robertogreco + johnberger   65

LIVING AND WRITING THE PEASANT LIFE - The New York Times
“And when the peasants have moved to the city, and the trilogy is complete -when Berger presumably has learned to write about peasant experience as he set out to do nearly 15 years ago, what then? Will he return to the city himself?

“Well, I get back to the city fairly regularly - to Paris mostly, where I lecture and then see a movie, friends. But I have become so attached, you see. I feel as if I belong here, if I belong anywhere. And I don’t miss the city, certainly not the social life. I mean, for fun in the city, people get together at a party and swap opinions. Opinions. Here, when people relax, get together, they drink, play cards and sing - sit in a room and sing. And of course, they tell stories.””

[via: https://twitter.com/symptomatic/status/1190985051959439362 ]
johnberger  1987  cities  countryside  rural  via:symptomatic  conviviality 
16 days ago by robertogreco
The Book That Made Me: An Animal | Public Books
"The Lives of Animals was the first book I read in college—or at least the first book I read in a strange, amazing seminar that rewired my brain in the first semester of freshman year. The course was about animals, and I signed up for it probably because it was a course my dad, who had been advising me on all things college, would have taken himself. He kept animal effigies all over the apartment: portraits of a donkey and a marmot in the bathroom; a giant poster of “The External Structure of Cock and Chicken” in the living room; dog figures of many breeds; pigs, his favorite, in all shapes and sizes, in every single nook and cranny. In the dining room he had a huge pig sculpture made of leather, which in retrospect was a strange and morbid combination: one animal skinned to make an image of another. Our cocker spaniel had chewed its face beyond recognition by the time my mom got around to throwing it out.

My dad passed away in 2016, two years after they got divorced, and I faced the monumental task of disposing of his menagerie. I kept many things, of course, but couldn’t keep them all. It was so easy to throw out or donate clothes, housewares, furniture, even books. I didn’t know what to do with the creatures, who seemed to contain his spirit more than anything else. I laughed when I found a key chain in a random drawer: a little brass effigy of one pig mounting another. That was his humor. That was his mind, his way of seeing, his culture—which was based, like all cultures, in certain ideas about nature. Frankly, he was a difficult man to know even when he was alive. The animals offered me a way in, as they probably did for him.

Anyway, he was the one who saw the listing for a course named “Zooësis” and thought I might like it. And I really did, from the moment our indefatigably brilliant professor, Una Chaudhuri, asked us to read J. M. Coetzee’s weird, hybrid book. The Lives of Animals is a novella, but Coetzee delivered it as a two-part Tanner Lecture at Princeton in 1997, and it centers, in turn, on two lectures delivered by its aging novelist protagonist, Elizabeth Costello. During her visit to an obscure liberal arts college, she speaks hard-to-swallow truths about the cruelties we visit upon animals, making a controversial analogy between industrialized farming and the Third Reich. But the content of her lectures is almost less important than the reactions they generate and the personal consequences she incurs, which Coetzee shows us by nesting the lectures within a fictional frame. People get incensed; the academic establishment rebukes her argument, her way of arguing, everything she represents. Even her family relationships buckle under the weight of a worldview that seems to reject reason.

Her first lecture is about the poverty of philosophy, both as a basis for animal ethics and as a medium for thinking one’s way into the mind of another kind of creature. But her second lecture is about the potential of poetry, and it’s captivating in its optimism about the ability of human language to imagine radically nonhuman forms of sensory experience—or, perhaps more radically, forms of sensory experience we share with other species.

As a person who has worked within the field commonly known as animal studies but has never worked with real animals (unlike so many great boundary-crossing thinkers: the late poet-philosopher-veterinarian Vicki Hearne, the philosopher-ethologist Vinciane Despret, et al.), I often find myself bummed out by the inadequacy of representation: Specifically, what good are animals in books? Are they not inevitably vessels of human meaning? In Flush, her novel about the inner life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel, Virginia Woolf has another way of putting the problem: “Do words say everything? Can words say anything? Do not words destroy the symbol that lies beyond the reach of words?” To which I would add: Do they not destroy, or at least ignore, the creature beyond the symbol as well?

Coetzee has a different view. Or Costello, at least, has some different ideas about what poetry can do. She celebrates poems like Ted Hughes’s “The Jaguar” and Rainer Maria Rilke’s “The Panther”—“poetry that does not try to find an idea in the animal, that is not about the animal, but is instead the record of an engagement with him.” She finds value in poems that try to capture the fluid complexity of a moment of contact across species, rather than try to preserve an imagined essence of the animal in amber. She also defends the human imagination as something more powerful than we give it credit for. My favorite line from the book is her response to Thomas Nagel’s famous essay “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” Nagel insists that it’s impossible for a human to know the answer to his titular question. Costello rebuts: “If we are capable of thinking our own death, why on earth should we not be capable of thinking our way into the life of a bat?” I think it takes an effort of heart, more than mind, to follow her train of thought.

The novella reflects her resistance to the imperious voice of human reason—and her embrace of the messiness of the subjective imagination—on many levels. She’s uneasy at the bully pulpit, as was Coetzee himself. For the longest time I thought that the narrator was omniscient—an impersonal God figure aligned with Coetzee’s own position at that Princeton lectern. But then I read the novella again, preparing to teach it in a lit class where we were also reading Jane Austen. I realized that the narrator filters everything through the perspective of John Bernard, Costello’s son, who has a strange tendency to obsess over his mother’s body (paging Dr. Freud: “Her shoulders stoop; her flesh has grown flabby”) and profoundly ambivalent feelings about her. He is torn between sympathy and repulsion, connection and alienation. He is torn, also, between her perspective, which persuades him to an extent, and the perspective of his wife, Norma, a philosophy professor who loathes her and has no patience for her anti-rationalist message.

The question this novella raises is always that of its own construction: Why is it a novella in the first place? What does Coetzee communicate through fiction that he couldn’t have communicated through a polemic? I think the technique of focalization, which grounds everything in John’s perspective, shows us exactly what an abstract polemic about animals couldn’t: the impossibility of speaking from a position outside our embodiment, our emotions, our primordial and instinctual feelings toward kin. In other words, the impossibility of speaking about animals as though we were not animals ourselves.

Every time I read the book—definitely every time I teach it—the potentialities of its form grow in number. I find new rooms in the house of fiction that reveal how grand a mansion it is. I display it proudly, in the center of a bookshelf lined with animal books like Marian Engel’s Bear, Woolf’s Flush, J. R. Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip, Kafka’s stories, and John Berger’s Pig Earth. The shelf is my own version of my father’s menagerie, brimming with all manner of complex and contradictory creatures. All of them are representations, but that doesn’t make them feel any less real, or any less alive.

I regard my father with some of the ambivalence that John, the son in Coetzee’s story, feels toward his own mother and her thoughts on animals. But I encounter the creatures he left behind with warmth, solidarity, and hope."
via:timoslimo  jmcoetzee  multispecies  morethanhuman  senses  writing  howwewrite  language  whywewrite  fiction  animals  bodies  unachaudhuri  philosophy  elizabethbarrettbrowning  virginiawoolf  vincianedespret  animalrights  vickihearne  rainermariarilke  tedhughes  narration  thomasnagel  imagination  messiness  janeausten  perspective  novellas  kafka  johnberger  marianengel  jrackerley  hope  solidarity  communication  embodiment  emotions  persuasion  mattmargini  canon  books  reading  howweread  teaching  howweteach  farming  livestock  sensory  multisensory  animalstudies  poetry  poems  complexity  grief  literature  families  2019 
july 2019 by robertogreco
Teju Cole on the unpredictability and potential of the city: “Once you give up insisting on stereotypes, you can really start to see.” - Harvard Graduate School of Design
"The work of novelist, essayist, and photographer Teju Cole is a genre-defying exploration of race, governance, migration, justice, culture, music, and privilege. It is defined by a comfort with uncertainty and a commitment to defending the freedom and autonomy of others.

The city is the motif that recurs most frequently in Cole’s work. He is drawn to the unpredictability and potential of the urban environment and its endless narrative material. And he is intrigued by the “continuities” between cities—what makes them similar, regardless of size, median income, or hemisphere—as well what makes each one unique. He describes these peculiarities as “smaller zones of interest that, once you give up insisting on stereotypes, you can really start to see.”

“The guidebooks might say, ‘Check out fabulous Florence.’ Or, ‘Kinshasa’s a mess,’” Cole says. “The reality is that teenagers in Florence hang out at the mall, teenagers in Kinshasa hang out at the mall. People in both places who have money can go to nice restaurants. Florence has a trash problem, so does Kinshasa. It’s the same story. The task of insisting on that continuity feels to me like a writerly ethical responsibility. What makes one city different from another is the subtleties, the smaller things you notice when you relinquish the task of exaggerating.”

Cole spent nearly two decades each in Lagos and New York, and he says that they are examples of cities that serve “intellectually as a source of exploration of thinking for my work.” He explains, “If you draw a map around New York, Zurich, Lagos, and São Paulo, they represent the extremes of what cities are and what they do, and each in its own way precisely represents some interests of mine. New York, Lagos, and São Paulo are all part of what I consider the Black Atlantic, places that have been shaped by the black creative presence to a very large extent.” His 2007 debut novel, Every Day Is for the Thief, takes place in Lagos, while his second novel, Open City, and a number of essays are set in New York.

[photo with caption: "“Kitchen to living room. Bedroom to bathroom. Downstairs to get the mail. House to subway. An evening stroll. You take around 7500 steps each day. If you live to eighty, inshallah, that comes to 200 million steps over the course of your life, a hundred thousand miles. You don't consider yourself a great walker, but you will have circumnavigated the globe on foot four times over. Downstairs to get the mail. Basement for laundry. Living room to bedroom. Up in the middle of the night for a glass of water. Walking through the darkened house, you suddenly pause.” “Zürich,” from Blind Spot, by Teju Cole."]

Cole’s writing has been translated into more than 15 languages and has earned him numerous awards, including the prestigious Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. His photography has led to guest curating opportunities and solo exhibitions in seven countries on three continents. In addition to his two novels, he has published Known and Strange Things, a collection of essays on art, literature, photography, and politics; Blind Spot, a singular collection of photographs and writing; and Human Archipelago, a meditation on refugees and displaced people with photographer Fazal Sheikh. He has written for the New Yorker, Granta, and other magazines, and served as the photography critic of the New York Times Magazine from 2015 to 2019.

This afternoon, Cole, Harvard’s first Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing, will deliver the Class Day address for the Graduate School of Design. He plans to use his address to encourage graduates “to think about our life together” and to imagine how a future can be conceived and built. Cole himself is a model for a cross-disciplinary creative practice that is at once intellectually rigorous, politically and socially engaged, and unbound to any singular medium.

[photo with caption: "“A gust of wind sweeps in from across the lake. The curtain shifts, and suddenly everything can be seen. The scales fall from our eyes. The landscape opens. No longer are we alone: they are with us now, have been all along, all our living and all our dead.” Excerpt from “Rivaz,” from Blind Spot, by Teju Cole."]

Cole’s fluidity between forms of expression can be credited, at least in part, to a background that has elements of multiplicity and movement, trial and error, switchbacks and reboots. Born in 1975 in Kalamazoo, Michigan to Nigerian parents, his life began with two passports, cultures, and languages. At four months old, Cole moved with his family to Lagos, Nigeria, where he lived until he returned to Michigan to pursue studies in art and art history at Kalamazoo College. Later he would go on to study African art history at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London and art history at Columbia University in New York.

“It was an important fact mentally to know that I belong to Nigeria and the United States,” he says. With time, that comfort with the in-between of dual identities evolved into a confidence in belonging to both places. “It’s always interested me, this idea of, ‘Oh, we don’t say it that way in America.’ To which my response is, ‘Well, we do now.’ Whatever I am, whatever I do, that’s part of America now. This imagined community that we call a nation is ever-expanding and ever-complexifying, and that’s a good thing. We’ve expanded the possibilities.”

Although he first made a name for himself as a novelist, Cole has always identified equally as a writer and a photographer. “I got into both at the same time, around 2004. With whatever I had studied, with whatever my education was, there was a certain voicing that I knew I wanted to explore more in writing. At SOAS, I started what I would say were the very first glimmerings of Open City. I wrote maybe five pages, but it was Mad Libs, no sentences. It was like a fever dream,” he remembers. “But by 2005, I started to feel like, ‘No, I need to write clear sentences’ and let the clarity convey the energy, just have it be cumulative. Around the same time, I started shooting with a film camera.” In Every Day Is for the Thief, a novella that follows a young Nigerian returning to Lagos after years in the US, Cole weaves black and white photographs throughout the narrative.

[photo with caption: "“I opened my eyes. What lay before me looked like the sound of the alphorn at the beginning of the final movement of Brahm’s First Symphony. This was the sound, this was the sound I saw.” “Brienzersee,” from Blind Spot, by Teju Cole."]

In Blind Spot, images and photographs also have equal footing in a series of single-spread couplets—on one page a full-color image, on the other, prose. Inspired by the six months Cole spent living in Zurich, the book is a call-and-response between a snapshot of a place and a burst of associations. His aim is to come at a subject in such a way that the audience experiences something unexpected that, as he once said, “detonates on some deeper level.”

Cole credits his time writing monthly photography criticism for the New York Times Magazine with growing his photography practice. Reading the photographs of others opened him up to taking his own. Called “On Photography,” his column also gave him an opportunity to engage in a deeper dialogue with the history of photography and to consider himself in relation to artists including Stephen Shore, William Eggleston, Luigi Ghirri, and Guido Guidi. He says that contemporary Italian photographers like Ghirri have had an especially significant and validating influence on his work.

[photo with caption: "“I pray to Tarkovsky, Marker, and Hitchcock. I acknowledge the dumb skull, the verso of the face, the local globe from which all thinking originates. I pray to Ojeikere and Richter, in whose works someone is always turning away. In certain pictures, we can verify a character’s presence, but, without the clues of the confessional face, not what the character thinks. What has turned away contains itself.” Excerpt from “Chicago,” from Blind Spot, by Teju Cole."]

Yet Cole says that the most life-defining experiences behind his work have been purely interior. Becoming a born-again Christian at age 13 injected heaviness and seriousness into his life; coming out the other side as an atheist at age 28 changed his “relationship to the world and ethics.” And, at 33, he found what he calls an “even keel” spiritually, outside of religion. “Open City came out in 2011 and that was really what got the public aspect of my career going. But what was important happened eight years before [at 28]: discovering that I had a sense of how to move forward in my life. The pivotal moments have had to do with my relationship to my own being in the world. Some of the external stuff is nice, but I will never define myself around that. Ever. It could all be gone tomorrow. It doesn’t matter because that’s not the definition.”

Cole left New York to take up his teaching role at Harvard in January 2019. Being back in academia, on the other side of the lectern, is right for him, right now, he says. He clearly enjoys nudging his students toward the difficult interior places to find voice, material, and meaning.

“I’m trying to be free. I was influenced by people who are free, including Toni Morrison and John Berger, great artists…. Learning to prioritize that freedom is what led me to this work. Not in a glib ‘I could do anything’ way but in an ‘I have a responsibility to expand the field, to move the center’ way. So, what I say to students is not, ‘You can do anything,’ but ‘You can do a lot, if you’re serious about picking up the necessary skills for each of the things you want to do.’”"
tejucole  toread  2019  salaelisepatterson  cities  urban  urbanism  unpredictability  stereotypes  seeing  noticing  johnberger  tonimorrison  photography  writing 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Teju Cole — Sitting Together in the Dark - The On Being Project
"Writer and photographer Teju Cole says he is “intrigued by the continuity of places, by the singing line that connects them all.” He attends to the border, overlap and interplay of things — from Brahms and Baldwin to daily technologies like Google. To delve into his mind and his multiple arts is to meet this world with creative raw materials for enduring truth and quiet hope."



"I’m going to go back to a word I used earlier, which is how much help we need. We sometimes think of culture as something we go out there and consume. And this especially happens around clever people, smart people — “Have you read this? Did you check out that review? Do you know this poet? What about this other poet?” Blah blah blah. And we have these checkmarks — “I read 50 books last year” — and everybody wants to be smart and keep up. I find that I’m less and less interested in that, and more and more interested in what can help me and what can jolt me awake. Very often, what can jolt me awake is stuff that is written not for noonday but for the middle of the night. And that has to do with — again, with the concentration of energies in it.

Tomas Tranströmer, the Swedish poet, who died — can’t remember; maybe 2013 he died. He seemed to have unusual access to this membrane between this world and some other world that, as Paul Éluard said, is also in this one. Tranströmer, in his poetry, keeps slipping into that space.

In any case, I just found his work precisely the kind of thing I wanted to read in the silence of the middle of the night and feel myself escaping my body in a way that I become pure spirit, in a way. I remember when he won the Nobel Prize, which was in 2011. We live in an age of opinion, and people always have opinions, especially about things they know nothing about. So people who were hearing about Tranströmer for the first time that morning were very grandly opining that his collected works come to maybe 250 pages, that how could he possibly get the Nobel Prize for that slender body of work? — which, of course, was missing the fact that each of these pages was a searing of the consciousness that was only achieved at by great struggle. I think the best thing to compare him to is the great Japanese poets of haiku, like Kobayashi or Basho."



"But I wrote this today, and — for a long time now, but very definitely since January 1 of this year, I’ve been thinking about hospitality, because I wanted a container for some things I didn’t know where to put about the present moment. Who’s kin? Who’s family? Who’s in, who’s out? And just thinking this whole year about the question of hospitality has given me a way to read a lot of things that are very distressing, in this country and in the world, around the border but also around domestic policy. So this one goes against the grain, but I needed to put it down.

“The extraordinary courage of Lassana Bathily, an immigrant from Mali, saved six lives during a terrorist attack at a kosher supermarket at the Porte de Vincennes in 2015. He was rewarded with French citizenship by the French president, François Hollande.

“But this is not a story about courage.

“The superhuman agility and bravery of Mamadou Gassama, an immigrant from Mali, saved a baby from death in the 18th Arrondissement in May 2018. He was rewarded with French citizenship by the French president, Emmanuel Macron.

“But this is not a story about bravery.

“The superhuman is rewarded with formal status as a human. The merely human, meanwhile, remains unhuman, quasi-human, subhuman. Gassama crossed the Mediterranean in a tiny boat — that was superhuman, but no one filmed that, he remained subhuman, and there was no reward.

“Such is Empire’s magnanimity. Merci, patron. Je suis tellement reconnaissant, patron.

“The hand that gives, it is said in Mali, is always above the hand that receives. Those who are hungry cannot reject food. Not only those who are hungry but those who have been deliberately starved. But soon come the day when the Hebrews will revolt and once and for all refuse Pharaoh’s capricious largesse.

Hospitality.”

Because I wanted to think about this beyond what seemed, to me, too easy — the headlines, the gratitude — “Oh, he was heroic. He was like Spiderman, and the French government did a great thing and made him a citizen.”

How did we get here? Why is this enough? How did we get into the position where he kneels down to receive the crumbs?

If I were still on Twitter and I wrote that, I might get cancelled. You get cancelled when you’re out of step with the general opinion."



"I just find that anything really loud and hectic can just last for a moment, but it does not get to that deepest place, that place of self-recognition, which becomes indistinguishable from other-recognition, which is continuous with world-recognition. So I’m attracted, in all the arts, to those places where something has been quietened, where concentration has been established. I think one of the great artistic questions for any practitioner of art is, how do you help other people concentrate on a moment? This photograph, it’s a frontal portrait of a young woman, but it’s not a posed portrait. She’s in a crowd, and he has photographed her. She’s African-American, but her skin is dark, and he has made it darker still in the way he has printed it so that your first thought is, “Oh, could we lighten that a little bit?” And then you think, “No — no, no, no. Why am I feeling this way about this image?” In all the arts, there are those moments that are as though somebody has made the gesture of raising a palm, which is not a stop sign, but a — ”Attend, hush, listen.”

I think those are the moments we really live for in art, the moment where the artfulness falls away, and all that is left is that thing we don’t have a better word for beyond poetry."



"This is going to be my worst misquotation of the evening. But Toni Morrison talks about — we die, and that may be the — does anybody know it? — that may be the length of our lives or span of our lives; but we do language, and that may be the meaning of our lives — something in that direction. And I think it is somewhere in there. A frank confrontation with the facts is that between two cosmic immensities of time, you are born, you flare up for a moment, and you’re gone. And within two generations, everybody who knew you personally will also be dead. Your name might survive, but who cares? Nobody’s going to remember your little habits or who you were. So one meaning of our lives might be that we die.

But then the other is this other thing that has nothing to do with the noise out there — advertising, arguing on social media, which we all can get tempted into — or even our personal disputes or even our anxieties, even our struggles — but some other thing that is like this undertow that connects us to everyone currently alive and everyone that has lived and everyone that will live. So I think there’s just the stark, existential fact. It’s not fashionable to take up labels or whatever, but on some level, I’m sort of an existentialist. I don’t think it necessarily has a grander meaning. I certainly don’t believe that God has a wonderful plan to make it all OK. I used to. I don’t believe that anymore. You die; I don’t know what happens. I talk to my dead; I don’t know if they’re anywhere. You die, and it hurts people who love you.

