Ways of Seeing – Reproductions
John Berger produced four programs of which this is one talking about how reproduction removes the original meaning and context from an artwork.
Until the invention of the camera the eye was “the centre of the world” according to John Berger. The camera began giving more views of the world than ever available before.
Prints are around us everywhere today so what happens to the original meaning and what is the real value in contrast to society’s artificial valuations? Without the influence from outside, what is an artwork “saying” to you? For example viewing an artwork via video can be influenced when music and narrative are introduced. Your emotional link can be altered when different types of narration and music are introduced. which leads us to ask about “art experts” and their narratives. How much do they alter our understanding and connection with an artwork?
Pontification with long and opinionated comments masked as expert knowledge can take away from what we may gain from a painting with our own understanding and emotional connection.
We go to a gallery or exhibition to make the connection with an artwork. I have always noticed the huge difference in looking at a print in a book to seeing the original painting. Seeing the surface that the artist touched, sometimes, seeing the brushstrokes and the painting in it’s original frame makes a huge difference. Learning of the technique and materials used is always interesting for me, but I have had doubts about the expert’s opinions about the meaning in a painting and the motivations behind producing it.
Putting in what may be misleading emotive things like music and narration can take away from the artist’s original meaning and can interfere with the viewer’s right and expectation to make their own personal journey through the painting.
Ways of Seeing – Nude or Naked?
John Berger begins this video by asking us “how have women been represented in art?” He goes on to say that we often look for reflections of ourselves in others (IE: approval or praise) in the paintings of a period. In paintings we see the standards of beauty of the time.
From the European depiction of Adam and Eve and religious paintings with their moral overtones contrasted with asian views of the depiction of males and females we were asked to contrast the difference and look at the way that a lot of art was aimed at the male viewer who was in a lot of cases the one doing the purchasing. Females were in western culture in particular, depicted in a passive manner for the pleasure of male viewers. This lack of empowerment did not change a lot until recently in history.
We were asked to think about how the idealistic idea of women should look like at any given period in history. We were introduced to the concept of “self delight” – having a definite sense of self especially when in contact with the outside world.
What do we see when looking at a “nude”? When was it painted, why do you think it was painted? Was it just for the pleasure of a patron who wanted to boast of his mistress or is it in admiration of what was considered the beauty of the female figure at that time in history?
As a female artist I was interested in the views that through history the female has been more of a subject in art rather than a major producer. We learn about a lot of male artists from history but women are less often major topics in art history books.
I have been compelled to look for more examples of women being the driving force in art rather than mere passengers since this video. It is not a feminist calling just a desire for more balance. I am not convinced that there is as much behind the painting of female nudes as John has suggested and even if there was, it is possible that a lot of this was taken over after the introduction of and wide use of photography.
In any case both videos were interesting and I gained some different perspectives on both creating and looking at artworks.