Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ways of Seeing

Ways of Seeing
-         John Berger
When it comes to art, personal perception of a piece should be the principle driving force to understanding art. In Ways of Seeing, John Berger mentions that a person’s perception of art can be influenced by outside factors, such as captions or information about the artist. Even though this does alter what someone thinks of a piece of art, I believe this has a positive effect rather than a negative one on one’s perception. More information allows the person to understand art at a secondary level; he can delve deeper into the reason why someone created this piece of art and relate it to his own feelings about it.
Berger also states his views on the reproduction of art and while I disagree that it devalues a piece of art, I understand his opinion as well. An original piece of work has its own aura. No matter how many reproductions you see, only the original contains the true artists mark. For example, in the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo, the famous painting God creates Adam is on the ceiling. If you google it, you can find an image of it in a matter of seconds. But if you visit the chapel, the view is completely different; you see the connection of how God created Adam to other paintings on the ceiling of the chapel. It completes the pictures and creates a story for the observer. Plus, the ceiling itself is beautiful because of the immense detail and color scheme created by Michaelangelo. So just like Milana said in a previous post, art is still thrilling even though you saw the reproduction before the original. However, reproductions introduce such great pieces of art to people who cannot readily observe it. I believe Berger is incorrect in saying that reproductions negatively impact art. A teacher once told me that when people copy your work, it means they like it and it has some sort of value. So reproductions actually increase the importance of a certain art.
In the next chapter, Berger speaks about the difference between nudity and nakedness. I agree with him that “men act and women appear”. If we break it down, women want to attract men and men want to find women they are attracted to. A woman in nude makes her body more public and therefore allows men to appreciate her while a woman who is naked is more private with her body.
John Berger brings up a few good points but I believe he generalizes the public too much and even stereotypes them. I look forward to reading more of Ways of Seeing.
            In his book Ways of Seeing, John Berger discusses the ways in which people perceive different works of art, and the ways art has evolved during a time of emerging technological advancements. Berger explains that there is no way of knowing exactly what moment the artist was trying to capture or what he/she wanted to portray by painting the portrait. In this sense, painting are silent and it is up to viewers to decipher what the artist meant when he/she painted the portrait. Viewers can only try to interpret what they see by learning about the backround/history of the artist and by analyzing the techniques used in the portrait. Berger also goes on to say that the way we describe something is preceded by the way we see it, but words cannot do justice to what we see, or explain what we see with our own eyes. I experienced this dumbstruck feeling at the Brooklyn Museum when I saw the breathtaking paintings but could not come up with the words to adequately describe what I saw. Berger explains that a drastic change that has occured as a result of society’s technological advancements is the development of the camera, which allows for easy reproduction of once prized and elite paintings. While paintings used to be signs of status and class and used to be valued and esteemed for their selectivity, they are currently much more accessible to people all over the world. However, because of the reproduction of paintings, art is more widely viewed and advertised through books, posters, and even television. Many people have even neglected to enjoy and experience art for its talent, aesthetics, history, or meaning, and instead see art as a means to make a profit. I agree with Berger that the way art is viewed has evolved dramatically due to technology and social change, and more and more people tend to overlook art’s true meanings instead of appreciating it for its aesthetics and significance.

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