But then, the other thing is that if there’s no grander, larger meaning, in real time there does seem to be a grand and large meaning. Right this minute, this does seem to be something that is real, that might not be meaning but comes awfully close to it: to be sitting together in the dark of this political and social moment, to be sitting together in the dark of what it actually means to be a human being, even if this were a euphoric political moment.

So there’s the grim view of, we’re not here for very long, and LOL no one cares, and then there’s the other thing, which is when your favorite song gets to that part that you love, and you just feel something; or when you’ve had a series of crappy meals and then finally, you get a well-spiced, balanced goat biryani — you know, when the spices are really fresh? Black pepper — a lot of people get black pepper wrong. Really fresh black pepper — and you have this moment.

So these moments of pleasure, of epiphany, of focus, of being there, in their instantaneous way can actually feel like a little nudge that’s telling you, “By the way, this is why you’re alive. And this is not going to last, but never mind that for now.” It happens in art, and it happens in friendship, and it happens in food, and it happens in sex, and it happens in a long walk, and it happens in being immersed in a body of water — baptism, once again — and it happens in running and endorphins and all those moments that psychologists describe as “flow.”

But what is interesting about them is that they happen in real time. As Seamus Heaney says, “Useless to think you’ll park and capture it / More thoroughly. You are […] / A hurry through which known and strange things pass.”

You’re just a conduit for that. But if you are paying attention, it’s almost — I’m not sure if it’s enough, but it’s almost enough. I’m certainly glad for it. I’d rather have it than not have it.

What do you think?"
tejucole  stillness  2019  truth  hope  interconnected  jamesbaldwin  brahms  place  borders  interstitial  tomastranströmer  smartness  reading  poetry  wokeness  kin  family  families  hospitality  photography  art  silence  quietness  listening  donaldtrump  barackobama  howwewrite  howweread  writing  tonimorrison  socialmedia  noise  meaning  seamusheaney  fear  future  optimism  johnberger  rebeccasolnit  virginiawoolf  hopelessness  kalamazoo  pauléluard  primolevi  instagram  twitter 
may 2019 by robertogreco
‘With or Without You’: Naturalising Migrants and the Never-Ending Tragedy of Liberalism | Salvage
"To be homeless is to be nameless. He. The existence of a migrant worker.

John Berger

*

The One Day Without Us campaign was launched in the UK in October 2016 ‘in reaction to the rising tide of post-Brexit street- level racism and xenophobia’ and, according to its website, ‘the divisive and stridently anti-migrant rhetoric emanating from too many politicians that has accompanied it.’ It held its target protest day on Monday 20 February 2017. ‘At a time when the political discussion about migration too often depicts a false narrative of “us versus them”, and when migrants are too often excluded from a debate that is supposedly about them, we wanted to provide an opportunity for migrants and British nationals to come together and celebrate the vital role that migrants play within their own communities.’ The campaign thus aimed to showcase a variety of pro-migrant sentiment and action across the UK. At my workplace, students and staff were encouraged to write on Post-its pinned to a map of the world their messages of support and solidarity, and what migrants meant to them. In other workplaces, one particularly striking message passing on social media emerged from a series of pictures of people contrasting what their work cohort looked like with and without migrants.

Emphasising how many migrants constitute our workforce and everyday life is a helpful way to create a contrast between the rhetoric of anti-immigration politics and the reality of migrant integration. Yet numbers are also threatening to some when imagined through The Sun-fuelled metaphors of hordes, swarms, and floods of monsters, coming here, taking our jobs. In its more extreme forms, the vocabulary of anti-immigration rhetoric shifts between the registers of environmental disaster to war and crusade. Against this, the One Day Without Us actions send out a powerful message of solidarity by numerically performing the sudden disappearance of the migrants amongst us to conjure up a bond that feels increasingly unbound."



"Specifically, it seems logical to this ideology that where and to whom one is born should determine what resources and conditions one should survive in – justified legally by the respective principles of ius solis and ius sanguinis for determining nationality rights. The anti-immigrant rhetoric in most European countries today reinforces and restricts these principles. However, in other contexts such as North America, as Jessica Evans reminds us, indigenous peoples are ‘internal outsiders with a prior claim to both jus solis and jus sanguinis’ and yet ‘access to the state and to the right for a state of their own’ remains denied to them. In both contexts, however, xenophobic and exclusionary rhetoric finds refuge in the cataclysmic sense of emergency where everybody is meant to accept that the world is dying, resources are limited and cannot be shared, and, crucially, (European) Christian culture is threatened. Thus, people should stay where they are and deal with the lot they were given, whether this means war, famine, persecution, discrimination, colonial theft and trauma, unemployment, lack of healthcare, and more. What this implies is the erosion of the principle of solidarity. Although this principle, when coupled to Western liberal ideals, has often led to the worst of liberal interventionism’s civilising missions, it remains a cornerstone of basic human decency and co- existence, and of socialist politics. It therefore must be protected from European liberalism’s securitisation, retrenchment and paranoia.

Thus, the ‘with and without us’ message signals the challenge of this tragic yet never-ending liberalism, which, like the narrator character in the U2 song ‘With or Without You’, threatens to die but remains loudly and infuriatingly alive and dominant. Liberalism is currently deemed at risk by the advance of the far right; as critics of liberalism, should we not be rejoicing? No, because what is really at risk is not liberalism, but the principle of solidarity that some liberalism contains. Instead of dying, liberalism is merely becoming more and more securitised and economically ‘rational’. The principle of solidarity is trapped in the farcical tragedy of liberalism’s never-ending schizophrenic dance-off to two different songs; trying to cleave to its ideal of harmonious economic migration and human- rights discourse on one hand, and its need for retaining and cajoling the interests of state and capital through cheap labour and border controls on the other.

In ‘With or Without You’, Bono is wailing, taunting us with despair and the threat of death because the subject of his love brings him both joy and pain. He personifies today’s dominant ideology, asking migrants to stay and save liberalism’s soul, while complaining of how they threaten it, justifying the need to exploit them, detain them or kick them back into the equivalent of outer- space. Economic liberalism maintains and reproduces a moral discourse of righteousness and an institutional façade of human rights. Nevertheless, it must be rejected in toto because it necessarily also furthers a policy agenda of fear and social hierarchy that fills up the pockets of employers and fuels the growing migration security agenda and industry. Sonja Buckel captures this relation well when explaining that ‘managing migration’ means that ‘neoliberal open-border politics has been interwoven with a left- liberal humanitarian and human rights strategy, while also needing to make concessions to the conservative project’. Thus, she writes, ‘what is currently happening with the immigration crisis is not a crisis of neoliberalism. Instead, “managing migration” remains effective’.

The left can of course be co-opted into this management of migration, and this calls for vigilance towards instances when we see these categories and subjectivities being invoked and performed. To teach migration from a more critical perspective is to acknowledge and disturb our role as ‘educators’ or conductors of these categories and subjectivities. This means, firstly, to teach the origins of migration as a process tied to the commodification and value theory of labour, where workers are necessarily ‘moving- workers’ but have been alienated to only identify as national citizens or ‘bordered-workers’; and secondly, to rethink on a basic level how we are all necessarily migrants under capitalism.[2]"



"Specifically, it seems logical to this ideology that where and to whom one is born should determine what resources and conditions one should survive in – justified legally by the respective principles of ius solis and ius sanguinis for determining nationality rights. The anti-immigrant rhetoric in most European countries today reinforces and restricts these principles. However, in other contexts such as North America, as Jessica Evans reminds us, indigenous peoples are ‘internal outsiders with a prior claim to both jus solis and jus sanguinis’ and yet ‘access to the state and to the right for a state of their own’ remains denied to them. In both contexts, however, xenophobic and exclusionary rhetoric finds refuge in the cataclysmic sense of emergency where everybody is meant to accept that the world is dying, resources are limited and cannot be shared, and, crucially, (European) Christian culture is threatened. Thus, people should stay where they are and deal with the lot they were given, whether this means war, famine, persecution, discrimination, colonial theft and trauma, unemployment, lack of healthcare, and more. What this implies is the erosion of the principle of solidarity. Although this principle, when coupled to Western liberal ideals, has often led to the worst of liberal interventionism’s civilising missions, it remains a cornerstone of basic human decency and co- existence, and of socialist politics. It therefore must be protected from European liberalism’s securitisation, retrenchment and paranoia.

Thus, the ‘with and without us’ message signals the challenge of this tragic yet never-ending liberalism, which, like the narrator character in the U2 song ‘With or Without You’, threatens to die but remains loudly and infuriatingly alive and dominant. Liberalism is currently deemed at risk by the advance of the far right; as critics of liberalism, should we not be rejoicing? No, because what is really at risk is not liberalism, but the principle of solidarity that some liberalism contains. Instead of dying, liberalism is merely becoming more and more securitised and economically ‘rational’. The principle of solidarity is trapped in the farcical tragedy of liberalism’s never-ending schizophrenic dance-off to two different songs; trying to cleave to its ideal of harmonious economic migration and human- rights discourse on one hand, and its need for retaining and cajoling the interests of state and capital through cheap labour and border controls on the other.

In ‘With or Without You’, Bono is wailing, taunting us with despair and the threat of death because the subject of his love brings him both joy and pain. He personifies today’s dominant ideology, asking migrants to stay and save liberalism’s soul, while complaining of how they threaten it, justifying the need to exploit them, detain them or kick them back into the equivalent of outer- space. Economic liberalism maintains and reproduces a moral discourse of righteousness and an institutional façade of human rights. Nevertheless, it must be rejected in toto because it necessarily also furthers a policy agenda of fear and social hierarchy that fills up the pockets of employers and fuels the growing migration security agenda and industry. Sonja Buckel captures this relation well when explaining that ‘managing migration’ means that ‘neoliberal open-border politics has been interwoven with a left- liberal humanitarian and human rights strategy, while also needing to make concessions to the … [more]
capitalism  migration  border  borders  citizenship  2017  maïapal  nationalism  race  racism  immigration  canon  liberalism  frédériclordon  johnberger  onedaywithoutus  neoliberalism  sandromezzadra  policy  politics  economics  identity  division  marxism  subjectivity  mobility  containment  society  migrants  immigrants  jessicaevans  indigenous  indigeneity  outsiders  accumulation  materialism  consumerism  jeffreywilliamson  sonjabuckel  security  industry  humanrights  humanitarianism  ideology  labor  work  territory  territorialism  colonization  west  xenophobia  naturalization  sovereignty  globalization  globalism  slavery  servitude  war  environment  climatechange  climate  globalwarming  colinmooers  supremacy  backwardness  davidharvey  jasonmoore  dereksayer  structure  agency  whitesupremacy  criticalpedagogy 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Are.na / Arrangement Collage
[also here:
https://github.com/dark-industries/dark-zine/blob/master/lukas_collage.md ]

[See also:
https://www.are.na/lukas-w/arrangement-collage ]

[via:
https://urcad.es/writing/new-american-outline/ ]

"In 2015, Frank Chimero wrote on the “Grain” of the Web, focusing on a web-native media that doesn’t try to fight the inherently rectangle-based HTML Document Object Model (DOM)—also shared with XML and XHTML. This remains true: any site that does not look rectilinear is usually just fooling you; strip the CSS and it’s just a pile of blocks. Perhaps tilted and stretched, or with the corners shaved off, but just a pile of blocks.

As McLuhan would have anticipated, this blocky model has substantial effects toward what web-native media looks like. Chimero documents this well. I’d like to add a psychological component, though, in that as an online culture, we’ve grown accustomed to block-based interfaces. We joke at Web 2.0’s desire to round over corners and balk at clunky Flash plugins; nonlinear, non-blocky interfaces are either salient or sore thumbs.

Native internet users consume media through HTML interfaces at an astounding pace; simple rectangles frame a continuous deluge of multimedia updates. In an age of both physical and digital abundance in the Western world, creation of new media from scratch requires ample justification. Acts of synthesis, archiving, compression, and remix are valuable tools for leveraging information otherwise lost to the unsorted heap. These verbs are ways to construct something new from pre-existing media objects, or at least finding some narrative or meaning within them.

A curator, classically, acts as composer and manager of (typically static) objects so as to convey narrative to a willing audience. The internet audience, however, expects more autonomy in the dynamic content they see. Self-selected content is simply a necessary tactic for navigating nearly limitless information. An explosion of digital “curation” caters to the desire, whether by user directly, tuned algorithms, or third-party human. This manifests when you select topics of interest on Quora and construct a twitter feed of only exactly the people you want. Going to a curated museum is now a relinquishing of control compared to typical digital art consumption, which comes mashed-up through various media platforms.

Even with stream moderation, the modern media viewer is accustomed to lack of coherence between adjacent content blocks. In your tumblr dashboard, a peer-reviewed journal article can sit immediately above an anonymously submitted shitpost. We don’t blink. In an arrangement of DOM blocks, each bit of media similarly carries its own context, history, and qualia. I posit we can effectively navigate our feeds not because we can rapidly jump between the context captured by each DOM block, but rather because we interpolate narrative and construct cohesion. Adjacency implies connection and synthesis, or, in the words of John Berger:
[An image reproduction] becomes itself the reference point for other images. The meaning of an image is changed according to what one sees immediately beside it or what comes immediately after it. (Ways Of Seeing)

Marius Watz, in a response on the New Aesthetic, writes on tumblr image culture: “Its art is juxtaposition: If we put this next to that and this other thing, surely a new understanding will emerge.” To be fair, there are uncountably many combinations that may be devoid of meaning—all I mean to point out is that a diptych is a third object, beyond the original two, with the possibility of value. Some find artistic practice in the form of a relentless stream of rectangles. People go nuts over releases of image dumps from Moodmail and JJJJound, and the Lost Image Desk is making professional practice of it.

(A scan of contemporary sculpture demonstrates that selection and arrangement of objects—often found or folk objects—is an ongoing trend. The viewer is trusted with finding meaning in the arrangement, selection, formal qualities, cultural context, and more in a relational tradition.)

HTML is perfectly built for image adjacency—a blank and infinite canvas, empowered by right-click “Copy Image Address.” Our expansive tumblrs and pinterest boards act as collected and performed narratives, collages of found digital media.
[Traditional] collages, […] were probably laid out carefully, aided by facsimiles, white-out, and tape, existed alongside the book, rather than being subsumed or created through the process of publishing and distribution, as is often the case with internet ‘collage’. Computers conceal distance; their collage move consists of juxtaposing elements that might be stored hundreds or thousands of miles apart, giving an illusion of spatial continuity. (Seth Price, Teen Image)

Traditional art collage used the intrigue and power in composing elements pulled from diverse sources. Meaning constructed by selection, editing, and combination. The HTML collage, however, is copy-pasted. What is the HTML-native collage?

I call it the “Arrangement Collage”—rectangular, transcontextual compositions of, ostensibly, found media. The arrangement collage does less work for the viewer than traditional collage: elements are kept fully intact rather than trimmed for blended. The composition often mitigates interaction between elements and instead celebrates raw adjacency.
When the historical avant-garde used valorized cultural objects such as the Mona Lisa or a violin, it profaned, overpowered, and destroyed them before going on to aestheticize them. In contrast, contemporary art uses mass-cultural things virtually intact. (Boris Groys, On The New)

The arrangement collage, while easy to construct in print, is truly native to the web, in which all objects are, by default, level rectangles, context-switching is the norm, and media to compose with is bountiful.

Our feeds, plentiful in the digital landscape, help populate the arrangement collage. Tumblr, ostensibly a micro-blogging site, is largely used for image collection; FFFFound is legendary for its contextless stream of collected imagery (and as birthing the name for JJJJound, when Justin Saunders couldn’t get an account); and Buzzfeed publishes “articles” that are frankly just stacks of image macros. A proliferation of mindless image consumption concerns Bob Gill.
There’s nothing original. ‘The Culture’ is the great mass of images and ideas which bombard us every day, and therefore shape the way we think visually. Only by recognising The Culture’s presence and its power, can designers move away from the clichés it promotes.

Irrefutably, the images we consume affect how we think, and what we can imagine. Gill’s words should be considered, and the internet-native should stay aware of “the clichés” promoted. Gill encourages “first-hand” research, but this points at a cultural gap—there is no line between reality and the internet; “first-hand” research takes place on the social web. In-person discussion and close examination of physical objects can be romanticized, but it should not detract from the fact that meaningful discussion and critical consumption can happen in a digital landscape as well.

Of deeper concern is the stripping of value from imagery in overabundance. Edition MK’s 2010 DDDDoomed (the name, I assume, another reference to FFFFound) gets at the kernel of this problem: Image Aggregators (“IAs”—such as JJJJound and other blogs), which typically present images contextless alongside hundreds of others, can strip imagery of its power. IAs do work that is weaker, semiotically, than traditional collage, and less organized than archiving (which is often a process of attaching or generating metadata, whereas IAs frequently remove it). Images that find political power within a context are reduced to purely aesthetic objects in the stream. If you are a tumblr fiend, this very likely rings true: the multitude of streams filled with gorgeous scenery, motivational quotes, and supermodel women quickly reduce this imagery to banality and objectification.
We [distance ourselves] from our critical faculties as we slide into models of passive spectatorship that reinforce our passivity by promoting a one-way mode of cultural consumption. […] Continuous over-stimulation leads to desensitisation. (Peter Buwert, “Defamiliarization, Brecht and Criticality in Graphic Design” in Modes of Criticism 2: Critique of Method)

The arrangement collage might serve as a tool in this battle against desensitization. In Buwert’s essay, referenced above, he describes how Brecht’s famous defamiliarization of the theater encouraged “a condition of active critical spectatorship within the audience.” DDDDoomed is lamenting the supposed death of this critical spectator, replaced with the numb and passive viewer. Buwert is less concerned with context/lessness than Edition MK, and instead focuses on familiarity.

There are valiant efforts towards an inclusion of context and metadata with online imagery, but it is not built into the structure of the internet. Flickr and twitter use image covers to dissuade copy-pasting (circumnavigable by screen-shotting) and Mediachain attempts to inextricably tie media to metadata using blockchain methods. As of writing, however, the JPG is not going anywhere, and the ease of downloading and re-uploading an image far surpasses digging to find its source. Entropy is not on our side, and Google’s reverse image search will never be quite fast or comprehensive enough to keep up.

Walter Benjamin might lament the loss of contextual sensitivity, as it comes intertwined with a loss of “aura.” The authenticity that drives Benjamin’s aura is dependent on the idea of an original—which, in internet ecosystems, simply isn’t a relevant concept, as the original and reproduction can be… [more]
lukaswinklerprins  2016  frankchimero  arrangementcollage  web  online  feeds  juxtaposition  canon  curation  collections  tumblr  html  webdev  form  imagery  images  webnative  decomposition  composition  peterbuwert  aggregation  ffffound  justinsaunders  bobgill  sethprice  moodmail  lostimagedesk  waysofseeing  johnberger  dom  xml  xhtml  marshallmcluhan 
february 2019 by robertogreco
Rebecca Solnit on Skipping High School and California Culture | Literary Hub
"Paul Holdengraber: I had the pleasure, a bittersweet pleasure, of speaking with John Berger two years ago (about two months before he died) and I was so amazed by his extraordinary freedom of thinking. I was wondering, though I was never able to ask him, how much of it came to him from not having been forced into a certain school, or not having gone to all the schools people feel they need to go to in order to think.

It strikes me that you have that same appetite, that same appetite that comes from not having had to follow a certain regime, but rather following what really interests you, what really fills you with passion. I wonder how much of that is true, and how much of that is true to the place you’ve committed yourself to live in.

Rebecca Solnit: I didn’t go to high school and I feel that was one of the great strategic victories of my life. In the 1970s everything was very nebulous and wide open, and I just managed by going to an alternative junior high school through tenth grade, which was a very kind place compared to the place I went to for seventh and eighth grade. Then I took the GED test and started college at 16, to avoid high school altogether.

I remember thinking the GED—which is supposed to test you on everything you’re supposed to know when you graduate from high school—and thinking, “I’ve basically goofed off for two years. I’m 15 and I’m apparently able to acquire all the knowledge you need to get out of high school—what are you doing for those other three or four years?” I’ve always felt that a lot of what people are taught to do is conform and obey a set of instructions about hierarchy. It’s really destructive of the people who succeed in that system, as well as the ones who fail. I know you didn’t grow up in this country—

PH: I’m not sure I grew up. I’m still trying.

RS: Well that too. There’s the people who feel damaged by being unpopular in high school, but there’s a different kind of tragedy of people who were so popular in high school—the homecoming queens, the football captains—who feel as though they’ve arrived at the end of the journey without ever having set out for it, who feel like now they can rest on the laurels, which aren’t the laurels that will matter for the next 50 or 60 years.

It’s a very destructive system of values. You look at schools in other countries and they don’t have proms and homecoming queens and team spirit—this kind of elaborate sports culture that is very heteronormative as well as hierarchical. It also creates monsters out of the boys who are able to get away with bullying and sexual assault because they’re good at sports.

