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Mirar

Mirar

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Mirar

ratings:
4/5 (12 ratings)
Length:
261 pages
4 hours
Released:
Feb 22, 2013
ISBN:
9788425226793
Format:
Book

Description

El mundo real ha sido sustituido por su reproducción, con medios tan fascinantes como la fotografía, el cine, la televisión o Internet, convertidos en coto de caza y parque temático del comercio y, por tanto, del poder. Los medios de comunicación de masas convertidos en agentes de festejos del pensamiento único. La realidad travestida en espectáculo; reducido el ciudadano a cliente y espectador que no comprende ni puede comprender.
El asunto es volver a mirar como si fuera la primera vez, pero sin desdeñar lo aprendido a lo largo del camino de la experiencia y de la vida. En esta antología de artículos ya clásica, John Berger nos ayuda y enseña a ver qué hace que una fotografía de August Sander, Paul Strand o Donald McCullin, o un cuadro de Millet, Corbet o Magritte sean valiosos. En la medida en que él muestra cómo y desde dónde ve nos enseña a ver por nosotros mismos. En ningún momento dice: así es como hay que ver, sino que al descubrirnos su caja de herramientas nos permite hacernos con un juego propio. John Berger sabe qué hacer con las palabras lo que un carpintero con la madera o un picapedrero con la piedra, con la misma elocuencia sobria y sin sentimentalismos, pero con la diferencia de que las palabras son una palanca exterior a los objetos, de ahí el peligro de tantos que porque saben qué hacer con la sintaxis a menudo pierden de vista el origen de las palabras y su capacidad para romper los dulces meandros de la alienación

Released:
Feb 22, 2013
ISBN:
9788425226793
Format:
Book

About the author

John Berger was one of the most internationally influential writers of the last fifty years. His many books include Ways of Seeing (1972), the Booker prize-winning novel G (1972), Here is where we meet (2005), From A to X (2008), Cataract (with Selcuk Demirel) (2012) and most recently, Confabulations (2016).


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4.0
12 ratings / 22 Reviews
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  • (5/5)
    Still marvelously important, and surprisingly - but rightly - angry. A joy.
  • (5/5)
    An eye-opener. Describes the capitalist underpinnings of art history as a plaything of the property class. The book prompts the reader to ask, what is the message, when looking at a painting.
  • (5/5)
    So clearly and succinctly written, even with its unique insights. I love how John Berger writes just as much as how he sees art. I will definitely continue to read more of his work.
  • (5/5)
    I imagine, that when this book was originally published, and even more so when the BBC showed the television series, that this was pretty controversial. Berger does not fawn over the merits of the great paintings, he sees them as boasts of the rich.I would have been fairly young when this was originally aired but, I was wondering why such a 'new broom' should have disappeared almost without leaving a ripple on the pond of art critique. I got the answer from the horse's mouth: Berger says that when an artist comes along who bucks the trend and dares to paint from his own genius, the art world allows him so to do and then, when he dies, closes over him and his work, leaving no trace. Series by Kenneth Clark et al, have all found repeats in more modern times but Berger's views have been, to say the least, muffled.As to the book itself, it is something of a disappointment due to the postage stamp sized black and white images of the works to which Berger refers. When the art work is a major painting, this is not an insurmountable problem; with the aid of modern technology, the internet can soon turn up a more useful image but, when Berger looks at advertising materials, these are somewhat more ephemeral.I will profess my ignorance: I only came across Berger through the obituary column of the Guardian. I shall certainly make it my business to discover more about the man and his views.
  • (4/5)
    This is a stunning book. I never thought of seeing, and looking at photographs and paintings in a holistic sense until I read the book. The four essays in print, and three pictorial ones make it easy to read, and follow.The last essay on publicity is an absolute classic. This is a book that gives so much in so little space.
  • (4/5)
    Interesting small book based on a TV series from 1972. Seven chapters, three of which consist of pictures only. I read a chapter and then watched the corresponding program on YouTube. The video may on this occasion be better because a) the pictures in the book are small, poor, black and white reproductions b) Mr Berger is pretty engaging as a presenter and c) the book is written in univers bold for some reason, certainly not for clarity.

