Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Brief: key points

Key points from Chapter 1. of John Berger's 1972 book ways of seeing.

John Berger's Way's of Seeing highlight key moral and technical issues that a lack of understanding of a completely new form of viewing art poses. Firstly, how the technical changes to the way art is made and situated make it impossible to be viewed in a remotely similar way as to when it was made. The essay then goes on to challenge the viewpoint that by mechanical reproduction the masses, or even a seasoned art critic can fully or even partially make use of and comprehend art of the past.

Berger argues that the former sacred role of art has been lost due to the fact that most great works are first viewed at a remote location due to the means of reproduction, the 'pilgrimidge' to go and physically view a work is no longer necessary. Works of art are not restricted to location, thus the complete viewing experience is changed. No longer would you go to see a famous painting already knowing the physical likeness, so the value of the work changes. The conclusions made are no longer based on appreciation of first viewing the work but appreciation of authenticity.

The introduction of photography as an art form also posed a new dilemma- the altered understanding on perspective changed the whole field of (western) art. Man no longer looked at the world independently arranged for himself, as paintings were once arranged from single point perspective, making the viewer unique.

Furthermore, as a technical change in the viewing of art, the whole concept of reproducing means that works are juxtaposed and cropped. The attention of the viewer directed to where the presenter of the work wishes the attention to be, not where the artist intended.

However, Berger's most pressing point is the fear of the issues that a ignorance of these issues leads to. The assumption that now every man can appreciate art equally. The assumption that we should interpret works from the past as works from the present. The change of focus in the value of works of art.


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