PH: You were mentioning my own upbringing. I grew up, in part, in many different countries in Europe, but one of the countries I lived was Belgium. In the mid-70s they introduced something they called Le Test Américain, “the American test.” You know what that was: multiple choice. I was terrible at it because I always felt ambivalent. I always felt, if you look at it from this perspective, that would be the answer; but if you look at it from that perspective, this would be the answer. And of course that didn’t bode well for school.

I know now that teaching has become so much that—so much about getting the supposed right answer to a question, which really means the right answer to a question if you look at it only from one vantage point. Which is exactly the contrary of what literature teaches, or for that matter, what life teaches us to think and do.

RS: When I was young, in the 80s, I read a wonderful report on why we should teach art in schools, and one of the arguments was that there is no right answer in art. There might be good ways to do things, but there’s no simple one right answer. Two plus two might be four, but the way a bird flies can be represented in innumerable ways.

PH: I wonder also, in your escape from high school, how much California and your interest in California has had to do with the way you think.

RS: One of the things about being deinstitutionalized—because not only did I not go to high school, I did sort of sprint through college and then get a journalism degree that was training to be a writer in a practical sense rather than becoming an academic—was the freedom to be synthetic, to move through what’s considered to be many fields. In fact in Wanderlust, early on, I said that if the fields of study could be considered real fields, then the the history of walking trespasses through many of them on its trajectory. And my life has been kind of like that. There’s a curious thing in academia in which authority is demonstrated by specialization and that you have to color within the lines and stick within the lines of your discipline, which I know a lot of people feel fretful about.

California wasn’t inherently an interest in mine. It was just where my father was born and where I grew up and have lived most of my life. When I was young and working at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and going to the journalism school at UC Berkeley, I did my thesis on the artist Wallace Berman and I began the process of writing the history that wasn’t available to me to read. When I was growing up in California we were regarded, almost universally, as almost a barbarian hinterland that had gone, as I often say, from wilderness to shopping mall in a single bound. And there was a lot of sneering on the East Coast about us as a place without culture, as a place of yahoos and bimbos and babes and surfer dudes, as lacking the high seriousness.

I have a friend whose East Coast cousin once said to him, “people in California don’t read.” And it was just amazing having someone dismiss the state with the UC system and Stanford and some remarkable intellectuals, from Angela Davis to Garry Snyder.

So I really didn’t grow up here with it being treated as an interesting place, though I loved the landscape, wondered about the Native history, and actually went to Europe because of that yearning for a sense of deep past and time in history. And then came back and had to find a way to locate it in this landscape.

Of course a lot of things have changed. A lot of California history has been written by Mike Davis and many other people since then. But it really was treated as a blank and trivial place when I was younger. There were some California historians, but the public mainstream attitude was very dismissive.

PH: I remember a conversation I had with Werner Herzog who said that in New York they consume culture, and in Los Angeles they actually make it. And it struck me as very interesting because there is such an assumption in New York that everything emanates from here.

RS: I’ve noticed.

PH: That’s a fantastic response, Rebecca. We’ll leave it at that for now."
rebeccasolnit  unschooling  deschooling  2018  interviews  education  california  history  culture  nyc  johnberger  paulholdengraber  values  hierarchy  teaching  art  arteducation  pedagogy  mikedavis  journalism  wallaceberman  eastcoast  angeladavis  garysnyder  conformity 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Teju Cole en Instagram: “A memory I cherish is of being backstage with John Berger and how he leaned forward and began to tell me about how beautiful, how dear, is…” • Instagram
"A memory I cherish is of being backstage with John Berger and how he leaned forward and began to tell me about how beautiful, how dear, is the moment of being backstage, the moment before the main event. In that moment, John said, everything is still and full of potential. In a way, there’s more to it than the main event, this sitting together in the dark waiting for something to happen.

Today I noted an even earlier moment. The shirt I intend to wear is just out of the dryer, draped across a chair in my kitchen, not yet ironed, caught just so by the afternoon light as though attended by one of the great painters."
tejucole  johnberger  2017  potential  anticipation  waiting  before 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Blind Spot | Blog—Jarrett Fuller
"Blind Spot, the writer and photographer Teju Cole’s new book, feels like a culmination of his intellectual work of the last few years. A master of shifting forms, Cole previously published two novels (Open City and Everyday is for a Thief) and an essay collection (Known and Strange Things), is the photography critic for The New York Times, and is prolific on Instagram where he showcases his photography. Blind Spot, a book that mixes text with his original photography, at once feels like a continuation of his previous work while also something completely new. How does one define Blind Spot? Is it a photo book or a novel? A travelogue or a poem? A memoir or a lyric essay? The answer, I think, is ‘yes’.

The photos — all shot on color film from Cole’s travels across the globe — blend seamlessly from Brooklyn to Berlin, Omaha to Africa. The images are quiet and largely devoid of humans, aside from a final striking portrait, recalling great street photographers like Stephen Shore and Louis Ghirri. The text — which shifts between narrative, memoir, criticism, poetry — sometimes refers to these photos while at other times remain independent. All of Cole’s familiar influences — Sebald, Berger, Calvino — are on display here.

The text reads less as captions as they do a voiceover — he’s said in interviews he sees the book as a documentary in book form — where another set of influences emerge. “I pray to Tarvoksy, Marker, Hitchcock” he writes in the middle of the book. Sure enough, the flipping between Cole’s text and image, one could see the book as homage to Chris Marker’s Sans Soliel. And as the photos start to reference each other, and fragments begin to connect, Marker’s more famous La Jetee comes to mind. There’s a playful reflexivity throughout — his writing reflects on his own writing process for the book, how he selected particular images, and what he hopes the book will be. In one passage he writes:
She asked, though these were not her exact words: Isn’t all the work part of a single piece? She asked, like someone patiently unlocking, with a pin, a pair of handcuffs: Aren’t all the photographs and texts, the fragments and experiments, even the things you say into a microphone, even the things you don’t say, aren’t they all installments toward a unified project? She said, though these are not her exact words: I have always felt that Open City was one way you approached the problem. You’re still circling the problem now, she said, obsessed, she said, and approaching it in other ways. You will probably always be returning to it, she said, making herself comfortable within the folds of my brain.

In a later passage, Cole invokes Calvino’s continuous city and his search of the threads that connect the places he visits. But he’s also looking for the threads that connect the images and the text. Calvino suggests that there is simply one big, continuous city that does not begin or end: ‘Only the name of the airport changes,’ he writes in Invisible Cities. The same can be said of Cole’s work — it’s simply one big, continuous journey — his intellectual interests and preoccupations recur — he finds new ways to display them, new ways to talk about them. Only the name of the book changes.

I read Open City, Cole’s first novel in 2015 during my last week in San Francisco, before moving to Baltimore for graduate school. My belongings were packed up and I’d lay on the floor in the middle of a nearly empty apartment reading. In the book, largely devoid of an obvious plot, we follow the narrator, Julius, as he walks through Manhattan. I started doing the same thing — after a period of reading, I’d put the book down, put classical music on in my headphones, and walk the San Francisco streets. This had been my neighborhood for the last three years but that week, with that music, and Cole’s prose rattling around in my head, I saw the city differently. That, I think, is the thread that ties Cole’s work together. He changes your pace, forces you to slow down. His writing is patient, his photography reserved. He makes you look, really look. This world moves fast. There’s always something new to read, new tweets, new emails, new books, new music. Last month’s news feels like a decade ago.

Blind Spot is a book about looking; about seeing what’s in the frame, about reflecting on what we see. Teju Cole asks us to slow down so we can understand our own blind spots. I saw San Francisco differently that last week, and as I finished Blind Spot this week, I started to see New York differently too. He taught me to see."
tejucole  jarrettfuller  2017  writing  photography  italocalvino  johnberger  wgsebald  chrismarker  film  walking  cities  urban  ubanism  place  landscape  noticing  looking  seeing  sansoleil  lajetée  blindspot 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Teju Cole: ‘My camera is like an invisibility cloak. It makes me more free’ | Books | The Guardian
"The final piece in Cole’s 2016 essay collection, Known and Strange Things, is a description of that traumatic occurrence. It is called Blind Spot. Next month, his first book of photographs is published. It is also called Blind Spot. Why, I ask him, did he reprise that title for a book that is, in essence, about a sustained way of seeing? “Well, there is some dark humour in the title that people who have read the essay will hopefully pick up on,” he says, “but, as I write in the afterword, there is also the fact that the act of looking is limited. We only see a small part of what we are looking at, so there is a constant blind spot even with the kind of attentive looking that photography entails. There are many resonances in that title – how difficult it is to see clearly, how difficult it is to tell a dream, how difficult it is to make pictures that are new in some way.”

How well Cole succeeds in all of this is difficult to say, not because his images aren’t strong – they are in a detached and rigorously formal-to-the-point-of-deadpan way that was pioneered by the likes of Stephen Shore in the 1970s – but because Blind Spot is not simply a book of photographs. Instead, each image is accompanied by a corresponding passage of prose. The book unfolds – and succeeds – as a deftly choreographed dance of words and pictures, with Cole’s characteristically allusive style of writing here condensed to what he calls “fragments”. Sometimes, but not often, the words refer directly to what is in the picture, but more often the photographs are conceptual starting points for musings on his now-familiar obsessions: memory, myth, culture, politics, race and dreams.

The associations, though, are often not entirely clear. A photograph of a telegraph pole on a deserted street in Selma, Alabama prompts a memory of a dream Cole had about crossing a street but never arriving at the other side, which, in turn, calls up a quotation on consciousness and time by the French phenomenological philosopher, Maurice Merleau-Ponty. A street portrait of the back of a blond woman in New York City (see below), redolent of the work of Joel Meyerowitz, is matched with a fragment from Greek mythology concerning the painter Timanthes’s mysterious portrait of the grieving, veiled Agamemnon. This is, for want of a better phrase, quintessentially Cole-ian.

“I see it as a unified story,” he explains, “but one in which each fragment of prose is dense in the way that a poem is dense. There are thematic breadcrumbs scattered throughout the text, but, yes, it is oblique. It’s not meant to be obvious, but a more psychologically resonant series of fragments that detonate on some deeper level.”"



"Taken alongside his fiction and his essays, which range from the reflective to the polemical, as well as the photography column he writes for the New York Times, Blind Spot further enhances Cole’s already burnished reputation. He is a writer for our times, prodigious, wide-ranging and supremely confident in his reach. In Known and Strange Things, to give just a few examples, he discourses passionately on race in America, explores the poetics of Saul Leiter’s pioneering colour photographs and, in two consecutive essays, lauds VS Naipaul, the elegant writer, and nails VS Naipaul, the dreadful old reactionary.

If there is a personal touchstone for this kind of cross-fertilisation, it is surely the late John Berger, one of his heroes, though Berger, as I remind him, never took photographs. “I actually asked John why photography was not part of his practice,” Cole says, “In his case, to photograph a subject was to foreclose some part of what he could write about it. He saw it as an interference in his writing faculties. I don’t think like that about it. In fact, for me, taking a photograph of something often induces further thoughts on it.”

In the flesh, Cole is both charming and intense. When I met him briefly last summer at a party in Manhattan thrown in his honour by his editors at the New York Times, he was warm and inclusive, but, even in casual conversation, there is a palpable alertness about him that intrigues. He seems acutely conscious, too, of his own place in the intellectual firmament. In Known and Strange Things, he revealed that his antidote to insomnia was to “rise from my bed and watch Jacques Derrida talk”. In his deftly elegant takedown of Naipaul, there is also the distinct suggestion that a literary baton is being passed from the older master to the heir apparent.

Cole’s precocious literary talent must surely have been honed in childhood. Born in Michigan, he was taken back to Nigeria as a child by his parents when they had completed their studies. His upbringing, he says, was solidly middle-class and aspirational. His father worked in middle management and his mother was a school teacher; both instilled in him the notion that “the child had to do better in education than their peers”. When he travelled to America in the early 90s to commence his own college education, he felt he was returning home. “For sure, I had conflict and a certain nervousness, but not the kind that comes from thinking of oneself as an immigrant. I had a sense of my rights as an American. There was a period of adjustment – there still is – but the feeling I have sometimes of being lost in the world is more to do with my own personality than America.”

Cole studied art and art history at Kalamazoo College, Michigan – “a good liberal college with the kind of leafy campus you get in American campus novels” – and later tried and failed to apply himself to a degree in medicine, in part to appease his parents. That failure haunted him for a while and, he says, he suffered from a bout of depression around that time. “I had no money, no time to read or go to concerts and I felt starved of that. Plus, I was very cold in Michigan and isolated. For two years, I was struggling to do well when I was used to doing well. I do not want to dwell on it but, for a time, I was phenomenally not myself. All the things you hear about depression were there.”"



"
In Open City, his descriptions of his New York evince a keen, roving attentiveness reminiscent of the city’s great street photographers: Garry Winogrand, Meyerowitz and Leiter are presences in his prose alongside the more often cited Berger and WG Sebald. Cole, as he is keen to point out, has been taking photographs longer than he has been writing fiction. In Every Day Is for the Thief, the text is punctuated by Cole’s black-and-white photographs evoking the swaggering, chaotic thrust of Lagos, his childhood home.

In both novels, Cole’s writing style recalls Christopher Isherwood’s celebrated description of his own prose: “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Some day, all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed.”

Cole cites the great experimental film-maker Chris Marker as perhaps the crucial influence in his novels. “In his great film, Sans Soleil, Marker moves between zooming out and watching the flow of life and zooming in to look at the pattern of the details of everyday experience. He is not telling you one thing about a place, but allowing it all to come in and making the connections visible. He is a major influence on Open City and even more on Blind Spot, where the subject itself is that kind of interconnectedness.”

In many ways, then, Blind Spot continues in the vein of Teju Cole’s fiction. This time around, though, he is the peripatetic narrator on an altogether more epic global journey through cities in which he is often a lone stranger. The experience of travel – by air as well as wandering alone on land – is central here. Since the success of Open City, Cole has travelled extensively – to literary festivals, teaching programmes, writer’s residencies and promotional events. As the novelist Siri Hustvedt puts it in her introduction: “Teju Cole really gets around.” Thus, each photograph and fragment of prose is grounded in a specific location: Auckland, Basel, Chicago, Lagos, Nairobi, New York, Paris and so forth. “In each place I have travelled,” he writes, “I have used my camera as an extension of my memory.”

The images, and the reflections that follow from them, are also a way of fixing moments that might otherwise be lost in the sheer overload of global memories he has stored in his head in a relatively short time. “Certain experiences became more vivid as I was walking around and thinking about what I was photographing,” he elaborates. “In central Bali, for instance, there was an afternoon that has survived very clearly and vividly in my memory but also in the false memory of the photographs I took that day. They are stilled moments, fragments from a much bigger experience, a film that could only have been captured with a camera attached to my head.”

Given that he takes his camera with him wherever he goes, how visible a presence is he when he shoots on the street? He laughs, anticipating the underlying thrust of my question. “Well, a solitary black tourist is not a common sight in Switzerland or Kathmandu or northern Italy or even in upstate New York,” he says, ruefully, “so, I am already a little strange. But, there is a way in which having the camera makes me more free. It is a kind of invisibility cloak, especially when you are on a strange street far from home. But, oddly enough, I was more free in Kathmandu than in Lagos. The first assumption everywhere is, ‘there is a black tourist’ – but, in Nigeria, that question becomes more complex. There is more suspicion.”"



"“One of the responses to all that is to do the work I do. My essays are not political in the main, but they are trying to advance a humanist argument. Likewise, my photographs are complex, but I hope, … [more]
tejucole  2017  johnberger  blindspot  photography  writing  howwewrite  opencity  chrismarker  fiction  experience  invisibility  sanssoleil  christopherisherwood  garrywinogand  wgsebald  depression 
june 2017 by robertogreco
On losing John Berger | 226 Autumn 2017 | Alison Croggon | Overland literary journal
"Today I read that you had died.

I can’t stop the ache in my throat, the breaking pressure in my chest, even though you are no more absent to me now than you have ever been. I only knew you through your writing: novels, essays, poems – and once a letter, written in blue biro on the back of a bill, in response to one of mine.

I wish I had met you. In a way, I did: I met you through the particular intimacy you offer every reader. It’s an intimacy that always holds the necessary space. You write words with air around them, words in which another might find herself and thus find the world. Your writing always turns us outwards, to our own worlds and to the worlds in which others live.

When I think of you, I think of water. Your work wells out of broken ground and flows with increasing vigour towards an uncertain horizon; a deepening confluence of clear energies, gathering into itself all the colours of the skies it runs beneath. It’s your reticence, your fierce honesty, your humour, your courteous attention to all things. The transparencies of the self you lay down on paper. For you, everything holds the same unending miracle of being. You listen to stones and to children; you are as fascinated by the making of soup as by the complexities of art. Every thing is holy.

So often you surprise me with tears. Not because you manipulate emotions, but because you do the opposite: you invite a recognition of feeling that rises innocently through layers of scars, illuminating the present beauties that surround us always – even in the darker times, even in the darker places. Some people say you are sentimental because you are so unafraid of the naked expression of feeling, but they are wrong. You know there is no division between intellect and feeling. You understand that, just as feeling without intelligence is a reduction of human capacity, intellect without feeling is warped and truncated, a damaged and damaging thing.

For a Marxist, you are an exemplary Christian. I think the only human hierarchy you respect is from Corinthians: So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Your work is always, in the most unillusioned of ways, about love. It is love stripped of the sentimental glaze that transforms it into a lie, love that embraces without possession, love that knows how to let go, how to suffer, how to leave, how to celebrate, how to laugh. You know laughter is a resistance against the worst things.

That is why we, your readers, love you.

You are never above anything. You always insist on holding open the space of beauty, unembarrassed by its extravagance or humility, attentive to all its motley and various hues, its grandeurs, its minutiae. You understand the eye’s desire to colonise and possess, the rapacious claim the gaze makes over everything it sees, and you resist everything that means. You show instead how the eye might become a generous organ, how perception might be a conduit of quiet attention, a witness to a relationship that is always transient and mortal, a space in which everything is permitted to exist in its own time, for its own reasons.

You obey every human imperative except power. Perhaps that is what I most admire. So few of us are able to extricate ourselves from that spiritual criminality; so few of us can see the world freed from that distorting lens. Without ever claiming a lack of complicity – something that is available to none of us – you say no. Your denunciation is absolute. You chronicle the murderous, soul-killing ideologies of our time. You turn and listen to those who have no power, and you never judge them. But for those who have power, for those whose greed is closing its fist over our planet, for those whose only measure of worth is money, your judgment is pitiless.

I am so sad today, but it is a selfish mourning. It is me I mourn – the me who lived in a world where you too were breathing. You lived generously and lovingly, awake to the end. I wish we may all live so well. Now you will always exist in the present tense. Your gifts remain, not to be mourned, but to be taken and used. The world is not darker because you have died. It is brighter because you were alive."
2017  johnberger  alisoncroggon  listening  writing  marxism  christianity  resistance  learning  humility  grace  power 
april 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger on Ways of Seeing, being an artist, and Marxism (2011) - Newsnight archives - YouTube
"John Berger - artist, writer, critic and broadcaster - has died at the age of 90. His best-known work was Ways of Seeing, a criticism of western cultural aesthetics. For Newsnight, Gavin Esler, met him back in 2011."
johnberger  spinoz  descartes  gavinesler  2011  marxism  waysofseeing  seeing  storytelling  lenses  correction  iteration  bento'ssketchbook  looking  culture  aesthetics  future  progress  justice  dignity  capitalism  growth  storytellers  art  artists 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Letter: John Berger was generous with his knowledge | Film | The Guardian
"In 1972, while a student at the London Film School, I directed, with a team of other students, a film based on John Berger’s book A Fortunate Man, for the British Film Institute. Being young and inexperienced, I was extremely nervous about asking John if we could use his book as a basis for a film, knowing how publishers and agents guard their intellectual property. But with just one phone call to John everything was agreed. He maintained that the ideas contained within the book were, in his words, “open to all”.

That was typical of Berger, a generous and open-minded man who encouraged young people to make the most of their opportunities."
open  openness  johnberger  2017  generosity  jeffperks  mentorship  ideas 
january 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger and Susan Sontag / To Tell A Story (1983) - YouTube
"John Berger and Susan Sontag exchange ideas on the 'lost art' of storytelling, 1983."