    Anyway, some key points covered included:

    Paintings were designed to hang in churches, etc within a particular context. The invention of the camera meant we can see these images outside of the context and this changes how we see them. Paintings are the preserve of the bourgeoisie who seek to reinforce their views through art. Because images can be easily reproduced the bourgeoisie try through a process of 'mystification' (think pompous art critics) elevate images and their value. Nude is not he same as naked. In the art world men are subjects women are objects. Men survey women while women look to see if men survey them. In advertising glamour is the art of installing envy.
  • (5/5)
    A set of seven essays on "ways of seeing", or viewing and interpreting art. Four of these are written essays, and between each of these is a "pictorial essay" based soley on pictures. The four essays are thought provoking and original, and have changed at least to some degree how I view art. There is a good amount of healthy cynicism in these, along with perceptive insights on the world of art and visual representation. I won't comment on the "pictorial essays" because I am not sure that I really understood these and will have to return to them in order to form a clear opinion.The topics of the four standard essays are the act of seeing and the different status of originals, reproductions, ownership, and social issues of art; the different status of male and female figures in paintings as well as male and female viewers; art as a way of possessing what is depicted, and what differentiates exceptional works; and finally the use of art in publicity and advertising. These essays touch on a greater number of topics than these, and there isn't scope here to discuss all of the interesting points of discussion that Berger raises.While I would say that this is almost an essential read for anyone interested in aesthetics or art history, particularly due to its readability and range of insights, there is a noticable political bias towards the Marxist / socialist school. This doesn't often mean that Berger oversteps the mark in his thoughts, however he does take a few points past their justifiable conclusions in his political zeal. This shouldn't however put off the potential reader as this book is an excellent provoker of thought and enlightening on various topics.
  • (4/5)
    An interesting look at how we see things and how we are presented with ideas and images. Borrowed because my brother is doing a course and asked me to get it for him, it's quite a quick read but made me think about how things are presented.
  • (5/5)
    how do you know what you are looking at?
  • (3/5)
    I read this book first quite a few years ago. Even at that time, the idea of the commodification of images (refer to Walter Benjamin's essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"on this) & that of the male gaze were familiar to me. However, Ways of Seeing does a good job of presenting such concepts in a form digestible by the average reader. The part of the book that I didn't recall & which I found most interesting upon rereading it is the lengthy discussion of oil painting (the way of seeing invented by oil painting), its cultural moment & meaning & its relationship to the economics of capitalism, particularly pre-industrial capitalism in Northern Europe (the relationship between property and art in European culture). Quote from Claude Levi-Strauss: "rich Italian merchants looked upon oil painters as agents, who allowed them to confirm their possession of all that was beautiful and desirable in the world." I also found interesting the authors' linking of the conventions of oil painting to those of modern publicity, advertising or what we now call simply marketing: "It is a mistake to think of publicity supplanting the visual art of post-Renaissance Europe; it is the last moribund form of that art."
    Yes, the reproductions of the art works are often unsatisfying, but this is to be expected in a small format paperback designed for mass consumption. If this were a coffee table book, we wouldn't buy it.
  • (4/5)
    My copy of Ways of Seeing arrived (from another library) battered and falling apart. That coupled with the fact it is clearly a product of the 1970s gave the book a tired, worn out appearance. I thought of it as cheap and flimsy as well, given it is only 154 pages long and mostly illustrations and photographs at that. So, my way of seeing the book was definitely influenced by age, condition and size. Interesting. That, in a nutshell, is the premise of Ways of Seeing. Coming from a Marxist way of thinking John Berger provokes thought with the art he has chosen for his book. For example one can either be offended or intrigued by his chapter on women depicted in art. Because the chapter is lacking text the reader is on his/her own to process what the art is (or isn't) trying to convey.
  • (4/5)
    A light read, picture heavy and printed in sans serif. Which made for something different.Not the most robust or academic discussion, but then it isn't supposed to be a tough read. Couple of thought provoking sentiments, a good start onto other books on the subject. I'm just not sure what...
  • (3/5)
