Ways of Seeing
Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.Ways of Seeing was a BBC TV series in 1972 before it was a book about art criticism by John Berger - it airs again on Sunday night on BBC4 at 7.30pm.
But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relationship between what we see and what we know is never settled.'
John Berger - "Ways of Seeing": Based on the BBC Television Series
- You can read excerpts from Ways of Seeing here and here.
- You can also visit this site Illustrations and Amplifications for John Berger's Ways of Seeing. That way you get to see all the images in the book/programme. Click the icon bottom right of each page to proceed to the next chapter.
Published in 1972, with an accompanying TV series, Ways of Seeing remains Berger's most famous and widely read work, a slap in the face of the art establishment and an almost sacred text for the two or three art generations of students who grew up under its immeasurable influence.The weird thing is I'm writing this with "Ways of Seeing" sitting right next to my laptop - it 'arrived' on the floor next to my feet yesterday after I'd misplaced it for a while! Really odd....
Guardian - A radical returns (commenting on the book)
A BAFTA award-winning series with John Berger, which rapidly became regarded as one of the most influential art programmes ever made. In the first programme, Berger examines the impact of photography on our appreciation of art from the past.
Good old Monitor - those were the days! After Ways of Seeing, BBC4 is broadcasting five Monitor programmes back to back - I wonder whether they'll have digitally enhanced the old film?
Besides interviews with Hitchcock and Betjeman they include:
- Monitor: Henry Moore at Home with reference to a 1960 exhibition of his work
- Monitor: Pop Goes the Easel - Ken Russell's 1962 film about Pop Artists (see Pop Art)
Then at 10.00pm tomorrow a new series The Art of Arts TV kicks off with a programme about arts documentaries which focuses on the impact of the camera on ways of looking at art. Click the link to see when the repeats are on. There are two more programmes on the 29th and 1st October.
The Landmark Arts SeriesChannel 4's Art Season
Landmark arts programmes have been with us since the birth of civilisation. Literally. The very first arts "blockbuster" televised was Kenneth Clark's Civilisation in 1969. Since then we've got used to the splendour of high art being brought into our living room by the likes of Robert Hughes, Sister Wendy Beckett, Tim Marlow and (most popular of all in terms of viewing figures but wholeheartedly condemned by the art critics in this documentary) Rolf Harris. The last film in this satisfying series explores the monumental cultural impact of the arts programme on TV.
Radio Times listing: Wednesday 01 October, 10:00pm - 11:00pm, BBC4 (links added are by me)
Following on from last week's programme by Robert Hughes, the second programme in the three programme series is 'The Great Russian Art Invasion'. This is on Channel 4 6.30-8.00pm - in direct competition with Ways of Seeing.
As he investigates the Russian boom in art acquisition, Marcel Theroux takes us inside the fortified mansions of a few collectors, and frankly they make your average Premier League footballer's place look homely. The marbled halls are bedecked with million-dollar paintings like so many Athena posters.I'm really disappointed with the Radio Times - it's opted to give major feature status for the bling culture of the Russians as opposed to the 'seminal' programme of Ways of Seeing.
Finally though a lovely quote which I came across while researching the John Berger links.
when you are drawing something which is alive, you are drawing the traces of what has happened to it until that moment at which you are looking at it. I mean, the traces of how it has physically become itself.
John Berger - in conversation with Michael Ondaatje Times Online All creation is in the art of seeing