[via: "Art for him was never something apart from the business of being alive. He was grounded. He struck me as a man who was both supremely astute and perceptive, and a sentimentalist. He could be a wonderfully engaging companion. A 1983 television debate with Susan Sontag – both wrestling with what a story could be – remains electrifying, mostly because they were both struggling with thoughts and ideas rather than trading certainties."
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jan/02/adrian-searle-on-john-berger-art-for-him-was-never-apart-from-being-alive ]
johnberger  susansontag  1983  storytelling  oral  oraltradition  howwethink  thinking  companionship  listening  conversation  certainty  uncertainty  conformity  reality  absurdity  meaning  fantasy 
january 2017 by robertogreco
'Such freedom is unthinkable today' – my life making television with John Berger | Television & radio | The Guardian
"I still have all the versions of the four scripts for Ways of Seeing. Looking at them now, after 45 years, I’m struck and moved by two things. The first is how much John wrote and rewrote – either at home in Geneva or in a back room of his parents’ flat in London – right up to the moment of filming, and then further modified during the edit, when something wasn’t quite right or we thought of a better idea. The second is John’s beautifully fluid and legible handwriting, which is very revealing about the way he thought – tentative and exploratory, never dogmatic, just trying to get something clear in his mind. He always used a fountain pen, with black ink, and the pages are full of crossings out, with single words added or sentences rephrased and stuck on with Sellotape.

On one script he wrote: “Dear Mike, here’s script No 2. Please remember all I said about it on the phone. Criticise, improvise, change, improve, cancel out, as much as you want or see how to. Or even we can begin again. All I would stand by is the essential idea …”

This exemplary approach to collaboration perfectly characterised our relationship on Ways of Seeing and on subsequent films together. That does not mean the process was always easy and free of tension – with John it was never like that – but the arguments when they arose were always open and equal (he never pulled rank), and ultimately resolved, not by theory, but by trying out an idea to see if it worked. And I often remember us laughing. John, I will miss you."
johnberger  2017  mikedibb  collaboration  writing  howwewrite  revision  criticism  relationships  handwriting  editing  clarity  howwethink  thinking 
january 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger 1926-2017: an appreciation | Books | The Guardian
"I first rang John Berger more than a year ago – I had been given his number by his publisher to arrange a date to meet him in Paris. I mentioned that November was a busy month, to which he responded in a warm, conspiratorial tone: that was good – because he would be away throughout the month and could not say when next he would be free. The sense was – charming, if not helpful in professional terms – that we would agree not to meet unless or until it suited us. The clear subtext was: let the bosses go hang. I put the phone down – amused but then anxious that I had missed my opportunity to meet the great man – storyteller, art critic, artist. Months passed and then Berger’s 90th birthday was on the horizon – a new excuse to meet. I still had his mobile number and, this time, we made our date without fuss.

The trouble was – and typical that this should happen en route to meeting a man I admired so much – his address. There is more than one Avenue du Onze Novembre and they exist in distinct, far-flung areas of Paris. I was on a suburban train when Berger rang to check my progress and we ascertained I was heading at speed in completely the wrong direction (my slapdash approach to Google maps to blame). When I eventually arrived, a flustered cab ride later, he and his companion, Nella Bielski, must have been staring at the lunch Nella had prepared for almost an hour. They could not have been nicer, Berger smilingly making light of all my apologies with what I would discover to be his defining quality: kindness.

In their company, the procedure of an interview seemed bad form. How much more agreeable to talk over lunch through the ebbing Parisian afternoon. And that, with huge enjoyment on my part, is what we mainly did. As to any sense that Berger himself was ebbing, only his painful back seemed to insist he was mortal. He planned to get back on his motorbike and swim again (as soon as his back obliged). Even allowing for the frailty of being 90, there was fire in him. We talked about art, politics and literature and, above all, his love of family and friends. He told me he was intending to give only one major pre-birthday interview – this was it. Neither of us knew it would be his last. “Come and see us again next time you are in Paris,” he said."
johnberger  kindness  2017  katekellaway  family  friendship  art  politics  literature  company 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Letter: John Berger’s European haunts | Books | The Guardian
"In 1974, at the start of his marriage to Beverly Bancroft, he moved to Quincy, the agricultural village in the Alps that was to remain their family home. I first met John in the same year, as one of the four founders of the Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative. John was one of several established writers who decided that small publishing, with decision-making in the hands of those who actually made what the industry sold, was a good thing.

He enjoyed collaboration. While he did not put money into the group, he made its financial existence easier by not taking advances when books were published, and was there to advise, finding pleasure in going to meetings when he was in London. I imagine it was a similar pleasure to that he took in being part of the community in Quincy, where everyone participated in haymaking, and John’s table was ever busy with neighbours deliberating on problems or engaging in that gossip which is also storytelling.

Writers and Readers started an art list, republishing Berger’s backlist, including A Painter of Our Time. There was also the brilliant A Fortunate Man – standard reading for all GPs – and his new books. In the way of 1970s collectives, the organisation fell apart in the early 80s. But John and I remained fast friends. We didn’t always agree on politics, but his sense of justice was ever an inspiration and his volcanic laugh a joy. We even went on to win the Scott Moncrieff prize for literary translation together, for Nella Bielski’s The Year Is ’42 (2004).

When I published Losing the Dead (2014), a memoir about my parents’ war and its aftermath, he gave me a drawing he had made inspired by Rembrandt’s The Polish Rider. He was extraordinarily generous, and paid singular attention to young writers and artists, let alone to people needing a hand or a lift. A true listener, he said it was what his storytelling was all about. He listened with an ear for everything, not only what was spoken. And he managed in his encounters and in his stories, as well as his essays, somehow to confront despair and turn it into hope."
johnberger  generosity  publishing  2017  mentorship  attention  listening  lisaappignanesi  collaboration  friendship  europe  politics  hope  despair 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Adrian Searle on John Berger: 'Art for him was never apart from being alive' | Books | The Guardian
"I cannot overestimate John Berger’s importance to me. It wasn’t so much his critical opinions or insights I valued, so much as the man himself, whose vitality and receptiveness to the things about him had a force I have rarely encountered.

It was his freedom as a writer I admired most. He had both backbone and playfulness, approaching things at tangents but always illuminating his subjects in unexpected and often disconcerting ways. In his groundbreaking 1972 television series, Ways of Seeing, Berger described the purposes of art, and artists’ intentions, in ways that felt flexible, undogmatic and grounded both in experience and in delight. He helped us look for ourselves, which is the best a critic can do.

Berger provoked intense loyalties and animosities. There were those who saw his defence of vernacular art as waging war against modernism, a man fighting a rearguard action against all kinds of artistic progress. This was oversimplistic, as his writing shows. I got to know Berger largely through our mutual friendship with the late Spanish artist Juan Muñoz. In the mid 1990s Muñoz and Berger collaborated on a radio play, which won a big prize in Germany and in 2005 was turned into a stage production at the Casa Encendida in Madrid. Berger, acting the part of a radio chatshow host, fielded imaginary calls and talked about illusion and presence and Goya’s dog, while an elderly Turkish foley artist, seated on the edge of the stage, provided sound effects. Already almost 80, Berger performed under sweltering stage lights in the Madrid summer heat and never lost his cool. Although there were several other actors in the work, it was almost a solo performance. John carried it; he had presence.

I asked Berger if he had ever wanted to be an actor and he admitted that he had been approached by an agent who encouraged him to go on the stage after seeing him perform in the annual Chelsea School of Art student revue. His stage presence and manner reminded me, disconcertingly, of Frankie Howerd. He was a natural and one of the reasons Ways of Seeing was so good was that he never came over as the patrician smart-arse superior critic. He made you feel he was thinking on his feet, right there in front of you. John would screw up his face and affect an expression somewhere between bewilderment and anguish, before launching into an argument that seemed to arrive fully formed. He was enormously compelling. He made me aware that writing itself was performative.

He reminisced about his time sharing a Paris apartment with the young David Sylvester, who never let go of an early falling out. It had something to do with Berger’s complaints about Sylvester leaving his “voluminous underpants” draped over a chair in a shared room in the early 1950s. Sylvester, I always thought, was jealous of Berger’s abilities as a writer of fiction as well as of art, though his career-long public animosity was also about Berger’s left-wing politics and his championing of socially engaged art.

It strikes me that art for Berger was the beginning of a journey of his own, a way of igniting responses and provoking thoughts. He approached art with a kind of innocent curiosity. He had enthusiasms I couldn’t share (from Soviet artist Ernst Neizvestny to British painter Maggi Hambling) but was open to work as diverse as Rachel Whiteread’s House and Muñoz’s enigmatic figurations. There are things I wish he had written on, but never did. If he was wrong about Picasso (whom he called a “vertical invader”, slicing through tradition) or just plain weird about Francis Bacon (whose paintings he once compared to Walt Disney animations – though Berger later revised his opinion) it didn’t matter. His ideas remained useful, because they always felt part of a bigger, ongoing conversation. It is healthy for a critic to beware of fixed opinions.

Whatever he did, Berger was a teller of stories, and alert to the complexities of all kinds of art-making and writing. Dip into him anywhere – an essay on Courbet, on drawing hands, or Roman Egypt funerary portraiture – whatever it is, his subject is vivid on the page. His writing is filled with insights. That he trained as a painter gave him a sympathy and understanding of the act of making and its difficulties – rare among critics now.

Intensely observant, Berger had the ability to focus the smallest quotidian detail – a penknife in a boy’s pocket, or a pear grown inside a bottle in a farmer’s orchard, bringing in the cows or sharpening a pencil – in order to tell us something about life and human relations, in an unending chain of acts and expressions. Everything he wrote has humour in it as well as sorrow. His writing never forgets the vagaries of the everyday. He revelled in all this.

Art for him was never something apart from the business of being alive. He was grounded. He struck me as a man who was both supremely astute and perceptive, and a sentimentalist. He could be a wonderfully engaging companion. A 1983 television debate with Susan Sontag – both wrestling with what a story could be – remains electrifying, mostly because they were both struggling with thoughts and ideas rather than trading certainties. Always worth reading, even when one disagrees with him, Berger went his own way, which was the only way to go."
johnberger  adriansearle  2017  art  everyday  publishing  life  living  susansontag  thinking  howwethink  storytelling  conversation  politics  lowbrow  highbrow  presence  performance  waysofseeing  delight  experience  vitality  companionship 
january 2017 by robertogreco
I do not recognise the stereotype of John Berger as a dour Marxist – his work embodied hope | Books | The Guardian
"John Berger had the most amazing eyes. I do not mean that in the abstract, though it is true; his way of seeing the world has become part of the way we understand visual culture. I am thinking simply of those great baby blues. He was never not looking. He was a painter and he took up photography at one point but gave it up because once you have taken a picture “you stop looking at what you’ve shot. I was more interested in looking. I think I gave my camera away.”

When I heard he’d died at the great age of 90, of course I thought of his eyes, of what it was like to have them focused on you – he did that to everyone, it was absolutely compelling. To be human for him meant always seeing, listening, exchanging.

He wrote to me out of the blue when I was a film critic. It was the most brilliant letter of warmth and encouragement that had me floating with joy. He wrote many such letters to many people. It is what he did, that old-fashioned thing: engagement.

He wrote to me about the nature of criticism. Like many, I was interested in criticism as a result of his work, because of the idea that criticism could be radical, that it was a conversation not an evaluation. Yes, that remains idealistic as we live in a world where criticism is debased to stars, to a TripAdvisor mentality that requires no thought or knowledge whatsoever, the precursor to the sneering at experts mentality.

But in 1972 Berger had shown what could be achieved. His TV series and book, Ways of Seeing, remain revelatory. He blew up everything we thought we “knew” about art and its reproduction. He said: “The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled”, freeing up a space for us to wonder about meaning. This is quite beautiful to me still, this wondering.

A letter from Berger was an invitation to be somehow involved in one of his myriad projects – a film, a novel, an idea – so I did meet him, but more often we talked on the phone. Not about geopolitics, though of course he was one of the first people to grasp that migration, “forced or chosen, across national frontiers or from village to metropolis”, was “the quintessential experience of our time”. Instead, he might call to ask how best to describe dreadlocks (dreads or locks?), or about my children, or what colour I was painting the kitchen. This amuses me now, this chatting about the details, but he always wanted the details. The everyday was not trivial to him.

That may be why I simply do not recognise him in some of the snippy obits in which he has been reduced to the stereotype of the dour Marxist. He was the complete opposite. I guess the challenge he presented still stands. Nor is he reducible to a methodology of decoding. This is to miss all his stories, poems and thinking that were so grounded in the material. One does not have to like all his work or agree with his various political stances (many could not stomach his stance on Rushdie) to see his significance is huge.

In any situation where political power was in play, his very instinct was to side with the powerless. He was undeniably a romantic. But everything went back to experience in the end.

Episode two of Ways of Seeing remains seared on my mind. Remarkable television, so far from how the 70s is now often envisioned. Here, Berger talks about the difference between being naked and nude, explaining who owns the gaze – men. Men act and women appear. He talks of how women always survey themselves, even in moments of grief. Then, halfway through the programme, he says that he has shown images of women but not heard their voices so hands over the discussion to a group of women, while he listens and smokes.

Here then are the beginnings of understanding how visual culture – art, TV, film, advertising – depicts women for the presumed male spectator/owner’s pleasure. Feminists took this much further and still use these insights. No wonder Kenneth Clark, Auberon Waugh, Stephen Spender et al – the old elite – did not like Berger. This was an oppositional reading of “their” culture.

Berger’s way of seeing, I came to understand, was a way of being. Here was a public intellectual who never divvied up the world into “politics” and “culture”, a learned man who shied away from academia but could talk to anyone. He knew observation has consequences. He knew that not from theory but because he rode a motorbike.

As he trained his eyes and his ears on whoever he was with, this intense listening meant he was a wonderful storyteller of searing moral clarity. He always seemed to know, implicitly, that protest and anger derive from hope. His work embodies the hope involved in our everyday human exchanges, whatever the circumstances. His very being radiated it.

“Hope,” he once said, “is a contraband passed from hand to hand and story to story.” What contraband. What treasure. I am for ever grateful for it."
johnberger  suzannemoore  2017  hope  marxism  storytelling  listening  seeing  power  powerlessness  politics  waysofseeing  wonder  wondering  engagement  criticism  feminism  kennethclark  auberonwaugh  stephenspender 
january 2017 by robertogreco
A letter to Rosa Luxemburg
"The socialist pioneer Rosa Luxemburg was killed in Berlin in 1919. In 2015, John Berger sits down to write a letter to her."



"Of the eighteen birds on the labels, I perhaps recognise five.

The boxes are full of matches with green striking heads. Sixty in each box. The same as seconds in a minute and minutes in an hour. Each one a potential flame.

“The modern proletarian class,” you wrote, “doesn’t carry out its struggle according to a plan set out in some book or theory; the modern worker’s struggle is a part of history, a part of social progress, and in the middle of history, in the middle of progress, in the middle of the fight, we learn how we must fight.”

On the lid of the cardboard box there is a short explanatory note addressed to matchbox-label collectors (phillumenists, as they are called) in the USSR of the 1970s.

The note gives the following information: in evolutionary terms birds preceded animals, in the world today there are an estimated 5,000 species of birds, in the Soviet Union there are 400 species of songbirds, in general it is the male birds who sing, songbirds have specially developed vocal chords at the bottom of their throats, they usually nest in bushes or trees or on the ground, they are an aid to cereal agriculture because they eat and thus eliminate hordes of insects, recently in the remotest areas of the Soviet Union three new species of singing sparrows have been identified.

Janine kept the box on her kitchen windowsill. It gave her pleasure and in the winter it reminded her of birds singing.

When you were imprisoned for vehemently opposing the First World War, you listened to a blue titmouse “who always stayed close to my window, came with the others to be fed, and diligently sang its funny little song, tsee-tsee-bay, but it sounded like the mischievous teasing of a child. It always made me laugh and I would answer with the same call. Then the bird vanished with the others at the beginning of this month, no doubt nesting elsewhere. I had seen and heard nothing of it for weeks. Yesterday its well-known notes came suddenly from the other side of the wall which separates our courtyard from another part of the prison; but it was considerably altered, for the bird called three times in brief succession, tsee-tsee-bay, tsee-tsee-bay, tsee-tsee-bay, and then all was still. It went to my heart, for there was so much conveyed by this hasty call from the distance – a whole history of bird life.”"
johnberger  rosaluxemburg  2015  birds  objects  matches  matchboxes  phillumenists  imprisonment  freedom  proletariat  struggle  living 
january 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger remembered – by Geoff Dyer, Olivia Laing, Ali Smith and Simon McBurney | Books | The Guardian
"Ali Smith

I heard John Berger speaking at the end of 2015 in London at the British Library. Someone in the audience talked about A Seventh Man, his 1975 book about mass migrancy in which he says: “To try to understand the experience of another it is necessary to dismantle the world as seen from one’s own place within it and to reassemble it as seen from his.”

The questioner asked what Berger thought about the huge movement of people across the world. He put his head in his hands and sat and thought; he didn’t say anything at all for what felt like a long time, a thinking space that cancelled any notion of soundbite. When he answered, what he spoke about ostensibly seemed off on a tangent. He said: “I have been thinking about the storyteller’s responsibility to be hospitable.”

As he went on, it became clear how revolutionary, hopeful and astute his thinking was. The act of hospitality, he suggested, is ancient and contemporary and at the core of every story we’ve ever told or listened to about ourselves – deny it, and you deny all human worth. He talked about the art act’s deep relationship with this, and with inclusion. Then he gave us a definition of fascism: one set of human beings believing it has the right to cordon off and decide about another set of human beings.

A few minutes with Berger and a better world, a better outcome, wasn’t fantasy or imaginary, it was impetus – possible, feasible, urgent and clear. It wasn’t that another world was possible; it was that this world, if we looked differently, and responded differently, was differently possible.

His readers are the inheritors, across all the decades of his work, of a legacy that will always reapprehend the possibilities. We inherit his routing of the “power-shit” of everyday corporate hierarchy and consumerism, his determined communality, his ethos of unselfishness in a solipsistic world, his procreative questioning of the given shape of things, his articulate compassion, the relief of that articulacy. We inherit writing that won’t ever stop giving. A reader coming anywhere near his work encounters life-force, thought-force – and the force, too, of the love all through it.

It’s not just hard, it’s impossible, to think about what he’s given us over the years in any past tense. Everything about this great thinker, one of the great art writers, the greatest responders, is vital – and response and responsibility in Berger’s work always make for a fusion of thought and art as a force for the understanding, the seeing more clearly and the making better of the world we’re all citizens of. But John Berger gone? In the dark times, what’ll we do without him? Try to live up to him, to pay what Simone Weil called (as he notes in his essay about her) “creative attention”. The full Weil quote goes: “Love for our neighbour, being made of creative attention, is analogous to genius.”

Berger’s genius is its own fertile continuum – radical, brilliant, gentle, uncompromising – in the paying of an attention that shines with the fierce intelligence, the loving clarity of the visionary he was, is, and always will be.

***

Geoff Dyer

There is a long and distinguished tradition of aspiring writers meeting the writer they most revere only to discover that he or she has feet of clay. Sometimes it doesn’t stop at the feet – it can be legs, chest and head too – so that the disillusionment taints one’s feelings about the work, even about the trade itself. I count it one of my life’s blessings that the first great writer I ever met – the writer I admired above all others – turned out to be an exemplary human being. Nothing that has happened in the 30-odd years since then has diminished my love of the books or of the man who wrote them.

It was 1984. John Berger, who had radically altered and enlarged my ideas of what a book could be, was in London for the publication of And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos. I interviewed him for Marxism Today. He was 58, the age I am now. The interview went well but he seemed relieved when it was over – because, he said, now we could go to a pub and talk properly.

It was the highpoint of my life. My contemporaries had jobs, careers – some even owned houses – but I was in a pub with John Berger. He urged me to send him things I’d written – not the interview, he didn’t care about that, he wanted to read my own stuff. He wrote back enthusiastically. He was always encouraging. A relationship cannot be sustained on the basis of reverence and we soon settled into being friends.

The success and acclaim he enjoyed as a writer allowed him to be free of petty vanities, to concentrate on what he was always so impatient to achieve: relationships of equality. That’s why he was such a willing collaborator – and such a good friend to so many people, from all walks of life, from all over the world. There was no limit to his generosity, to his capacity to give. This did more than keep him young; it combined with a kind of negative pessimism to enable him to withstand the setbacks dished out by history. In an essay on Leopardi he proposed “that we are not living in a world in which it is possible to construct something approaching heaven-on-earth, but, on the contrary, are living in a world whose nature is far closer to that of hell; what difference would this make to any single one of our political or moral choices? We would be obliged to accept the same obligations and participate in the same struggle as we are already engaged in; perhaps even our sense of solidarity with the exploited and suffering would be more single-minded. All that would have changed would be the enormity of our hopes and finally the bitterness of our disappointments.”

While his work was influential and admired, its range – in both subject matter and form – makes it difficult to assess adequately. Ways of Seeing is his equivalent of Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert: a bravura performance that sometimes ends up as a substitute for or distraction from the larger body of work to which it serves as an introduction. In 1969 he put forward Art and Revolution “as the best example I have achieved of what I consider to be the critical method”, but it is in the numerous shorter pieces that he was at his best as a writer on art. (These diverse pieces have been assembled by Tom Overton in Portraits to form a chronological history of art.)