    Really interesting insights into how we see and what we see when we look at art, thought provoking rather than authoritative. The Penguin edition rather let it down however due to the poor quality of the reproductions of the works of art under discussion.
  • (3/5)
    As with most left-wing British intellectuals in the 1970's John Berger was a Marxist, and again as with most British intellectuals in any period of history John Berger had much to say about art. In this book Berger attempts to dismantle the bourgeois stranglehold on art and its meaning. With clear thinking, and provocative writing Berger illuminates both classical and modern art with the glowing end of a serious polemicist's pen.
  • (4/5)
    A book about basic visual literacy, with 7 essays, 3 of them containing only images. It's not that he's original... he borrows a lot ideas from Walter Benjamin and Claude Levi-Strauss, but that he explains it in clear, easy language, with examples.The chapter about oil painting was especially illuminating for me, as I had never understood how to tell a "great" oil painting from a mediocre one, having no context in which to see them. But Berger here really dissects the historical origins of the form, and what oil really allowed artists to do that they weren't able to do before.Major turn off: the entire book is set in bold type. I have no idea why this decision was made, but the book is worth reading, despite this huge flaw. Another smaller flaw: a book about images should definitely have been printed in color.
  • (3/5)
    Interesting insights sprinkled throughout this short book. I found particularly engaging the first chapter, in which the author describes the impact of mechanical reproduction on the value and significance of original art. Some of the chapter that simply reproduce pieces could have used a bit more explanation.
  • (1/5)
    I must confess that I hated this book when studying at University. It seemed to be so trite and obvious, and the photo-essays were nauseatingly one-dimensional. So women's flesh is meat? Berger's ideas seem rather obvious today: that could be either a testament to his triteness or greatness, depending on how much you believe he changed folks' thinking himself, or just rode the changing times.But perhaps he was the embodiment of new thinking in semiotics and mythology in the 60s, and he certainly has a really personable way of presenting the accompanying TV series. I prefer the obvious depth of thinking about signs and symbols and representations you get with anything by Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin or Umberto Eco, to the unanswered questions and unclear meanings of the picture essays.Big? Not at 166 sidesClever? Certainly, but don't expect an academic tome - "Ways of Seeing" blurs a lot of lines: the one between cultural products and dispassionate enquiry key among them.
  • (5/5)
    Muy interesante texto , con enfoques diferentes e interpretaciones sobre artistas que te dejarán pensando.
  • (4/5)
    This book, inspired by a BBC television series, offers a satisfying handful of “essays” (more properly termed, lectures) centering on the history of image in art, specifically from the development of oil painting through the modern supremacy of photography. Although published in the early 1970s, commentary on the relationship between Western images and attitudes toward materialism, capital, women, and non-European cultures still commands relevance. I found the discussion accessible, thought provoking, and informative despite bringing to the text an underdeveloped knowledge of art history. Several of the essays are image-only, and the entire book interweaves image and illustration with the text, allowing the reader to immediately participate in the examination of the images and works addressed. From a distance of four decades, the final-page admonition “To be continued by the reader…” at least anticipates the ongoing, evolving relationship between image, meaning, and culture, prompting one in 2015 to reflect upon these lectures in the LCD light of today’s technologically image-saturated, selfie-conscious domain.
  • (3/5)
    “But because it is nevertheless ‘a work of art”’ – and art is thought to be greater than commerce – its market price is said to be a reflection of its spiritual value of an object, as distinct from a message or an example, can only be explained in terms of magic or religion.”In “Ways of Seeing” by John Berger“Original paintings are silent and still in a sense that information never is. Even a reproduction hung on a wall is not comparable in this respect for in the original the silence and stillness permeate the actual material, the paint, in which one follows the traces of the painter’s immediate gestures. This has the effect of closing the distance in time between the painting of the picture and one’s own act of looking at it. In this special sense all paintings are contemporary.”In “Ways of Seeing” by John BergerI find it strange when someone tells me they’re attached to a certain painter and that painter in question is a genius; the definition of 'genius' is fairly broad, so one person's definition might not be another's. I haven't fully formed my argument, haven't pin pointed what it is that niggles at me. I think essentially the problem is that I attach 'genius' in other areas of human endeavour such as science or music or literature, to