts to sculpture and Eastern art, the real subject of analysis is European oil paintings and, by extension, the rise of capitalism. There are both visual and written essays, and while I was initially wary about how well an essay told only through images would work, I was quickly won over. My favourite written essays were about representations of women and nudity—touching on appearance, agency, sight, maleness as the norm—and the final essay on advertising, which Berger refers to as “publicity”—touching upon classism, envy, glamour, desire, materialism, and commodification.

Comparatively, my problems are rather slight. The book is set entirely in bold, which is weird. The cover is hideous; whose idea was it to just paste the first few paragraphs of the essay right onto the cover?! The images are in tiny and black and white and in some of the visual essays they run across the crease of the spine, rendering them nearly indiscernible. But I think my only criticism of the content itself is that Berger has a tendency to make some pretty definitive declarations, especially about what is and is not “exceptional.” Take this statement from p. 103: “Adriaen Brouwer was the only exceptional ‘genre’ painter.” Hmmm. Berger backs this statement up, of course, and explains why Brouwer was different from his contemporaries, but that doesn’t make it any more than an opinion presented as a fact, which rubs me the wrong way.

The best thing I can say about a collection of essays is that it changed my way of thinking—my way of seeing!—and that is undoubtedly true with this book. There are layers to art criticism that never crossed my mind, layers far beyond and beneath the purely aesthetic, and I’ll be thinking about these things next time I visit an art museum. I’ll be asking questions like: who was this painted for? Who and what are the subjects? How are the people looking at me, the observer, and how are they arranged to appeal to or challenge my point of view? What sort of place would this have been hung in before it was brought to this museum? And who would have been looking at it there? And what would they have hoped to show to people who visited their home or abbey or office, to make them feel? More often than not, according to Berger, the answer to the last question is envy.
Profile Image for Gabriela Pistol.
463 reviews152 followers
November 1, 2022
Berger tocmai a devenit eseistul meu preferat. Un geniu colțos, care-i consideră pe majoritatea criticilor niște conțopiști gomoși și goi. Nu pot să nu mă gândesc la Bob Dylan cântând Mr. Jones (Balad of a Thin Man).

Această carte este o pădure atât de densă de idei (revelatoare, dezmorțitoare, destupătoare, deschizătoare de ochi, see what I did here - "feluri de a vedea"), încât mi-e imposibil să o rezum.
Dacă ar trebui sa o fac, totuși, aș zice că este o critică strălucită a capitalismului. A oprimării, în general. O critică a felului masculin de a privi femeia (obișnuită de secole sa fie obiect - al privirii, deci în general -, ea va internaliza supraveghetorul și va învăța sa se controleze permanent, ca mod de a arăta cum vrea sa fie tratată). O critică a nevoii bogaților de a deține picturi în ulei (pentru că uleiul dă, ca și fotografiile color, cele mai puternice senzații tactile, simți ca poți atinge, deci avea, obiectele din imagine) pentru a se lăuda cu ceea ce dețin deja. Model continuat de publicitate, care te face, om muncitor-consumator, să te detești pe tine-cel din prezent și să îl invidiezi pe tine-cel din viitor, posesor al obiectului (deci al fericirii) din reclamă.
O critică a publicității ca suflet (ha) al vieții capitaliste, care înlocuiește democrația cu libertatea de a alege între mai multe obiecte și orice experiență și senzație cu (mereu amânata) satisfacție a posesiei.
Profile Image for Taha.
120 reviews8 followers
September 18, 2017
Bu kitap John Berger'in BBC'de yayımlanmış belgeselinin yazılı hali.(Tam olarak değil.) Kitapta resimler üzerinden hayatın birçok noktasına değiniliyor. Kültürümüzde tablolara karşı pek ilgi olmadığından genelde herkes yüzeysel bakar. (Ben de) Hatta birçok dizide bunun parodisi yapılmıştır. Bu kitap sayesinden eski dönem tablolarına bakışım daha da değişti. Resimlerin derinlerinde yatan ne çok anlam varmış meğersem. Dedektif gibi resimler üzerinden çıkarımlar, bu çıkarımlar üzerinden o dönemin sosyal yaşantısının izlerini bulup betimlenmesi çok enteresan. Kitapta en çok hoşuma giden kısımlar ise kadın erkek ilişkisi ve reklamlar üzerine olan bölümler.

"Erkekler davrandıkları gibi, kadınlarsa göründükleri gibidirler. Erkekler kadınları seyrederler. Kadınlarsa seyredilişlerini seyrederler. Bu durum, yalnız erkeklerle kadınlar arasındaki ilişkileri değil, kadınların kendileriyle ilişkilerini de belirler. Kadının içindeki gözlemci erkek, gözlenense kadındır. Böylece kadın kendisini bir nesneye – özellikle görsel bir nesneye? seyirlik bir şeye dönüştürmüş olur." Bu tespite katılmamak elde değil. Günümüzde de hala kadınlar görsel meta olarak kullanılıyor. Reklamlara, diziler vb. tv ürünleri bakınca daha iyi anlaşılıyor. Yazıda seyrediliyor dese de onun adı gözle taciz oluyor . İşin tuhaf tarafı bu tacizden hoşlanan kadınlar da var. ( Her geçen gün çoğalıyor)

"Bütün reklamlar huzursuzluk duygusunu işler. Her şey paraya dayanır; parayı ele geçirmek huzursuzluğu yenmek demektir."

En basit örnek ; yeni çıkacak bir telefon modeli için millet şimdiden sipariş verdi. Sipariş verenlerin bir çoğu önceki modeline sahip. Elde etmenin dayanılmaz hafifliği. Kısa anlık o elde etmenin tatmin olma hissini yaşayıp kendini o zengin gruptan görmek ( İphone telefonu olan zengindir imajı ) için saatlerini heba ediyorlar. ( Asgari ücretli 47 gün çalışması gerekiyor.) İşte bu ortamın oluşması için reklamcılar bireysel olarak yaşamdan memnuniyetsizliği dayatıyor. Memnun muyuz hayatımızdan? Çoğumuz değiliz. Bir şeyler elde edemeyince hemen mutsuz oluyoruz. Memnuniyetsiz hayatın oluşumuna sadece reklamlara dayandırmak abes olabilir ama etkisi çok büyük. Evden çıktığınızda cebinizden para eksilmediği gün var mı? Hep bir şeyler alma çabasındayız. O hazzı yaşamaya şartlandırıldık. ( Evinde okuyacağın kitap çok, hala alıyorsun durmadan ! Kendime bu söz :P )

Kitabın arka planında kapitalizm eleştirisi, bürokrasiyi karşı inceden bir gönderme var.
Kitabı mutlaka okuyun. Ufkunuz genişleyecek.

Belgeselini de linkini paylaşıyım. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8Irt...
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