No one has ever matched Berger’s ability to help us look at paintings or photographs “more seeingly”, as Rilke put it in a letter about Cézanne. Think of the essay “Turner and the Barber’s Shop” in which he invites us to consider some of the late paintings in light of things the young boy saw in his dad’s barber shop: “water, froth, steam, gleaming metal, clouded mirrors, white bowls or basins in which soapy liquid is agitated by the barber’s brush and detritus deposited”.

Berger brought immense erudition to his writing but, as with DH Lawrence, everything had to be verified by appeal to his senses. He did not need a university education – he once spoke scathingly of a thinker who, when he wanted to find something out, took down a book from a shelf – but he was reliant, to the end, on his art school discipline of drawing. If he looked long and hard enough at anything it would either yield its secrets or, failing that, enable him to articulate why the withheld mystery constituted its essence. This holds true not just for the writings on art but also the documentary studies (of a country doctor in A Fortunate Man and of migrant labour in A Seventh Man), the novels, the peasant trilogy Into Their Labours, and the numerous books that refuse categorisation. Whatever their form or subject the books are jam-packed with observations so precise and delicate that they double as ideas – and vice versa. “The moment at which a piece of music begins provides a clue to the nature of all art,” he writes in “The Moment of Cubism”. In Here Is Where We Meet he imagines “travelling alone between Kalisz and Kielce a hundred and fifty years ago. Between the two names there would always have been a third – the name of your horse.”

The last time we met was a few days before Christmas 2015, in London. There were five of us: my wife and I, John (then 89), the writer Nella Bielski (in her late 70s) and the painter Yvonne Barlow (91), who had been his girlfriend when they were still teenagers. Jokingly, I asked, “So, what was John like when he was 17?” “He was exactly like he is now,” she replied, as though it were yesterday. “He was always so kind.” All that interested him about his own life, he once wrote, were the things he had in common with other people. He was a brilliant writer and thinker; but it was his lifelong kindness that she emphasised.

The film Walk Me Home which he co- wrote and acted in was, in his opinion, “a balls-up” but in it Berger utters a line that I think of constantly – and quote from memory – now: “When I die I want to be buried in land that no one owns.” In land, that is, that belongs to us all.

***

Olivia Laing

The only time I saw John Berger speak was at the 2015 British Library event. He clambered on to the stage, short, stocky, shy, his extraordinary hewn face topped with snowy curls. After each question he paused for a long time, tugging on his hair and writhing in his seat, physically wrestling with the demands of speech. It struck me then how rare it is to see a writer on stage actually thinking, and how glib and polished most speakers are. For Berger, thought was work, as taxing and rewarding as physical labour, a bringing of something real into the world. You have to strive and sweat; the act is urgent but might also fail.

He talked that evening about the need for hospitality. It was such a Bergerish notion. Hospitality: the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers, a word that … [more]
johnberger  2017  geoffdyer  olivialaing  alismith  simonmcburney  marxism  capitalism  migration  soundbites  hospitality  storytelling  hope  hopefulness  utopia  hierarchy  consumerism  compassion  unselfishness  questioning  skepticism  simoneweil  creativeattention  attention  goldenrule  humanism  encouragement  relationships  friendship  equality  giving  generosity  solidarity  suffering  seeing  noticing  looking  observation  senses  kindness  commonality  belonging  ownership  thinking  howwethink  care  caring  blackpanthers  blackpantherparty  clarity  money  communalism  narrowness  alls  difference  openness  crosspollination  hosting  hosts  guests  strangers  enemies  listening  canon  payingattention  audience  audiencesofone  laughter  resistance  existence  howtolive  living  life  howwelive  refuge  writing  certainty  tenderness 
january 2017 by robertogreco
For Teju Cole, John Berger was a kindred spirit | Public Radio International
"You may never have heard of John Berger.

But the English writer and artist, who died this week at 90, changed how countless art students thought about art and maybe even the world.

His 1972 television series and book ''Ways of Seeing" was designed to upend traditional, and what he termed elitist, ways of evaluating art work.

But Berger wasn’t just an art critic. He was also a novelist.

His book, “G,”, a non-linear account of a man travelling around Europe before World War One, won the Booker Prize.

And on top of his novels, he also wrote essays, about everything from his springtime tradition of cleaning out his outhouse, to the lives of migrant workers in Europe.

For author Teju Cole, who also writes novels, art criticism, and political treatises, Berger was a kind of role model.

“It wasn’t just a gathering of many different kinds of things together that made his work influential on me,” says Cole, “it was the particular kinds of things that he gravitated towards. When I started to read him I realized those were the kinds of things I very much cared about.”

Cole says he and Berger wrestle with many of the same questions: “How do you write about photographs?’’ “How do you think about drawing and about art?” “How do you bring the energies of poetry into prose?”

“I was already on a path,” says Cole. “Then I saw, here was this master, who had actually cleared the road.”

In 2014, Cole and Berger even hosted an event together in Ferrara, Italy, called “What We Have In Common.”

Cole fondly remembers sharing a several bottles of wine with Berger that trip.

But he says that one moment that felt especially important to him was when they were sitting backstage together, in the dark, waiting to be called up for their event.

Berger turned to Cole, and made a kind of observation.

“The time before the curtain rises and one goes on stage is a very special species of time", Cole remembers Berger telling him. “Where everything is still held in abeyance, and the moment is still full of potential.”

“And I thought to myself I might be the luckiest human being alive,” Cole says, “because John Berger is unfolding an unwritten essay for me, in real time. We’re sitting, just the two of us, backstage, with no audience, and his mind, which was so avid for what could be interesting about the world, big moments as well as tiny moments, never stops.”

And that, says Cole, kind of sums up the kind of person Berger was.

Lately, Cole has been thinking a lot about one of Berger’s books — in particular a collection of short stories called “Here is Where We Meet.”

In this collection, which came out in 2005, Berger has conversations with friends and relatives who have died.

This is one of Cole’s favorite books.

“Part of the storytelling is about memory,” Cole explains, “but part of it is about how the dead have not gone away. … [They] are always with us, actually supporting us.”

It’s a support that Cole says he is beginning to feel now.

“I felt rather bereft this week,” says Cole, “but as the days passed, I realized that all our encounters -- in person, a little bit in correspondence, and huge, two decades long in his writing -- all of that will always remain vivid and visible to me.”"
johnberger  tejucole  2017  hereiswherewemeet  writing  howwewrite  art  arthistory  artcriticism  drawing  politics 
january 2017 by robertogreco
The Seasons in Quincy
[trailer:
https://vimeo.com/150618861
https://vimeo.com/148352867 ]

"The Seasons in Quincy is the result of a five-year project by Tilda Swinton, Colin MacCabe and Christopher Roth to produce a portrait of the intellectual and storyteller John Berger. It was produced by the Derek Jarman Lab, an audio-visual hub for graduate filmmaking based at Birkbeck, University of London, in collaboration with the composer Simon Fisher Turner.

In 1973 Berger abandoned the metropolis to live in the tiny Alpine village of Quincy. He realized that subsistence peasant farming, which had sustained humanity for millennia, was drawing to an historical close. He determined to spend the rest of his life bearing witness to this vanishing existence, not least by participating in it. Berger’s trilogy Into their Labours chronicles the peasant life of this Alpine village and its surrounding countryside. Our portrait places Berger in the rhythm of the seasons in Quincy."
johnberger  documentary  towatch  derekjarman  tildaswinton  colinmaccabe  christopherroth 
january 2017 by robertogreco
When looking became seeing - Creative Review
"When John Berger’s BBC television series Ways of Seeing was transformed into a paperback book in 1972, its design owed much to its origins on screen. Forty years on from its first publication, it remains both an influential text and a pioneering example of the visual essay"



"Yet at its 40th anniversary, Ways of Seeing’s longevity exists largely because of the paperback book which followed the television series in the same year, a co-production from BBC Publications and Penguin. While the four programmes have been re-shown on the BBC (and were screened at the BFI in London earlier this month as part of its Berger season), they only really exist in any watchable form on the internet, in a batch of low res fragments.

The book has much more permanence: it remains not only in print, but as a set text on art and visual culture courses, and Richard Hollis’s design – in particular, his radical treatment of the book’s text and images – is lauded as a pioneering example of the visual essay.

“Everyone knows the book, and because it has a higher cultural standing than the TV programmes, people think it came first,” says Dibb. “But the book would never have been the way it is, if we hadn’t have made the series.”

Hollis’s clean placement of Berger’s text, interspersed with a litany of famous paintings, remains accessible and lucid, but its debt to the television series is notable. Hollis’s aim was to replicate the experience of watching and listening, but in print. “You can have a voiceover on television,” he says, “you can be looking and listening, and it was trying to get as near to that as possible.”


Hollis also treated Berger’s text in a new way. Deciding to set it in sans-serif Univers was one thing, but making it bold seemed to declare its difference from the traditional art book, as much as replicate Berger’s buoyant on-screen delivery.

“I wanted the text to be heavy, so that it was as heavy as the image,” says Hollis. “The idea being that you couldn’t read one without the other. I tried to make the text insistent.” In the majority of art books of the time, he recalls, “you tended to have rather spidery text, so people would go through the book and look at the pictures. There might be an explanatory caption, but often [there was] just an identification. So that’s why we kept the references to what things were in Ways of Seeing as minimal as possible, so that people would look at a picture, not because it was a Vermeer, but because it was interesting in relation to the text.”

In Hollis’s design the images become part of the text; they, too, are intended to be ‘read’, and are even indented at the same line length as the words. The large, colour plates common to more conventional art books exalted the image high above the text; Hollis’s conceit was to raise the level of the words to match the art.

But it was not for everyone – and Penguin’s head of design, Hans Schmoller, made that quite clear to Hollis, who received cover proofs scrawled with the typographer’s comments.

“I remember the biggest remark was ‘Is this meant to be centred?!'” Hollis recalls. But the control of the book was firmly in the BBC camp, in the hands of the late Peter Campbell, and so Schmoller’s objections to its radical appearance – the cover cleverly proffering the very first page of the book – went unheeded. (Hollis has previously told the story of when a finished copy of Ways of Seeing was placed on a Penguin director’s desk, it was promptly hurled down a nearby corridor.)

This violent break with the established traditions of art publishing also had its roots in the ways that Dibb’s 30 minute films reacted to the early conventions of art on television, as epitomised in art historian Kenneth Clark and his Civilisation series from 1969. Shot on 35mm film, Clark’s epic 13-episode history of Western art was one of the first documentaries to be made in colour. Clark’s delivery, as he took the viewer through his “personal view” of what were largely European artworks was establishment, patrician, and decidedly clipped in tone.

“Art history in the mid-1970s seemed to be limited by its commitment to a canon of masterpieces, largely the property of the wealthy,” says Professor David Crowley, head of the Critical Writing in Art and Design programme at the Royal College of Art.

“It was also stymied by connoisseurship; tweedy men talking about brushstrokes and style. Berger’s Marxism meant that he was as interested in the reproduction of images as their origination [and] concerned with the persistence of certain recurrent motifs in our culture, like the nude, whether in the gallery, or in an ad in a glossy magazine. This interest in all forms of visual culture, ignoring the pompous high and low distinction, is now the norm, but it was quite provocative at the time.”

Professor Teal Triggs, who uses Ways of Seeing on the London College of Communication’s Design Writing Criticism course, also acknowledges that Berger’s comments in the programme on the female nude influenced feminist readings on art and design – namely, she says, through his focus on the way of “seeing women” and “how these depictions are positioned in relationship to a male spectator”.

For Triggs, “Berger presents a framework involving the ‘surveyor’ and the ‘surveyed’, as one way we might understand sexuality and the female body, her ‘presence’ and sense of herself, personal relationships and who is actually doing the looking. Women are ‘objects of vision’ [and] such a perspective resonated at a time in the 1970s when women’s liberation was an urgent concern and notions of the body and self were being freshly questioned. Berger took these ideas onto national television.”

While both programmes aired on BBC2, compared to Civilisation, Ways of Seeing had a rather more modest budget. It was filmed over six months, mainly at a studio in Ealing in west London (bar a nighttime visit to the National Gallery) and unlike Clark’s grand tour of churches and museums to see the original works of art, Ways of Seeing relied, rather fittingly, upon a host of reproductions.

According to Dibb, a deeper layer of irony now also exists: the copyright of the works shown as reproductions in Ways of Seeing prevents the series from being available on DVD, whereas the rights to Clark’s films of the artworks themselves are held by the BBC. Hence Civilisation is now in glorious HD via Blu-Ray, while Ways of Seeing is scattered across several uploads on YouTube.

But even though many of the ideas that Berger took forward in the early 1970s are now commonplace (and Benjamin much more widely read), Ways of Seeing’s influence remains pervasive. For one, the use of the term ‘visual culture’, to imply the ubiquity of image-based communications – from art to advertising – was brand new territory when Berger, Dibb and Hollis began documenting its occurrence on film and then in print. Moreover, what Hollis was able to do with the format of the book still influences designers today.

James Goggin, now director of design, publishing and new media at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago says that his design for Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane’s Folk Archive book was a direct homage to Hollis’s design, specifically to his trick of seeming to start the book’s text on the front cover.

“While very much admiring Hollis’s direct approach with the book’s introduction starting right there on the cover, I’d always been slightly disappointed that it didn’t follow through directly on the inside front cover and title page, as one might have expected,” says Goggin. “So in designing Folk Archive with a very functional, almost objectively encyclopedic approach, the preface started on the cover [with] four images in a general text page format, as opposed to one single work in a more art book-like full-bleed. Crucially, the text continued directly across the inside cover and title page. The result was a gesture that I acknowledge as inspired by Hollis, but also a playful one attempting to belatedly fulfil the continuous text promise of his original cover.”

The influence of Hollis’s approach is also evident on the graphic design journal, dot dot dot. Peter Bil’ak, who worked on the publication with designer Stuart Bailey recalls “the directness and clarity of Hollis’s no-nonsense approach. Very often, designers see text as grey blocks, [in Ways of Seeing] Hollis is engaged deeply with the text, and helped the message to come across.”

For Crowley the idea of the visual essay as a kind of ‘filmic object’ is a construct with roots in the 1970s, within the ideas brought about by Jean-Luc Godard’s Dziga Vertov group, for example, and has become a concern of contemporary artists such as Ryan Gander and the Otolith Group."



"“There’s a nice connection between I, Eye, Hollis’s early visual essay recording his visit to Cuba in the early 1960s and the visual essay in Ways of Seeing,” Crowley adds, “despite the differences in content.” It’s significant that, in terms of charting his own influences, Hollis also looked to film, most notably to French filmmaker Chris Marker’s book, Commentaires I (1961), where the placement of text and image directly affected the way Hollis would treat Berger’s material.

For Goggin, Ways of Seeing continues the trend in the late 1960s where the trade paperback was used as a vehicle for communicating progressive ideas to a wider audience. He cites works by Marshall McLuhan, Buckminster Fuller and Quentin Fiore, Victor Papanek, Carl Sagan, and Bruno Munari as precedents.

But while the avant-garde nature of these texts has recently been re-examined in Adam Michaels and Jeffrey T Schnapp’s The Electric Information Age Book (CR April), it’s possible that Ways of Seeing is, in the UK at least, one of very few 60p paperbacks to have had … [more]
johnberger  2012  waysofseeing  books  television  tv  visualessays  design  walterbenjamin  richardhollis 
january 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger, Written in the night: The pain of living in the present world
"I WANT to say at least something about the pain existing in the world today. Consumerist ideology, which has become the most powerful and invasive on the planet, sets out to persuade us that pain is an accident, something that we can insure against. This is the logical basis for the ideology's pitilessness.

Everyone knows, of course, that pain is endemic to life, and wants to forget this or relativise it. All the variants of the myth of a Fall from the Golden Age, before pain existed, are an attempt to relativise the pain suffered on earth. So too is the invention of Hell, the adjacent kingdom of pain-as-punishment. Likewise the discovery of Sacrifice. And later, much later, the principle of Forgiveness. One could argue that philosophy began with the question: why pain?

Yet, when all this has been said, the present pain of living in the world is perhaps in some ways unprecedented.

I write in the night, although it is daytime. A day in early October 2002. For almost a week the sky above Paris has been blue. Each day the sunset is a little earlier and each day gloriously beautiful. Many fear that before the end of the month, US military forces will be launching the preventive war against Iraq, so that the US oil corporations can lay their hands on further and supposedly safer oil supplies. Others hope that this can be avoided. Between the announced decisions and the secret calculations, everything is kept unclear, since lies prepare the way for missiles. I write in a night of shame. By shame I do not mean individual guilt. Shame, as I'm coming to understand it, is a species feeling which, in the long run, corrodes the capacity for hope and prevents us looking far ahead. We look down at our feet, thinking only of the next small step.

People everywhere, under very different conditions, are asking themselves - where are we? The question is historical not geographical. What are we living through? Where are we being taken? What have we lost? How to continue without a plausible vision of the future? Why have we lost any view of what is beyond a lifetime?

The well-heeled experts answer. Globalisation. Postmodernism. Communications revolution. Economic liberalism. The terms are tautological and evasive. To the anguished question of where are we, the experts murmur: nowhere. Might it not be better to see and declare that we are living through the most tyrannical - because the most pervasive - chaos that has ever existed? It's not easy to grasp the nature of the tyranny for its power structure (ranging from the 200 largest multinational corporations to the Pentagon) is interlocking yet diffuse, dictatorial yet anonymous, ubiquitous yet placeless. It tyrannises from off shore - not only in terms of fiscal law, but in terms of any political control beyond its own. Its aim is to delocalise the entire world. Its ideo logical strategy, besides which Osama bin Laden's is a fairy tale, is to undermine the existent so that everything collapses into its special version of the virtual, from the realm of which (and this is the tyranny's credo) there will be a never-ending source of profit. It sounds stupid. Tyrannies are stupid. This one is destroying at every level the life of the planet on which it operates.

Ideology apart, its power is based on two threats. The first is intervention from the sky by the most heavily armed state in the world. One could call it Threat B52. The second is of ruthless indebtment, bankruptcy, and hence, given the present productive relations in the world, starvation. One could call it Threat Zero.

The shame begins with the contestation (which we all acknowledge somewhere but, out of powerlessness, dismiss) that much of the present suffering could be alleviated or avoided if certain realistic and relatively simple decisions were taken. There is a very direct relation today between the minutes of meetings and minutes of agony.

Does anyone deserve to be condemned to certain death simply because they don't have access to treatment which would cost less than $2 a day? This was a question posed by the director of the World Health Organisation last July. She was talking about the Aids epidemic in Africa and elsewhere from which an estimated 68 million people will die within the next 18 years. I'm talking about the pain of living in the present world.

Most analyses and prognoses about what is happening are understandably presented and studied within the framework of their separate disciplines: economics, politics, media studies, public health, ecology, national defence, criminology, education. In reality each of these separ ate fields is joined to another to make up the real terrain of what is being lived. It happens that in their lives people suffer from wrongs which are classified in separate categories, and suffer them simultaneously and inseparably.

A current example: some Kurds, who fled last week to Cherbourg, have been refused asylum by the French government and risk being repatriated to Turkey, are poor, politically undesirable, landless, exhausted, illegal and the clients of nobody. And they suffer each of these conditions at one and the same second. To take in what is happening, an interdisciplinary vision is necessary in order to connect the fields which are institutionally kept separate. And any such vision is bound to be (in the original sense of the word) political. The precondition for thinking politically on a global scale is to see the unity of the unnecessary suffering taking place. This is the starting point.

I WRITE in the night, but I see not only the tyranny. If that were so, I would probably not have the courage to continue. I see people sleeping, stirring, getting up to drink water, whispering their projects or their fears, making love, praying, cooking something whilst the rest of the family is asleep, in Baghdad and Chicago. (Yes, I see too the forever invincible Kurds, 4,000 of whom were gassed, with US compliance, by Saddam Hussein.) I see pastrycooks working in Tehran and the shepherds, thought of as bandits, sleeping beside their sheep in Sardinia, I see a man in the Friedrichshain quarter of Berlin sitting in his pyjamas with a bottle of beer reading Heidegger, and he has the hands of a proletarian, I see a small boat of illegal immigrants off the Spanish coast near Alicante, I see a mother in Mali - her name is Aya which means born on Friday - swaying her baby to sleep, I see the ruins of Kabul and a man going home, and I know that, despite the pain, the ingenuity of the survivors is undiminished, an ingenuity which scavenges and collects energy, and in the ceaseless cunning of this ingenuity, there is a spiritual value, something like the Holy Ghost. I am convinced of this in the night, although I don't know why.

The next step is to reject all the tyranny's discourse. Its terms are crap. In the interminably repetitive speeches, announcements, press conferences and threats, the recurrent terms are Democracy, Justice, Human Rights, Terrorism. Each word in the context signifies the opposite of what it was once meant to. Each has been trafficked, each has become a gang's code-word, stolen from humanity.