advancement. To pushing forward into new frontiers; to problem solving, to presenting the world in a different way. I suppose Cubism might meet those criteria, but a lot of Picasso's work seems purely derivative of existing art work and artists (e.g. Duchamp, Cezanne, Matisse, and especially African art and children's art) and he worked backwards into flatness, primitivism and naivety. He was certainly innovative and good at seeing and pulling together different visual stimuli into new combinations. Science too builds on existing knowledge, but what Picasso did would be equivalent to throwing out the entire body of scientific knowledge and methodology and declaring that the earth is flat, the moon is made of cheese, there are green fairies all around us, and then being declared a genius. Maybe his genius was having the audacity to toss everything aside and adopt novelty and an 'anything goes' attitude as the basis of some of his flung-together art, which is still the philosophy we have today, for good or ill. I am, of course, always open to having my perspective changed. And still regarding Cubism and Cezanne, back in the 90s there was a huge exhibition of Cezanne at the Tate in London which I saw. One thing was clear as I walked round the exhibition, Cezanne couldn't draw and not even paint very well. What he appeared to have done was develop a style that masked his deficiencies, which led him to his seminal work, the landscapes that influenced Braque and Picasso. It was one of the greatest unintended jokes of modern art, an artist who couldn't draw or paint having so much influence on later artists. Then came the bathers and confirmation that Cezanne really was a ham fisted artist. I don't mind the opening up of the definition of art - art anarchy if you like - if only it didn't coexist with the highly hierarchical art world with its demigods like Cezanne, where value is constructed largely through external values, because 'traditional' aesthetic parameters were destroyed. If I say art = infinity, then all subsequent art is merely infinity + 1?My pet peeve is still the interpretation of Picasso as a genius. He was mainly an insider and most artists who get known are insiders. Anyone who has been to art college (I haven’t) knows that if you didn't go to a college of renown the chances of success are stacked against you. Added to that, the chances of you getting an exhibition are minute if you are not seen as a social equal to the movers and shakers of the art world. Success in the art world is not about quality, it is largely about who you know, connections. In that world, the internet and networking with others outside the art world is much more attractive. I remember a friend of mine who attended an art college saying that a lecturer kept on telling the students about how many geniuses were missed by the art world because the art world didn't look for geniuses because it was not interested in art, it was instead interested in personalities and products to sell. Having spent many years in the art world in Lisbon, London, Paris, and Madrid, all I can say is, how right he was. The art world isn't interested in art. It’s interested in selling stuff…Now that I bashed Picasso and Cezanne, I’ tell you who I really consider to be a genius, painting-wise. Bosch! People like to say is he was a “'medieval genius'. Bosch was certainly a 'genius' but there was nothing 'medieval' about either his art or the city in which he lived and worked. He was a brilliant innovator in so many ways - his landscapes fully equal Leonardo's, his figure drawings are superb, and his rendering of materials like glass is absolutely unprecedented anywhere (and certainly nothing to equal it was achieved in Italy), while his command of perspective was astonishing, stretching from brilliant still-life, close-up details literally to infinity. Furthermore his works were being collected during his lifetime in Venice - which was one of the most artistically sophisticated and advanced cities in Europe. No, Bosch was definitely one of the greatest and most innovative of all artists and the idea that he was some kind of mystical medieval genius should be buried once and for all. I’ve said my piece. Now I rest in peace.
  • (4/5)
    A seminal work in art history, this is essentially the book form of a 1972 BBC four-part television series. It’s bound to cause some level of disappointment, either because the material is starting to date itself, Berger goes too far by venturing into attacks on capitalism, or if nothing else, because the format for the book is poor, with black and white images that are too small.On the other hand, it’s certainly thought-provoking, having been written at a time when there was a lot of criticism of “the establishment”. It reminds me of Desmond Morris’s “The Naked Ape” in its re-thinking of aspects of life that had been taken for granted, but also in making assertions without data, some which seem very true, others, not so much. One of its main messages is to critique the established art world’s mystification of ‘classic’ artwork, which missed the point that the work was often painted for the affluent as a status symbol, and to objectify women in an age when there was no color photography. In the first essay he does this in a brilliant way, critically examining the faces of a pair of