Ep 32: Ways of Seeing by John Berger w/ Mandolyn Wilson Rosen


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Mandy is back to help me dissect this beloved classic book "Ways of Seeing" 1972 (and BBC TV show) by John Berger. Welcome back, Mandy! And, as always on Book Talks, much art-nerdery was indulged. Come along with us as we consider Berger's thoughts on Art: aka How it was changed by the age of reproduction, How the Nude functions as a tool for the Male Gaze, and How art is used as a status symbol for the wealthy, and in advertising to create Glamour.

"Ways of Seeing" was created mainly by John Berger (writer/host), Michael Dibb (filmmaker), Delia Derbyshire (composer), and Richard Hollis (book designer) with help from others. The project was conceived specifically to "question some of the assumptions usually made about the tradition of European Painting. That tradition which was born about 1400, and dies about 1900.”

In the TV series (and in direct contrast to Kenneth Clark’s big budget show, “Civilisation”), Berger shows up against a slightly shabby blue screen in a partially unbuttoned white and brown patterned shirt (he bought it right before the shoot bc he had been wearing blue) with kind of wild curly hair (kinda like Michael Landon style), and in slacks…he’s casual- he’s scrappy - parts of the show were even assembled in his parent’s living room. He’s earnest, feminist, anti-capitalist and unlike the posh-speaking Clark, he has a slight speech impediment…and Berger is ready to burn it all to the ground.
"Ways of Seeing," the book, is available at most bookstores and "Ways of Seeing," the BBC tv program, is available to stream for free on Youtube

A few grateful shout-outs to writers who we used for research for this talk: Olivia Laing / The Guardian, Kate Abbott / The Guardian and Sam Haselby / Aeon.co

John Berger's other books: His novel "G" and also books about art’s role in contemporary society: "About Looking" and "The Shape of a Pocket"

Extra shout-outs: Composer, Delia Derbyshire, "The Man with the Movie Camera" film by Dziga Vertov, poster by Alexander Rodchenko, Walter Benjamin’s "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Eva Figes, book "Patriarchal Attitudes," Jane Kenrick, one of five who had been on trial for protesting against the 1970 Miss World contest, Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Linda Nochlin’s “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists," "Landscape & Power" by WJT Mitchell, "Looking at the Overlooked" by Norman Bryson

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