Democracy is a proposal (rarely realised) about decision-making; it has little to do with election campaigns. Its promise is that political decisions be made after, and in the light of, consultation with the governed. This is depend ent upon the governed being adequately informed about the issues in question, and upon the decision-makers having the capacity and will to listen and take account of what they have heard. Democracy should not be confused with the freedom of binary choices, the publication of opinion polls or the crowding of people into statistics. These are its pretence. Today the fundamental decisions, which effect the unnecessary pain increasingly suffered across the planet, have been and are taken unilaterally without any open consultation or participation. For instance, how many US citizens, if consulted, would have said specifically yes to Bush's withdrawal from the Kyoto agreement about the carbon dioxide greenhouse effect which is already provoking disastrous floods in many places, and threatens, within the next 25 years, far worse disasters? Despite all the media-managers of consent, I would suspect a minority.

It is a little more than a century ago that Dvořák composed his Symphony From the New World. He wrote it whilst directing a conservatory of music in New York, and the writing of it inspired him to compose, 18 months later, still in New York, his sublime Cello Concerto. In the symphony the horizons and rolling hills of his native Bohemia become the promises of the New World. Not grandiloquent but loud and continuing, for they correspond to the longings of those without power, of those who are wrongly called simple, of those the US Constitution addressed in 1787.

I know of no other work of art which expresses so directly and yet so toughly (Dvořák was the son of a peasant and his father dreamt of his becoming a butcher) the beliefs which inspired generation after generation of migrants who became US citizens.

For Dvořák the force of these beliefs was inseparable from a kind of tenderness, a respect for life such as can be found intimately among the governed (as distinct from governors) everywhere. And it was in this spirit that the symphony was publicly received when it was first performed at Carnegie Hall (16 December 1893).

Dvořák was asked what he thought about the future of American music and he recommended that US composers listen to the music of the Indians and blacks. The Symphony From the New World expressed a hopefulness without frontiers which, paradoxically, is welcoming because centered on an idea of home. A utopian paradox.

Today the power of the same country which inspired such hopes has fallen into the hands of a coterie of fanatical (wanting to limit everything except the power of capital), ignorant (recognising only the reality of their own fire-power), hypo critical (two measures for all ethical judgments, one … [more]
johnberger  2013  presence  present  consumerism  pain  ideology  worldhealthorganization  aids  africa  health  healthcare  priorities  power  powerlessness  kurds  turkey  iraq  war  tyranny  baghdad  saddamhussein  democracy  decisionmaking  participatory  participation  dvořák  us  military  freedom  economics  capitalism  language  euphemisms  media  resistance  words 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Teju Cole en Instagram: “When someone dies whom we love, a relative, friend, or hero, the losses have something in common, though the intensity naturally varies. (I cannot speak to the death of a lover, which seems to be something else again—but perha
"When someone dies whom we love, a relative, friend, or hero, the losses have something in common, though the intensity naturally varies. (I cannot speak to the death of a lover, which seems to be something else again—but perhaps even there, there is this commonality.) What they have in common is this: there was this other who helped us in a particular way, and now this other is gone, and the help they gave has gone with them. To be bereaved is to be bereft. It is to be deprived. In mourning, in addition to raw grief, there is the loss of help. There used to be complicity, a task (an emotional task, for instance) that two people accomplished together. Now one, the survivor, no matter how reluctant, must do it alone. This is why one aspect of loss is a feeling of suddenly being forced to "grow up." It is not only a hollowing sadness that demarcates grief, it is the knowledge that what two used to do, whatever that was, whether or not it was even given a name, whether or not it was reciprocal (in the case of heroes it rarely is), one now must do alone. In the zone of your complicity with the one you love, this relative, friend, or hero, you are a child. Possibly you are children there together. Death compels you to put away childish things, and always too soon."

[also from Teju Cole on day of John Berger’s death: https://www.instagram.com/p/BOxl2gejlXz/ ]
tejucole  death  loss  childhood  grief  mourning  deprivation  complicity  togetherness  2017  johnberger 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Public Books — Rembrandt
"Certain exceptional artists in exceptional circumstances broke free of the norms of the tradition and produced work that was diametrically opposed to its values, yet these artists are acclaimed as the tradition’s supreme representatives, a claim which is made easier by the fact that after their death, the tradition closed around their work, incorporating minor technical innovations, and continuing as though nothing of principle had been disturbed. This is why Rembrandt or Vermeer or Poussin or Chardin or Goya or Turner had no followers but only superficial imitators."

[via: http://jarrettfuller.tumblr.com/post/131433640167/certain-exceptional-artists-in-exceptional ]
rembrandt  johnberger  art  2015  tradition  values  avantgarde  innovation  disruption  change  arthistory  rebels  rebellion  norms 
january 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger: ‘Writing is an off-shoot of something deeper’ | Books | The Guardian
[via: http://jarrettfuller.tumblr.com/post/105319669752/language-cannot-be-reduced-to-a-dictionary-or ]

"I have been writing for about 80 years. First letters then poems and speeches, later stories and articles and books, now notes. The activity of writing has been a vital one for me; it helps me to make sense and continue. Writing, however, is an off-shoot of something deeper and more general – our relationship with language as such. And the subject of these few notes is language.

Let’s begin by examining the activity of translating from one language to another. Most translations today are technological, whereas I’m referring to literary translations: the translation of texts that concern individual experience.

The conventional view of what this involves proposes that the translator or translators study the words on one page in one language and then render them into another language on another page. This involves a so-called word-for-word translation, and then an adaptation to respect and incorporate the linguistic tradition and rules of the second language, and finally another working-over to recreate the equivalent of the “voice” of the original text. Many – perhaps most – translations follow this procedure and the results are worthy, but second-rate.

Why? Because true translation is not a binary affair between two languages but a triangular affair. The third point of the triangle being what lay behind the words of the original text before it was written. True translation demands a return to the pre-verbal. One reads and rereads the words of the original text in order to penetrate through them to reach, to touch, the vision or experience that prompted them. One then gathers up what one has found there and takes this quivering almost wordless “thing” and places it behind the language it needs to be translated into. And now the principal task is to persuade the host language to take in and welcome the “thing” that is waiting to be articulated.

This practice reminds us that a language cannot be reduced to a dictionary or stock of words and phrases. Nor can it be reduced to a warehouse of the works written in it. A spoken language is a body, a living creature, whose physiognomy is verbal and whose visceral functions are linguistic. And this creature’s home is the inarticulate as well as the articulate.

Consider the term “mother tongue”. In Russian it is rodnoy-yazik, which means “nearest” or “dearest tongue”. At a pinch one could call it “darling tongue”. Mother tongue is one’s first language, first heard as an infant.

And within one mother tongue are all mother tongues. Or to put it another way – every mother tongue is universal. Noam Chomsky has brilliantly demonstrated that all languages – not only verbal ones – have certain structures and procedures in common. And so a mother tongue is related to (rhymes with?) non-verbal languages – such as the languages of signs, of behaviour, of spatial accommodation. When I’m drawing, I try to unravel and transcribe a text of appearances, which already has, I know, its indescribable but assured place in my mother tongue.

Words, terms, phrases can be separated from the creature of their language and used as mere labels. They then become inert and empty. The repetitive use of acronyms is a simple example of this. Most mainstream political discourse today is composed of words that, separated from any creature of language, are inert. And such dead “word-mongering” wipes out memory and breeds a ruthless complacency.

What has prompted me to write over the years is the hunch that something needs to be told, and that if I don’t try to tell it, it risks not being told. I picture myself as a stop-gap man rather than a consequential, professional writer.

After I’ve written a few lines I let the words slip back into the creature of their language. And there, they are instantly recognised and greeted by a host of other words, with whom they have an affinity of meaning, or of opposition, or of metaphor or alliteration or rhythm. I listen to their confabulation. Together they are contesting the use to which I put the words I chose. They are questioning the roles I allotted them.

So I modify the lines, change a word or two, and submit them again. Another confabulation begins. And it goes on like this until there is a low murmur of provisional consent. Then I proceed to the next paragraph.

Another confabulation begins ...

Others can place me as they like as a writer. For myself, I’m the son of a bitch – and you can guess who the bitch is, no?"
johnberger  2014  translation  language  words  writing  thinking  voice  meaning 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Happiness occurs when people can give the whole of... | Blog—Jarrett Fuller
"Happiness occurs when people can give the whole of themselves to the moment being lived, when Being and Becoming are the same thing." —John Berger
presence  johnberger  hereandnow  being  becoming  life  living 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Instagram and Art Theory - artnet News
"Isn’t it striking that the most-typical and most-maligned genres of Instagram imagery happen to correspond to the primary genres of Western secular art? All that #foodporn is still-life; all those #selfies, self-portraits. All those vacation vistas are #landscape; art-historically speaking, #beachday pics evoke the hoariest cliché of middle-class leisure iconography. (As for the #nudes, I guess they are going on over on Snapchat.)"



"Maybe it seems as if there’s a tension between Berger’s enthusiasm for image-sharing and the criticism of the inanity of what technology actually does. But it’s the fact that Ways of Seeing helps square this circle, to break out of the choice between dismissive traditionalism and easy techno-optimism, that I think makes it useful. The whole purpose, for Berger, of having a political take on how images function in society is to point beyond this binary: technology makes possible many good things; political and economic conditions guarantee, however, that it is constantly warped so that the same kinds of bad patterns repeat themselves, in new and improved forms."

[via: http://jarrettfuller.tumblr.com/post/90462499802/isnt-it-striking-that-the-most-typical-and ]
instagram  bendavis  via:jarrettfuller  waysofseeing  johnberger  2014  photography  noticing  still-life  landscapes  self-portraits 
january 2017 by robertogreco
In 1950, Hans Namuth asked artist Jackson Pollock... | Blog—Jarrett Fuller
"[video: "Jackson Pollock by Hans Namuth" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cgBvpjwOGo ]

In 1950, Hans Namuth asked artist Jackson Pollock to take photographs of him painting his now famous drip technique. Unsatisfied with the results as they didn’t capture the energy of the paintings, Namuth returned and filmed video footage of Pollock in action. The result is a ten-minute filmed titled Jackson Pollock 51. Watching Pollock’s focus and intensity is fascinating as he produces his seemingly random paintings. I’m reminded of John Berger’s essay on Pollock, where he writes:
What is their content, their meaning? A well-known museum curator, who I saw in the gallery, said ‘They are so meaningful.’ But this, of course, was an example of the way in which qualitative words are now foolishly and constantly stood on their heads as everybody commandeers the common vocabulary for their unique and personal usage. These pictures are meaningless. But the way in which they are so is significant.

I think Pollocks on view of his work offers a profound insight into their significance:
When I am painting I have a general notion as to what I am about. I can control the flow of the paint. There is no accident, just as there is no beginning and no end. Sometimes I lose a painting but I have no fear of changes, of destroying the image. Because a painting has a life of it’s own, I try to let it live.
johnberger  jacksonpollock  jarrettfuller  meaning  process  art  hansnumuth  1950  content  significance 
january 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger: a life in writing | Books | The Guardian
"I just keep on writing and thinking and drawing, which I continued even after I stopped painting. I don't know whether this is true for other people, but it is certainly true for me, that after years and years of drawing it does become a little easier. Unlike writing, which remains as difficult as ever. So while I'm at the stage of a new writing project where I am vaguely hearing, rather deafly, the demands of a new train of thought, the drawing goes on every day. It is that rare thing that gives you a chance of a very close identification with something, or somebody, who is not you. So maybe it is not so different from storytelling after all."

[via: http://jarrettfuller.tumblr.com/post/5697765219/i-just-keep-on-writing-and-thinking-and-drawing ]
johnberger  2011  writing  thinking  drawing  storytelling  noticing  seeing 
january 2017 by robertogreco
"The teaching of art is the teaching of all things." —John Ruskin | Blog—Jarrett Fuller
"I’ve been going back and listening to some old episodes of BBC’s wonder In Our Time podcast. I really enjoyed this one on the famous Victorian art critic John Ruskin and this quote from Ruskin’s writing stopped me dead in my tracks.

I took four art history courses in school (two general art, and two design-specific) and found that the best art history courses always teach you more than expected. I think learning about art also teaches you about cultures and people and religion and politics. I’ve found the more I learn about art, the more I want to learn about everything surrounding it.

One of my favorite professors in school was my first design history professor and the reason he was my favorite was because I found the most interesting things I was learning were not the things inside my design text book. He had an uncanny ability to make connections between cultures and images making for a more holistic history course that guided by design movements. Think James Burke or John Berger. Learning about art is learning about the world."
jarrettfuller  education  teaching  howweteach  pedagogy  transdisciplinary  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  learning  jamesburke  johnberger  art  design 
january 2017 by robertogreco
A 90-Year-Old John Berger is Not Surprised By President Trump | Literary Hub
[audio: https://soundcloud.com/lithub/apcfp-e27-john-berger ]

"John Berger talks with Paul Holdengraber about President Donald Trump, the emptiness of American political commentary, desire, place, and how the hell to keep going.

John Berger on Trump’s win…
In such a climate, somebody who is actually saying something, who seems to suggest that there may be a connection between what he said and what he will do, such a person is a way out of a vacuous nightmare—even if the way out is dangerous or vicious… The less hot air you make and the more tangible you are the better chance you have at this moment.

John Berger on the American electorate’s anger towards the elite…
They are angry at the elite not because it’s the elite in the old fashion way—the elites have always been criticizable or suspected—but because it’s the elite that talks and talks and talks and there is no connection between his talk and his actions and what is really happening in the world. So it’s a kind of elitism which is an abstraction.

John Berger on what keeps him going…
The next job, the next task. Because I’m always so involved and also collaborating in many, many ways with many different people on many different levels. So what keeps me going is the next page.

John Berger on desire…
I think that all desire, including sexual, is the desire to be in a certain place, if only a place consumes us and gives us energy. But when I say place I don’t mean a geographical place… It’s where your finger fits or where your foot rests."



[Paul Holdengraber reads Berger this poem.]

"The Uses of Sorrow by Mary Oliver

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.?"
johnberger  paulholdengraber  2016  donaldtrump  elections  desire  place  elitism  emptiness  politics  pabloneruda  maryoliver  poems  poetry  poets  sorrow 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 - YouTube
"Clip from Jonas qui aura 25 ans en l'an 2000 (Alain Tanner, 1976); history teacher Marco explains time. These concepts are also set out in the historical note to Pig Earth by John Berger."

[via: https://twitter.com/zeynep/status/816021954255785986 ]
johnberger  alaintanner  1976  towatch  capitalism  progress  history  time  work  hierarchy  labor  society 
january 2017 by robertogreco
A Smuggling Operation: John Berger’s Theory of Art - Los Angeles Review of Books
"EARLY IN HIS CAREER, John Berger’s weekly art criticism for the New Statesman provoked outraged letters and public condemnation. Once, the British Council issued a formal apology to Henry Moore because Berger had suggested his latest work showed a decline. Nor was the hostility limited to such comic passive-aggression. Berger’s politics were deemed so objectionable that his publisher was compelled to withdraw his first novel, A Painter of Our Time (1958), from circulation.

At 90, Berger is harvesting a sudden flowering of praise. It is well deserved. For more than half a century, he has been our greatest art critic — as well as a superior novelist, a poet, and the star and screenwriter of one of the best art documentaries ever made, Ways of Seeing. Most of the writers currently rushing to canonize him, however, avoid dwelling on the heart of Berger’s point of view — his Marxism. No doubt avoiding this disfavored topic makes eulogy easier, but it reminds me of something Berger wrote about Frederick Antal: “the importance of his Marxism tends to be underestimated. In a curious way this is probably done out of respect for him: as though to say ‘He was brilliant despite that — so let’s charitably forget it.’ Yet, in fact, to do this is to deny all that Antal was.” To make such a denial about Berger should no longer be possible after the publication of Landscapes: John Berger on Art.

Landscapes and its companion volume, Portraits: John Berger on Artists (Verso, 2015), are the best summation to date of Berger’s career as a critic. Both volumes were edited by Tom Overton. In Portraits, Overton made selections from decades of essays on the whole historical gamut of art, from the prehistoric cave paintings of Lascaux to the work of 33-year-old Randa Mdah, and organized them chronologically into a history and appraisal of the art of painting. To read it was to be reminded of Berger’s unique virtues: the clarity of his writing, the historical and technical erudition of his insight, and above all his unique focus on each artist’s way of looking. What Landscapes in turn makes clear, through its assemblage of more programmatic pieces — book reviews, manifestos, autobiography — is that Berger is a rigorous thinker with a theory of art. That theory evolved considerably between the 1950s and the 2010s. Yet two threads hold it together with the tenacity of spider silk: a critique of the political economy of art and a sophisticated account of its human value, each rooted in a committed but elastic Marxism.

A Marxist art criticism of any real subtlety has to be elastic, because it must deal with a problem Marx himself diagnosed but failed to solve. Berger puts it like this:
A question which Marx posed but could not answer: If art in the last analysis is a superstructure of an economic base, why does its power to move us endure long after the base has been transformed? Why, asked Marx, do we still look towards Greek art as an ideal? He began to answer the question […] and then broke off the manuscript and was far too occupied ever to return to the question.

Berger takes up the thread where Marx broke off. He is not, of course, the first Marxist to address the question of art, and he is familiar with most of those who tried before him, sorting through and furthering their legacy.

The most famous of Berger’s influences, Walter Benjamin, wrote the essay “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” from which came most of the ideas in Berger’s documentary, Ways of Seeing. But Landscapes reveals that his most important influence as a practicing art critic was Max Raphael.

Raphael, an undeservedly obscure theorist, located the value of art in the activity of the artist. According to him, an artist performs two operations. On the one hand, the artist turns raw material into artistic material by shaping it to represent an idea or an object; this is true both of Michelangelo shaping a block of marble into David and of Jackson Pollock embodying the rhythms of jazz in drip paintings. On the other, the artist turns his perception into something external and objective, a representation. The work of art is the result of these two transformations, of raw stuff and of subjective perception into an art object. For Raphael, the point of art is these two transformations: they are the artist’s way of “undoing the world of things” and constructing “the world of values.”

So Raphael’s answer to Marx’s problem — why is art enduringly moving even though it merely reflects its social context? — is to say that art doesn’t merely reflect its social context. It does reflect it, because the artist’s material, style, the things they want to represent, even the way they see, are historically conditioned; but it doesn’t merely reflect it, because the transformed material speaks of something deeper and more voluntary. It speaks of humanity’s ability to make its own world, to become the subject and not merely the victim of history. “The function of the work of art,” Berger sums up Raphael, “is to lead us from the work to the process of creation which it contains.”

Anyone familiar with Berger’s own writing will sit up with a shock of recognition. Here is a theory of art directly correlated to his practice of criticism. Berger takes art out of the sanitizing temples where we store it and drops it firmly back onto the easel, in a messy studio, where a sweaty artist bites her lip and stores her way of looking in an object. Over and over again, he asks us to imagine the artist at work. Many have attributed this to his own training as a painter, which might have inspired his fascination with technique, as I, an amateur pianist, am fascinated by the technique of my favorite recording artists. But I think his admiring discussion of Raphael suggests a much deeper reason. If Berger believes that the most important meaning of art is what it shows us of our ability to create the world we want, it turns out that his criticism is connected to his Marxism much more fundamentally than through the borrowing of a few insights from Walter Benjamin.

For Berger, art criticism is a revolutionary practice. It prepares the ground for a new society. In Landscapes, Overton includes a translation by Berger and Anya Rostock of a poem by Bertolt Brecht. It includes this passage:
Yet how to begin? How to show
The living together of men
That it may be understood
And become a world that can be mastered?
How to reveal not only yourselves and others
Floundering in the net
But also make clear how the net of fate
Is knotted and cast,
Cast and knotted by men?
[…] only he who knows that the fate of man is man
Can see his fellow men keenly with accuracy.

How to begin? Berger answers: In art. There we find proof and prophecy of a different world. In another essay, he writes:
We can no longer “use” most paintings today as they were intended to be used: for religious worship, for celebrating the wealth of the wealthy, for immediate political enlightenment, for proving the romantic sublime, and so on. Nevertheless, painting is especially well suited to developing the very faculty of understanding which has rendered its earlier uses obsolete: that is to say, to developing our historical and evolutionary self-consciousness.

This is the promise, the positive function of art. By looking at it, we are, in effect, looking through an artist’s eyes, entering into a concretized instance of their gaze. We are looking at a looking. And from within an artist’s looking, we learn about the capacities of our kind and the possibilities of our future: “A classical Greek sculpture increases our awareness of our own potential physical dignity; a Rembrandt of our potential moral courage; a Matisse of our potential sensual awareness.”

At the same time, Berger is of the opinion that the modern history of art is a history of failure. He won’t compromise on this point, and it is undoubtedly the reason for the stiff resistance that he has often met.

In modern times, Berger believes, the art world has hosted a titanic battle between two conceptions of art. One conception declares that art is valuable because it bodies forth the vision of an artist; it is a good in itself just to the degree that it succeeds at this task. This is Berger’s conception, and it is large enough to embrace all the varying and contradictory proclamations and provocations of the successive factions of modern art. The other conception declares that art is valuable because it is expensive — that, fundamentally, art is property:
Since 1848 every artist unready to be a mere paid entertainer has tried to resist the bourgeoisation of his finished work, the transformation of the spiritual value of his work into property value. This regardless of his political opinions as such. […] What Constructivism, Dadaism, Surrealism, and so on, all shared was their opposition to art-as-property and art-as-a-cultural-alibi-for-existing-society. We know the extremes to which they went […] and we see that their resistance was […] ineffective.