paintings by Hals, showing the regents and regentesses of the old men’s alms house, quoting a traditional reaction to the work, and offering a differing view based on the understanding that Hals was destitute and living off of charity at the time. A highlight and lowlight from each of the four written essays will illustrate my reaction to what I think is the unevenness of this work.Essay oneHe critiques the art world’s religiosity over the masters, and the ‘specialized experts’ analysis concentrating on authenticity of the work in their own museums as opposed to a work’s meaning. It’s that type of thing that casts a veil over true art appreciation, and this type of reaction instead:“Before the Virgin of the Rocks the visitor to the National Gallery would be encouraged by nearly everything he might have heard and read about the painting to feel something like this: ‘I am in front of it. I can see it. This painting by Leonardo is unlike any other in the world. The National Gallery has the real one. If I look at this painting hard enough, I should somehow be able to feel its authenticity. The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonard da Vinci: it is authentic and therefore it is beautiful.’” Wow!But he then takes it too far:“A people or a class which is cut off from its own past is far less free to choose and to act as a people or class than one that has been able to situate itself in history. This is why – and this is the only reason why – the entire art of the past has now become a political issue.” Huh?Essay twoHe makes this stunning statement in analyzing “Vanity” by Memling:“You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, you put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting Vanity, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure.” Wow!!But then he makes this comment on the male reaction to the nude:“Their nakedness acts as a confirmation and provokes a very strong sense of relief. She is a woman like any other: or he is a man like any other: we are overwhelmed by the marvellous simplicity of the familiar sexual mechanism.” Huh?Essay three“Yet why are these pictures so vacuous and so perfunctory in their evocation of the scenes they are meant to recreate? They did not need to stimulate the imagination. If they had, they would have served their purpose less well. Their purpose was not to transport their spectator-owners into new experience, but to embellish such experience as they already possessed. Before these canvases the spectator-owner hoped to see the classic face of his own passion or grief or generosity. The idealized appearances he found in the painting were an aid, a support, to his own view of himself. In those appearances he found the guise of his own (or his wife’s or his daughters’) nobility.” Wow!But this, on Mary Magdalene paintings which reflected more sensuality than penitence:“The method of painting [oil painting] is incapable of making the renunciation she is meant to have made.” Huh? Oil painting makes that impossible, per se??Essay fourLinking the previous century’s oil painting, where the art form expressed “you are what you have”, to this century’s advertisements:“One of the pleasures a painting gave to its owner was the thought that it would convey the image of his present to the future of his descendants. Thus the oil painting was naturally painted in the present tense. The painter painted what was before him, either in reality or in imagination. The publicity [advertising] image which is ephemeral uses only the future tense. With this you will become desirable. In these surroundings all your relationships will become happy and radiant.” Wow!But then this:“Publicity takes consumption into a substitute for democracy. The choice of what one eats (or wears or drives) takes the place of significant political choice.” Huh?And:“The pursuit of individual happiness has been acknowledged as a universal right. Yet the existing social conditions make the individual feel powerless. He lives in the contradiction between what he is and what he would like to be. Either he then becomes fully conscious of the contradiction and its causes, and so joins the political struggle for a fully democracy which entails, amongst other things, the overthrow of capitalism; or else he lives, continually subject to an envy which, compounded with his sense of powerlessness, dissolves into recurrent day-dreams.” Huh? Did he just say overthrow of capitalism? Yes, yes he did.
  • (3/5)
    By and large, I'm not a fan of manifestos. This one was no exception. It had a lot of insight, as manifestos often do, and I learned a lot from it, which is also not atypical. But to my mind, there's something insulting about a manifesto. To borrow a metaphor from Eudora Welty, writing like this is the equivalent of serving me my brain food already cut up for me. The ideas may be deeper than a trashy romance novel (for example), but the level of respect for the audience is roughly the same. And I always tend, right or wrong, to begin judging the ideology in question through the lens of that disrespect. If they have this much distrust for people in general, then how can their ideas about life not be tainted with that fundamental distrust? Since I do not share that distrust, how much am I really going to accept the ideas they've built on it?