In other words, artists, like all other workers, are victims of a capitalism that alienates them from the fruit of their labor. Berger has nothing but scorn for the commercialization of art: “If you could fuck works of art as well as buy them,” he writes, dealers “would be pimps: but, if that were the case, one might assume a kind of love; as it is they dream of money and honour.” Everything about the modern art world is constructed on the assumption that art is precious in proportion to its price. Even among those who profess a genuine love of art, that passion is often tainted by its ideological function:
A love of art has been a useful concept to the European ruling classes for over a century and a half. The love was said to be their own. With it they could claim kinship with the civilisations of … [more]
johnberger  2017  robertminto  marxism  art  artists  artcriticism  criticism  henrymoore  politics  waysofseeing  frederickantal  tomoverton  economics  walterbenjamin  raphael  jacksonpollock  michelangelo  elitism  anyarostock  bertoltbrecht  process  craftsmanship  arthistory  resistance  constuctivism  dadaism  surrealism  property  society  culture  ownership  beauty  aesthetics  museums  artappreciation  creativity  creation  praxis  canon  objects  mystique  products  action  achievement  making  wealth  ideology  consumerism  consumption 
january 2017 by robertogreco
The Art of Resistance | Commonweal Magazine
"Writing in the aftermath of the fall of communism, John Berger, the world’s preeminent Marxist (patience, dear readers) writer on art, faced the apparently decisive and irreversible victory of capitalism. Rather than concede defeat and join in the triumphal chorus heralding the end of history, Berger drew an unlikely lesson from the ostensible cessation of the old hostilities. In the conclusion of Keeping a Rendezvous (1991), he studied a photograph of people assembled in recently liberated Prague and discerned in their faces both elation and a dread that an even more primordial conflict was in the offing. The class struggle, he now suggested, partakes of a broader and deeper contest over ways of being in the world. “The soul and the operator have come out of hiding together.”

For two centuries, Berger explained, the soul’s longings had been perverted or marginalized in both capitalist and socialist societies, identified with or subordinated to the imperatives of material progress. Yet humanity “has great difficulty in living strictly within the confines of a materialist practice or philosophy. It dreams, like a dog in its basket, of hares in the open.” Heir, for many, to the hope once contained in religion, Marxism had been the secular abode for the soul; but with the dialectic of “historical materialism” now discredited by history, “the spiritual,” Berger observed, aimed “to reclaim its lost terrain,” surging through fundamentalist and nationalist movements. At the same time, the poor were being “written off as trash” by the soul’s implacable adversary, “the operator,” the forces of pecuniary and technological utility united under the aegis of capital. For Berger, art remained not only a potent weapon against injustice but also an enclave for the qualities of the soul. In a powerful letter to the miners who unsuccessfully resisted Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s attempt to close down mines in 1984, Berger wrote:
I can’t tell you what art does and how it does it, but I know that art has often judged the judges, pleaded revenge to the innocent and shown to the future what the past has suffered, so that it has never been forgotten. I know too that the powerful fear art, whatever its form, when it does this, and that amongst the people such art sometimes runs like a rumor or a legend because it makes sense of what life’s brutalities cannot, a sense that unites us, for it is inseparable from a justice at last. Art, when it functions like this, becomes a meeting-place of the invisible, the irreducible, the enduring, guts and honor.

Characterized by the lack of a credible alternative to the glittering imperium of capital, the ensuing twenty-five years have been the Age of the Operator: neoliberal economics, a hustling ethos, the divinization of markets and technology, the hegemony of a consumer society given over to spectacle and fueled by debt. As Berger writes in his latest book, Portraits (Verso, $44.95, 544 pp.), “the future has been downsized,” restricted to the mercenary parameters of finance capital and digital technocracy. Neoliberal capitalism fulfills the “strange prophecy” depicted in the hellish right-hand panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s Millennium Triptych: “no glimpse of an elsewhere or an otherwise.” The poor—and increasingly anyone outside the gilded circle of “the 1 percent”—are indeed “written off as trash,” detritus of the quest for efficiency, human refuse piling up not only in Calcutta, Mumbai, or Mexico City, but also in Palo Alto and San Francisco, where the technocrats of Silicon Valley dispossess workers from their homes to build mansions scaled to their colossal self-regard.

The Operator remains in the saddle, riding humankind; but with anger and dissent on the rise—Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter here at home—the Soul may be gathering strength to embark on another, more enduring reclamation of terrain, and, if it does, John Berger will deserve our attention as one of its greatest contemporary prophets. Renowned and even beloved as both novelist and art critic, Berger has also become an unlikely moral and metaphysical sage. “You can’t talk about aesthetics without talking about the principle of hope and the existence of evil,” he declared in The Sense of Sight (1985). Not that his revolutionary spirit has withered; that flame is lower but remains incandescent. But Portraits, a miscellany from his career as a writer, records the evolution of this “principle of hope”—a reference, no doubt, to Ernst Bloch, the closest thing to a theologian ever produced by the Marxist tradition. Like the other two panels of Bosch’s triptych—The Garden of Eden and The Garden of Earthly Delights—Portraits offers “a torchlight in the dark,” a glimpse of an elsewhere or an otherwise, a way of seeing the visible world that Berger might agree to call sacramental.



BERGER WAS BORN in 1926 in London, the son of a middle-class Hungarian immigrant from Trieste and an English working-class suffragette. As a youth growing up in Oxford, he drew and painted for relief from his “monstrous and brutal” education at a local private school. He also read anarchist literature and ardently embraced the radical left; yet unlike most anarchists, Berger felt no visceral hostility to religion. As he told the Guardian in 2011, since his teenage years two convictions have “coexisted” within him: “a kind of materialism,” as he put it, along with “a sense of the sacred, the religious if you like.” This coexistence has never felt anomalous to him, even when “most other people thought it was.” Indeed, the philosopher of whom Berger has been most fond is not Marx but Baruch Spinoza, whose monist ontology sought to overcome the Cartesian dualism of matter and spirit.

Conscripted at the age of eighteen, Berger spent World War II stationed in Belfast. After the war he enrolled in the Chelsea School of Art and exhibited in London galleries. While working as a teacher, he began writing reviews for the New Statesman, Britain’s flagship left periodical. In the early years of the Cold War, Berger embraced Marxism (despite his aversion to Joseph Stalin). He even maintained that, until the Soviet Union gained nuclear parity with the United States, left writers and artists should support Moscow. In the late 1940s, Berger made a deliberate decision to set aside his painting and embark on a career as a writer.

Although the New Statesman published his essays for more than a decade (some of which he collected in 1960 as Permanent Red), Berger was its most beleaguered contributor. Adamantly pro-Soviet, he wrote for a magazine that opposed Stalinism. (In his controversial 1958 novel A Painter of Our Time, Berger hinted his support for the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian Revolution.) Where the New Statesman reflected the broad sympathy toward literary and artistic modernism characteristic of liberal and social-democratic intellectuals, Berger championed realism and called for art that would “help or encourage men to know and claim their social rights.” His profoundly ambivalent view of abstract expressionism challenged its celebration by most Western intellectuals as a token of “free expression.” Although he marveled at Jackson Pollock’s formal skills, Berger argued that the drip paintings registered a collapse of “faith” in the visible world that heralded “the disintegration of our culture.” Berger asked strikingly traditionalist questions for an enfant terrible of Marxist criticism. “How far can talent exempt an artist,” he asked, who “does not think beyond or question the decadence of the cultural situation to which he belongs?”

With judgments and questions like these, Berger found himself “fighting for every sentence,” not only against his editors and skeptical readers but also against curators, gallery owners, and art critics. (One less-than-enthusiastic review of Henry Moore earned him the everlasting enmity of Sir Herbert Read, then Britain’s most respected critic.) Berger railed helplessly as the London cultural establishment—like that of New York—transformed modernism into an aesthetic for corporate suites and an emblem of Western individualism.

Weary of his travails among the London intelligentsia, Berger left England in 1962 and lived an itinerant but productive life on the continent for the next fifteen years. He published studies of Picasso and cubism as well as several other volumes of essays on painting, sculpture, photography, and politics; chronicled, in collaboration with the photographer Jean Mohr, the life of a country doctor in A Fortunate Man (1967); wrote several screenplays, including Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 (1976), a wise and sympathetic story about disappointed radicals; and authored three novels, including G. (1972), a political and erotic bildungsroman that won him the Booker Prize. Berger promptly caused an uproar when he donated half of his prize money to the British Black Panthers (the Booker fortune having been amassed, he pointed out, through the exploitation of Caribbean slaves) and used the other half to fund a project on the condition of migrant workers that became A Seventh Man (1975). Whatever one thinks of his politics, there can be no denying that Berger is a writer who acts on his convictions.

But Berger’s most enduring achievement from this period was his landmark BBC television series Ways of Seeing (1972), notable if only because it disseminated a radical perspective to a mass audience. Published in book form in the same year, Ways of Seeing was a response to another television milestone, Civilisation (1969), hosted by Sir Kenneth Clark, doyen of the British art establishment. Loftily indifferent to social and political context, Clark’s parade-of-masterpieces approach to the history of Western art epitomized the patrician didacticism that Berger loathed. Focusing … [more]
johnberger  resistance  eugenemccarraher  2017  communism  capitalism  marxism  spirituality  anarchism  religion  materialism  sacredness  neoliberalism  mutualaid  craftsmanship  materiality  pleasure  convivilaity  soul  revolution  waysofseeing  art  artists  peasants  biography 
january 2017 by robertogreco
BBC Four - John Berger: The Art of Looking
[video currently available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3VhbsXk9Ds ]

"Art, politics and motorcycles - on the occasion of his 90th birthday John Berger or the Art of Looking is an intimate portrait of the writer and art critic whose ground-breaking work on seeing has shaped our understanding of the concept for over five decades. The film explores how paintings become narratives and stories turn into images, and rarely does anybody demonstrate this as poignantly as Berger.

Berger lived and worked for decades in a small mountain village in the French Alps, where the nearness to nature, the world of the peasants and his motorcycle, which for him deals so much with presence, inspired his drawing and writing.

The film introduces Berger's art of looking with theatre wizard Simon McBurney, film-director Michael Dibb, visual artist John Christie, cartoonist Selçuk Demiral, photographer Jean Mohr as well as two of his children, film-critic Katya Berger and the painter Yves Berger.

The prelude and starting point is Berger's mind-boggling experience of restored vision following a successful cataract removal surgery. There, in the cusp of his clouding eyesight, Berger re-discovers the irredeemable wonder of seeing.

Realised as a portrait in works and collaborations, this creative documentary takes a different approach to biography, with John Berger leading in his favourite role of the storyteller."
2016  johnberger  documentary  towatch  simonmcburney  michaeldibb  johnchristie  selçukdemiral  jeanmohr  katyaberger  yvesberger  waysofseeing  seeing  looking  noticing  biography  storytelling  skepticism  photography  rebellion  writing  howwewrite  collaboration  canon  conspirators  rebels  friendship  community  migration  motorcycles  presence  being  living  life  interestedness  interested  painting  art  history  france  belonging  place  labor  home  identity  work  peasants  craft  craftsmanship  aesthetics  design  vision  cataracts  sight  teaching  howweteach  attention  focus  agriculture  memory  memories  shit  pigs  humans  animals  childhood  perception  freedom  independence  storytellers  travelers  nomads  trickster  dead  death  meaning  meaningmaking  companionship  listening  discovery  understanding  sfsh  srg  books  publishing  television  tv  communication  engagement  certainly  uncertainty 
january 2017 by robertogreco
The Spectre of Hope
"Over the past 30 years Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado's work has won every major award for excellence. His photographs have had an actual impact on the world and how it is seen, bringing conditions of famine and poverty to public attention in a profound and arresting way.

John Berger is one of the world's leading critics of art and photography. An artist himself, he is perhaps best known for "Ways of Seeing," his seminal book and BBC series on art criticism.

In THE SPECTRE OF HOPE, Sebastião Salgado joins Berger to pore over Salgado's collection "Migrations." Six years and 43 countries in the making (ranging across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America), "Migrations" contains photographs of people pushed from their homes and traditions to cities and their margins—slums and streets and refugee camps.

Sitting at the kitchen table of Berger's home in Quincy, a village in the Swiss Alps, their intimate conversation, intercut with photographs from "Migrations," combines a discussion of Salgado's work with a critique of globalization, and a wide-ranging investigation of the power of the image."

[See also:
https://www.macfound.org/documentaryfilm/151/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsqlwmoME9k ]
sebastiãosalgado  johnberger  toatch  film  migrations  photography  hope  2001 
january 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger with Michael Ondaatje, Conversation 4, Episode 7 – Video | Lannan Podcasts
"John Berger is a storyteller, essayist, novelist, screenwriter, dramatist and critic, whose body of work embodies his concern for, in Geoff Dyer’s words, “the enduring mystery of great art and the lived experience of the oppressed.”

He is one of the most internationally influential writers of the last fifty years, who has explored the relationships between the individual and society, culture and politics and experience and expression in a series of novels, book works, essays, plays, films, photographic collaborations and performances, unmatched in their diversity, ambition and reach. His television series and book Ways of Seeing revolutionized the way that Fine Art is read and understood, while his engagement with European peasantry and migration in the fiction trilogy Into Their Labours and A Seventh Man stand as models of empathy and insight.

John Berger in conversation with Michael Ondaatje at Berger's home, a working farm, in Quincy, Mieussy, France, October 2002."

[video: https://vimeo.com/11089692 ]
johnberger  michaelondaatje  video  2002  towatch 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Fellow Prisoners – Guernica
"The best way to understand the world, writes Berger, is not as a metaphorical prison but a literal one. And what better way to inspire solidarity than seeing ourselves (them) as fellow prisoners?"



"The wonderful American poet Adrienne Rich pointed out in a recent lecture about poetry that “this year, a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics finds that one out of every 136 residents of the United States is behind bars—many in jails, unconvicted.”

In the same lecture she quoted the Greek poet Yannis Ritsos:

In the field the last swallow had lingered late,

balancing in the air like a black ribbon on the sleeve

of autumn.

Nothing else remained. Only the burned houses

smouldering still.

***

I picked up the phone and knew immediately it was an unexpected call from you, speaking from your flat in the Via Paolo Sarpi. (Two days after the election results and Berlusconi’s comeback.) The speed with which we identify a familiar voice coming out of the blue is comforting, but also somewhat mysterious. Because the measures, the units we use in calculating the clear distinction that exists between one voice and another, are unformulated and nameless. They don’t have a code. These days more and more is encoded.

So I wonder whether there aren’t other measures, equally uncoded yet precise, by which we calculate other givens. For example, the amount of circumstantial freedom existing in a certain situation, its extent and its strict limits. Prisoners become experts at this. They develop a particular sensitivity towards liberty, not as a principle, but as a granular substance. They spot fragments of liberty almost immediately whenever they occur.

***

On an ordinary day, when nothing is happening and the crises announced hourly are the old familiar ones—and the politicians are declaring yet again that without them there would be catastrophe—people as they pass one another exchange glances, and some of their glances check whether the others are envisaging the same thing when they say to themselves; so this is life!

Often they are envisaging the same thing and in this primary sharing there is a kind of solidarity before anything further has been said or discussed.

I’m searching for words to describe the period of history we’re living through. To say it’s unprecedented means little because all periods were unprecedented since history was first discovered.

I’m not searching for a complex definition—there are a number of thinkers, such as Zygmunt Bauman, who have taken on this essential task. I’m looking for nothing more than a figurative image to serve as a landmark. Landmarks don’t fully explain themselves, but they offer a reference point that can be shared. In this they are like the tacit assumptions contained in popular proverbs. Without landmarks there is the great human risk of turning in circles.

***

The landmark I’ve found is that of prison. Nothing less. Across the planet we are living in a prison.

The word we, when printed or pronounced on screens, has become suspect, for it’s continually used by those with power in the demagogic claim that they are also speaking for those who are denied power. Let’s talk of ourselves as they. They are living in a prison.

What kind of prison? How is it constructed? Where is it situated? Or am I only using the word as a figure of speech?

No, it’s not a metaphor, the imprisonment is real, but to describe it one has to think historically.

Michel Foucault has graphically shown how the penitentiary was a late eighteenth-, early nineteenth-century invention closely linked to industrial production, its factories and its utilitarian philosophy. Earlier, there were jails that were extensions of the cage and the dungeon. What distinguished the penitentiary is the number of prisoners it can pack in—and the fact that all of them are under continuous surveillance thanks to the model of the Pantopticon, as conceived by Jeremy Bentham, who introduced the principle of accountancy into ethics.

Accountancy demands that every transaction be noted. Hence the penitentiary’s circular walls with the cells arranged around the screw’s watchtower at the center. Bentham, who was John Stuart Mill’s tutor at the beginning of the nineteenth century, was the principal utilitarian apologist for industrial capitalism.

Today in the era of globalization, the world is dominated by financial, not industrial, capital, and the dogmas defining criminality and the logics of imprisonment have changed radically. Penitentiaries still exist and more and more are being built. But prison walls now serve a different purpose. What constitutes an incarceration area has been transformed.

***

Twenty years ago, Nella Bielski and I wrote A Question of Geography, a play about the Gulag. In act two, a zek (a political prisoner) talks to a boy who has just arrived about choice, about the limits of what can be chosen in a labor camp: When you drag yourself back after a day’s work in the taiga, when you are marched back, half dead with fatigue and hunger, you are given your ration of soup and bread. About the soup you have no choice—it has to be eaten whilst it’s hot, or whilst it’s at least warm. About the four hundred grams of bread you have choice. For instance, you can cut it into three little bits: one to eat now with the soup, one to suck in the mouth before going to sleep in your bunk, and the third to keep until next morning at ten, when you’re working in the taiga and the emptiness in your stomach feels like a stone.

You empty a wheelbarrow full of rock. About pushing the barrow to the dump you have no choice. Now it’s empty you have a choice. You can walk your barrow back just like you came, or—if you’re clever, and survival makes you clever—you push it back like this, almost upright. If you choose the second way you give your shoulders a rest. If you are a zek and you become a team leader, you have the choice of playing at being a screw, or of never forgetting that you are a zek.

The Gulag no longer exists. Millions work, however, under conditions that are not very different. What has changed is the forensic logic applied to workers and criminals.

During the Gulag, political prisoners, categorized as criminals, were reduced to slave-laborers. Today millions of brutally exploited workers are being reduced to the status of criminals.

The Gulag equation “criminal = slave laborer” has been rewritten by neoliberalism to become “worker = hidden criminal.” The whole drama of global migration is expressed in this new formula; those who work are latent criminals. When accused, they are found guilty of trying at all costs to survive.

Over six million Mexican women and men work in the U.S. without papers and are consequently illegal. A concrete wall of over one thousand kilometers and a “virtual” wall of eighteen hundred watchtowers were planned along the frontier between the U.S. and Mexico, although the projects have recently been scrapped. Ways around them—though all of them dangerous—will of course be found.

Between industrial capitalism, dependent on manufacture and factories, and financial capitalism, dependent on free-market speculation and front office traders, the incarceration area has changed. Speculative financial transactions add up to, each day, $1,300 billion, fifty times more than the sum of the commercial exchanges. The prison is now as large as the planet and its allotted zones can vary and can be termed worksite, refugee camp, shopping mall, periphery, ghetto, office block, favela, suburb. What is essential is that those incarcerated in these zones are fellow prisoners.

***

It’s the first week in May and on the hillsides and mountains, along the avenues and around the gates in the northern hemisphere, the leaves of most of the trees are coming out. Not only are all their different varieties of green still distinct, people also have the impression that each single leaf is distinct, and so they are confronting billions—no, not billions (the word has been corrupted by dollars), they are confronting an infinite multitude of new leaves.

For prisoners, small visible signs of nature’s continuity have always been, and still are, a covert encouragement.

***

Today the purpose of most prison walls (concrete, electronic, patrolled, or interrogatory) is not to keep prisoners in and correct them, but to keep prisoners out and exclude them.

Most of the excluded are anonymous—hence the obsession of all security forces with identity. They are also numberless, for two reasons. First because their numbers fluctuate; every famine, natural disaster and military intervention (now called policing) either diminishes or increases their multitude. And secondly, because to assess their number is to confront the fact that they constitute most of those living on the surface of the earth—and to acknowledge this is to plummet into absolute absurdity.

***

Have you noticed small commodities are increasingly difficult to remove from their packaging? Something similar has happened with the lives of the gainfully employed. Those who have legal employment and are not poor are living in a very reduced space that allows them fewer and fewer choices—except the continual binary choice between obedience and disobedience. Their working hours, their place of residence, their past skills and experience, their health, the future of their children, everything outside their function as employees has to take a small second place beside the unforseeable and vast demands of liquid profit. Furthermore, the rigidity of this house rule is called flexibility. In prison, words get turned upside down.