    All of that is the case, as I said, with manifestos in general. So what about this particular one? Ways of Seeing, the book, is apparently based on a BBC series of the same name and with the same purpose. Their purpose is to get us to look at art in a different way (namely, and being a leftist myself I don't throw this term around lightly: in a Marxist way). They begin with a very simplistic explanation of the importance of sight (based, apparently, on the fact that we are able to see before we are able to do just about anything else—never mind that we actually start using all four of our other senses before we even open our eyes), and then go on to the importance of visual art: painting, photography, that kind of thing. Then they leap straight into the Marxism and attempt to show the ways in which art, especially painting, has always been used to promote capitalism (even, it seems, before there was capitalism) and to celebrate the virtue of the propertied class. Some of which is interesting, actually, but some of which is stretching quite a bit. In true manifesto fashion, they make sure to consistently point out the ways in which seeming exceptions actually prove the rule. Also in true manifesto fashion, they are careful to pick the most egregious examples they can find in order to make their points without looking like they picked the most egregious examples available.

    I have to include one quote, because I think it's so emblematic.

    We [the authors of the series/book] are accused of being obsessed by property. The truth is the other way round. It is the society and culture in question which is so obsessed. Yet to an obsessive his obsession always seems to be of the nature of things and so is not recognized for what it is.
    Or, to put it another way: "We're rubber, you're glue. Bounces off us and sticks to you." They're right about the nature of obsession, I'm sure, but that isn't much of a defence since their own argument could be described with that sentence.

    Here's the thing, though. There's a lot of value in the book. I actually do have a new way of seeing art now, and I think it's a better informed way. I also have a more complex understanding of some other issues, ranging from the nature of masculinity to the nature of history to the nature of envy and beyond. All of which is good, and all of which is despite the fact that this isn't my first exposure to many of these ideas. I got this book on a recommendation from a prof in grad school, and in his class and others I did think about & discuss many of these ideas. But the value of a manifesto, I suppose, is that (since they almost completely disregard opposing viewpoints) they can really succinctly get deep into the ideas at hand. So there is a lot to be gained from a book like this. Even if I didn't particularly enjoy reading it.

    P.S. I must say something about the design of this book. It's horrible. Really, absolutely terrible. Take a closer look at that cover image (click on it and look at the large version). The text on there is actually the beginning of the book. It's repeated again inside, but I guess they thought they'd look more serious and utilitarian if they just started right in with the cover? This book also suffers from the same ridiculous modernist notion (later completely disavowed by Jan Tschichold, who started it) that sans-serif fonts are better than serif fonts because they are free of the "adornment" of serifs. They take it one step further here, and use a bold sans-serif throughout the book. Which is just dumb. Many of their other design choices (full one-inch paragraph indentations, for example) are equally dumb, and the book looks like it was thrown together in half an hour by a high-school journalism class. Really, it's just atrocious.

    P.P.S. The book ends, and I'm not kidding, with a page that has one line on it: "To be continued by the reader . . ." The absolute pretension at work here was almost more than I had the stomach for.