The alarming pressure of high-grade working conditions has obliged the courts in Japan to recognize and define a new coroners’ category of “death by overwork.”

No other system, the gainfully employed are told, is … [more]
johnberger  prisoners  solidarity  metaphor  2011  adriennerich  yannisritsos  zygmuntbauman  imprisonment  panopticon  jeremybentham  capitalism  nellabielski  power  tyranny  hanstietmeyer  cyberspace  misinformation  rumors  commentary  humankind 
january 2017 by robertogreco
EXTRACT FROM 'MURAL' - YouTube
"John Berger reading from 'Mural' by Mahmoud Darwish"

[via: "No one exactly dies/ Rather souls change their looks and address" –Darwish died 5 years ago today. Berger reads him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fromy11082A ]
johnberger  tejucole  2008  mahmouddarwish  video  death  change 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Meeting John Berger - YouTube
"Portrait by Jos de Putter about writer, artist and philosopher John Berger, who received the Groeneveld

Director: Jos de Putter
Cinematography: Jean Counet
Sound Recording: Joris van Ballegoijen
Editors: Stefan Kamp, Clara van Gool
Sound Design: Boon and Booy
Producer: Wink de Putter"

[See also: https://jeancounet.myportfolio.com/meeting-john-berger ]

[via:
"Beautiful film of a reading by John Berger, who always reminds us how to be human."
https://twitter.com/tejucole/status/266936094543708160 ]
johnberger  2012  josdeputter  jeancounet  video  tejucole 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Why Look at Animals? by John Berger | Book review | Books | The Guardian
"Part of Penguin's Great Ideas series, this slim book brings together seven of John Berger's essays from 1971-2001, a poem, a drawing and a new story. Apart from the final piece - a moving memoir on the death of Austrian intellectual Ernst Fischer - the theme is the marginalisation of animals. The title essay (1977) explores the ancient relationship between animals and humankind: an "unspeaking companionship". But today the caged creatures in zoos have become "the living monument to their own disappearance" from culture. In all these pieces, what concerns Berger is the loss of a meaningful connection to nature, a connection that can now only be rediscovered through the experience of beauty: "the aesthetic moment offers hope." Berger's writing is wonderfully physical, with a powerful sense of how things look, smell, feel. At his best he shows how everyday experiences - a swallow straying into a room, the performances of primates in a zoo, a peasant carving - hold the aesthetic key to unlock the true order of things."
pdsmith  johnberger  2009  animals  looking  seeing  noticing  multispecies  culture  companionship  humans  marginalization  ernstfischer  humankind  zoos  nature  beauty  aesthetics  hope  everyday 
january 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger: The Nature of Mass Demonstrations (Autumn 1968)
"Seventy years ago (on 6 May 1898) there was a massive demonstration of workers, men and women, in the centre of Milan. The events which led up to it involve too long a history to treat with here. The demonstration was attacked and broken up by the army under the command of General Beccaris. At noon the cavalry charged the crowd: the unarmed workers tried to make barricades: martial law was declared and for three days the army fought against the unarmed.

The official casualty figures were 100 workers killed and 450 wounded. One policeman was killed accidentally by a soldier. There were no army casualties. (Two years later Umberto I was assassinated because after the massacre he publicly congratulated General Beccaris, the ‘butcher of Milan.’)

I have been trying to understand certain aspects of the demonstration in the Corso Venezia on 6 May because of a story I am writing. In the process I came to a few conclusions about demonstrations which may perhaps be more widely applicable.

Mass demonstrations should be distinguished from riots or revolutionary uprisings although, under certain (now rare) circumstances, they may develop into either of the latter. The aims of a riot are usually immediate (the immediacy matching the desperation they express): the seizing of food, the release of prisoners, the destruction of property. The aims of a revolutionary uprising are long-term and comprehensive: they culminate in the taking over of State power. The aims of a demonstration, however, are symbolic: it demonstrates a force that is scarcely used.

A large number of people assemble together in an obvious and already announced public place. They are more or less unarmed. (On 6 May 1898, entirely unarmed.) They present themselves as a target to the forces of repression serving the State authority against whose policies they are protesting.

Theoretically demonstrations are meant to reveal the strength of popular opinion or feeling: theoretically they are an appeal to the democratic conscience of the State. But this presupposes a conscience which is very unlikely to exist.

If the State authority is open to democratic influence, the demonstration will hardly be necessary; if it is not, it is unlikely to be influenced by an empty show of force containing no real threat. (A demonstration in support of an already established alternative State authority – as when Garibaldi entered Naples in 1860 – is a special case and may be immediately effective.)

Demonstrations took place before the principle of democracy was even nominally admitted. The massive early Chartist demonstrations were part of the struggle to obtain such an admission. The crowds who gathered to present their petition to the Tsar in St Petersburg in 1905 were appealing – and presenting themselves as a target – to the ruthless power of an absolute monarchy. In the event – as on so many hundreds of other occasions all over Europe – they were shot down.

It would seem that the true function of demonstrations is not to convince the existing State authority to any significant degree. Such an aim is only a convenient rationalisation.

The truth is that mass demonstrations are rehearsals for revolution: not strategic or even tactical ones, but rehearsals of revolutionary awareness. The delay between the rehearsals and the real performance may be very long: their quality – the intensity of rehearsed awareness – may, on different occasions, vary considerably: but any demonstration which lacks this element of rehearsal is better described as an officially encouraged public spectacle.

A demonstration, however much spontaneity it may contain, is a created event which arbitrarily separates itself from ordinary life. Its value is the result of its artificiality, for therein lies its prophetic, rehearsing possibilities.

A mass demonstration distinguishes itself from other mass crowds because it congregates in public to create its function, instead of forming in response to one: in this, it differs from any assembly of workers within their place of work – even when strike action is involved – or from any crowd of spectators. It is an assembly which challenges what is given by the mere fact of its coming together.

State authorities usually lie about the number of demonstrators involved. The lie, however, makes little difference. (It would only make a significant difference if demonstrations really were an appeal to the democratic conscience of the State.) The importance of the numbers involved is to be found in the direct experience of those taking part in or sympathetically witnessing the demonstration. For them the numbers cease to be numbers and become the evidence of their senses, the conclusions of their imagination. The larger the demonstration, the more powerful and immediate (visible, audible, tangible) a metaphor it becomes for their total collective strength.

I say metaphor because the strength thus grasped transcends the potential strength of those present, and certainly their actual strength as deployed in a demonstration. The more people there are there, the more forcibly they represent to each other and to themselves those who are absent. In this way a mass demonstration simultaneously extends and gives body to an abstraction. Those who take part become more positively aware of how they belong to a class. Belonging to that class ceases to imply a common fate, and implies a common opportunity. They begin to recognise that the function of their class need no longer be limited: that it, too, like the demonstrations itself, can create its own function.

Revolutionary awareness is rehearsed in another way by the choice and effect of location. Demonstrations are essentially urban in character, and they are usually planned to take place as near as possible to some symbolic centre, either civic or national. Their ‘targets’ are seldom the strategic ones – railway stations, barracks, radio stations, airports. A mass demonstration can be interpreted as the symbolic capturing of a city or capital. Again, the symbolism or metaphor is for the benefit of the participants.

The demonstration, an irregular event created by the demonstrators, nevertheless takes place near the city centre, intended for very different uses. The demonstrators interrupt the regular life of the streets they march through or of the open spaces they fill. They ‘cut off these areas, and, not yet having the power to occupy them permanently, they transform them into a temporary stage on which they dramatise the power they still lack.

The demonstrators’ view of the city surrounding their stage also changes. By demonstrating, they manifest a greater freedom and independence – a greater creativity, even although the product is only symbolic – than they can ever achieve individually or collectively when pursuing their regular lives. In their regular pursuits they only modify circumstances; by demonstrating they symbolically oppose their very existence to circumstances.

This creativity may be desperate in origin, and the price to be paid for it high, but it temporarily changes their outlook. They become corporately aware that it is they or those whom they represent who have built the city and who maintain it. They see it through different eyes. They see it as their product, confirming their potential instead of reducing it.

Finally, there is another way in which revolutionary awareness is rehearsed. The demonstrators present themselves as a target to the so-called forces of law and order. Yet the larger the target they present, the stronger they feel. This cannot be explained by the banal principle of ‘strength in numbers,’ any more than by vulgar theories of crowd psychology. The contradiction between their actual vulnerability and their sense of invincibility corresponds to the dilemma which they force upon the State authority.

Either authority must abdicate and allow the crowd to do as it wishes: in which case the symbolic suddenly becomes real, and, even if the crowd’s lack of organisation and preparedness prevents it from consolidating its victory, the event demonstrates the weakness of authority. Or else authority must constrain and disperse the crowd with violence: in which case the undemocratic character of such authority is publicly displayed. The imposed dilemma is between displayed weakness and displayed authoritarianism. (The officially approved and controlled demonstration does not impose the same dilemma: its symbolism is censored: which is why I term it a mere public spectacle.) Almost invariably, authority chooses to use force. The extent of its violence depends upon many factors, but scarcely ever upon the scale of the physical threat offered by the demonstrators. This threat is essentially symbolic. But by attacking the demonstration authority ensures that the symbolic event becomes an historical one: an event to be remembered, to be learnt from, to be avenged.

It is in the nature of a demonstration to provoke violence upon itself. Its provocation may also be violent. But in the end it is bound to suffer more than it inflicts. This is a tactical truth and an historical one. The historical role of demonstrations is to show the injustice, cruelty, irrationality of the existing State authority. Demonstrations are protests of innocence.

But the innocence is of two kinds, which can only be treated as though they were one at a symbolic level. For the purposes of political analysis and the planning of revolutionary action, they must be separated. There is an innocence to be defended and an innocence which must finally be lost: an innocence which derives from justice, and an innocence which is the consequence of a lack of experience.

Demonstrations express political ambitions before the political means necessary to realise them have been created. Demonstrations predict the realisation of their own ambitions and thus may contribute to that realisation, but they cannot themselves achieve them.

The … [more]
johnberger  demonstrations  1968  revolution  massdemonstrations  assembly  democracy  rehearsal  resistance  awareness  practice  authority  authoritarianism  civics  change  law  order  organization  violence 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Meetings: John Berger In the Library - from ‘A Jar of Wild Flowers’ | Blog | London Review Bookshop
"On the shelves under the small section of the local library labelled ‘Sociology’, I found John Berger’s book Ways of Seeing. The book foregrounds how the relationship between what we see and what we know is never settled. I was then, in my teens, trying to decide if I wanted to study the rather unknown subject called Sociology at A level. Stoke library, in Coventry, was a familiar space. My family were regular visitors. We lived a minute’s walk away. As children we frequented it at least three or four times a week. Within this fan-shaped building there were different zones. The children’s room consisted of fiction as well as the important general-knowledge and reference- based encyclopaedic tombs used for homework. This room led off from the more adult room carrying general knowledge and reference books, as well as fiction in several languages, including Urdu, Punjabi and Gujarati.

The neighbourhood and the city of Coventry became a work mecca for arrivants from the British ex-colonies in the period between the two world wars and especially the post-1945 period. It was considered a boomtown for employment and training in engineering and the car industry. Reflecting some of the interests of the arrivants – who were, before they even knew it, settling into the city as ‘home’ – the library started stocking a ‘multicultural’ collection, including a large selection of Asian vinyl records and cassettes. In time, following on from changes in music technologies, this collection shifted to CDs and DVDs. In the zone leading off from the central room, which carried these items as well as local reference materials and fiction, one walked into a space with further adult books, sitting under authoritative labels such as ‘History’. Though the shelf space was much smaller, nevertheless the subject ‘Sociology’ was granted the recognition of a heading, reassuring a teenager that sociology was becoming a proper subject to study.

Finding John Berger’s Ways of Seeing in this section added to the intrigue of a somewhat esoteric subject with an ‘ology’ attached to it. The only other ology I knew of then was biology. While the classifications in biology of the human and plant world appealed to me, I knew I was not heading towards a scientific specialism. Interestingly, the books in our home, in a room which became a study with shelves, consisted of scientific works, on chemistry, physics, maths, technical drawing. This was the (male) educational tradition in the family. As I held John Berger’s Ways of Seeing in my hands, I doubt if I understood much of it. I still remember, though, that what impressed me was the form. The compilation of the book from words, paintings, advertisements and statements was fascinating. The very emphasis in the title on ways of seeing spoke to me more than the commentary on specific historic paintings. Little did I know then that this kind of compilation was a million miles away from what was considered proper or authoritative sociology. Neither did I know then that I would never actually be taught Berger."



"Interiors of learning don’t have to become museumified. Libraries are very specific domains where the private thoughts and interaction with a range of reading materials occurs in public. They are public-private rooms of research as well as writing. For years, scholars, researchers and writers continued to visit the same circular room of the British Library in London, just as Karl Marx had done when he penned his own writing tomes. The public library in Manchester carries on this tradition too. Thus these public-private rooms of research and reading continue to be forms of heritage which are in Stuart Hall’s terminology ‘living archives’ – archives which breath, grow and invite engagement.

It is in the tradition of the living archive that I would like to return to the fan-shaped library in Coventry. If Berger had visited and sat at the circular table with the newspapers and magazines from different countries, he would have found a tall elderly Asian man, with a full head of hair, pulling newspapers up close to him, while setting his glasses on and off, between nose and table. Depending on which year Berger visited the library, he would have found either just his coat hanging on the chair, or one walking stick, or two walking sticks, or a zimmer frame nearby, or a wheelchair. Each of these aids characterised his ageing as well as the resurgence of injuries endured during wartime in Burma in his younger years in the Second World War as a recruit to the Indian British Army.

Herein, I have become, in Berger’s sense, Death’s Secretary. I am referring to my father, Sawarn Singh. He started visiting the local library several times a day after he retired. He actually retired twice, first in the seventies when he left the night shift on the Ford assembly line and then again in the mid eighties from his job as an attendant at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. In contrast to his time at Ford, in the museum he walked the much grander, and cleaner, corridors across several floors. As nighttime security guards, he and his co-worker took tea together while sharing the hourly walk through the gallery as a security check throughout the night. Sculptures by Barbara Hepworth and penny-farthing bicycles as well as halls of transport items filled the large space they kept guard over. Six-foot canvases of Lady Godiva naked on horseback, painted by John Collier (in 1898), craned the necks of viewers walking up the grand staircases.

If Berger had sat at the table in the library my father visited he would have found a collage of materials that contributed to my father’s ways of seeing. His own compilation of Ways of Seeing would have been a bit different from the one Berger assembled. He kept company with an eclectic mix of reading materials. He read the Daily Jang Urdu newspaper, the weekly Punjabi Des Pardes, as well as the tabloid Mirror. In fact, at times he cut out from the English papers to share with his family advertisements for products –possible items to buy – which promised an easier life. These might be slip-on shoes, elasticated trousers or a Ford car, on which he was entitled to get a discount as a former employee. His routine consisted of regularly checking out Urdu novels from the library to read at home, especially before bedtime. Romantic and adventure stories comprised the ever-changing books in his bedside drawer. Not wanting to feel the weight of material items in his care, he usually limited himself to taking out two to three books at a time. Towards the very last years of his life he would continually throw items away, avoiding what he perceived as the stress of having to look after stuff. In contrast to Proust he was not into making snuff out of stuff.

When he passed away in 2013 (aged 94) the library staff, a good number of whom were South Asian, sent a message saying that they would miss his presence: for them he had become a part of the furniture for at least twenty years. Rather like the long-gone mother who appears in Lisbon in Berger’s Here Is Where we Meet, the staff might look up from their counter only to see Sawarn Singh’s large frame walking in, leaning in on his zimmer frame, with his greeting smile – the outline of his trace bearing a ghostly presence and reminder of his loss. The architectural emplacement of the body in the built environment like all architectures gives way to the play of time. Should Berger also come back on this occasion to Stoke library, he might trace a line drawing of Sawarn Singh, offering us a portraiture. He has often painted to shed light on the labour and life of welders, steelworkers, fisherman and performers.

If Berger had come to the table in Stoke library he would not only have met Sawarn Singh reading and holding in his hands very different materials to those Berger sifted through to make Ways of Seeing. He would have also have met a man handling pen and paper, as a person who wrote, somebody who made sentences with words without being a formal writer like Berger; a common relationship to pen, paper and word of working-class men and women. In the library, letters were penned on sky-blue airmail paper for ‘home’. Now and again my father would lend a writing hand to those fellow travellers to the mother country in need of a letter ‘home’. Sitting at the table in the library he occasionally wrote shayari (poetry in Urdu), to be later recited among other older Asian men who met weekly with food and drink in a local school annexe. Since his death, I have been told by some of his poet friends (Prem Sharma and Ram Krishan Prashar) that he wrote – in Urdu, the language of his schooling – his life story, something akin to a memoir or autobiographical notes. As a family we are yet to stumble across them. Herein we are quite literally tasked with being Death’s Secretary. Such is the stuff that meetings with people and their materials are made of."
johnberger  2016  nirmalpuwar  death  waysofseeing  libraries  learning  museums 
january 2017 by robertogreco
VersoBooks.com: John Berger: The dead help the living to resist in Palestine
"I am among not the conquered but the defeated, whom the victors fear. The time of the victors is always short and that of the defeated unaccountably long. Their space is different too. Everything in this limited land is a question of space, and the victors have understood this. The strangle- hold they maintain is first and foremost spatial. It is applied, illegally and in defiance of international law, through the checkpoints, through the destruction of ancient roads, through the new by-passes strictly reserved for Israeli settlers, through the fortress hilltop settlements, which are really surveillance and control points of the surrounding plateaux, through the curfew which obliges people to stay indoors night and day until it is lifted. During the invasion of Ramallah last year, the curfew lasted six weeks, with a ‘lifting’ of a couple of hours on certain days for shopping. There was not even enough time to bury those who died in their beds.

The dissenting Israeli architect, Eyal Weizman has pointed out in a courageous book that this total terrestrial domination begins in the drawings of district-planners and architects. The violence begins long before the arrival of the tanks and jeeps. He talks of a ‘politics of verticality’, whereby the defeated even when ‘at home’ are being literally overseen and undermined.

The effect of this on daily life is relentless. As soon as somebody one morning says to himself ‘I’ll go and see –’ he has to stop short and check how many crossings of barriers the ‘outing’ is likely to involve. The space of the simplest everyday decisions is hobbled, with its foreleg tethered to its hind leg.

In addition, because the barriers change unpredictably from day to day, the experience of time is hobbled. Nobody knows how long it will take this morning to get to work, to go and see Mother, to attend a class, to consult the doctor, nor, having done these things, how long it will take to get back home. The trip, in either direction, may take thirty minutes or four hours, or the route may be categorically shut off by soldiers with their loaded submachine guns.

The Israeli government claims that they are obliged to take these measures to combat terrorism. The claim is a feint. The true aim of the stranglehold is to destroy the indigenous population’s sense of temporal and spatial continuity so that they either leave or become indentured servants. And it’s here that the dead help the living to resist. It’s here that men and women make their decision to become martyrs. The stranglehold inspires the terrorism it purports to be fighting."

[See also:

"Hold Everything Dear: Dispatches on Survival and Resistance
by John Berger
https://www.versobooks.com/books/2155-hold-everything-dear

A powerful meditation on political resistance from one of the most original and influential thinkers of our times

From the War on Terror to resistance in Ramallah and traumatic dislocation in the Middle East, Berger explores the uses of art as an instrument of political resistance. Visceral and passionate, Hold Everything Dear is a profound meditation on the far extremes of human behaviour, and the underlying despair. Looking at Afghanistan, Palestine, and Iraq, he makes an impassioned attack on the poverty and loss of freedom at the heart of such unnecessary suffering. These essays offer reflections on the political at the core of artistic expression and even at the center of human existence itself."]
johnberger  palestine  death  dead  resistance  2015  israel  eyalweizman  overseen  undermined 
january 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger reads Ghassan Kanafani’s Letter from Gaza on Vimeo
"In an address to the inaugural Palestine Festival of Literature (2008) John Berger gives a moving reading of Ghassan Khanafani's "Letter from Gaza""
johnberger  ghassankhanafani  gaza  palestine  2008 
january 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger | The Essay Prize
"THE TEN GREATEST ESSAYS, EVER
JOHN BERGER

Italo Calvino, “Exactitude”
(from Six Memos for the Next Millenium, Harvard University Press, 1988)

Rebecca Solnit, “After Ideology”
(from Hope in the Dark, 2005)

Simone Weil, “Evil”
(from Gravity and Grace, 2002)

Arundhati Roy, “The Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire”
(from The Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire, 2004)

Iona Heath, “Ways of Dying”
(from Matters of Life and Death, 2007)

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “Eye and Mind”
(from The Primacy of Perception, 1964)

Walter Benjamin, “On Language as Such and On the Language of Man”
(from One-Way Street, 1928)

D.H. Lawrence, “The Dance of the Sprouting Corn”
(from Mornings in Mexico, 1927)

George Orwell, “The Art of Donald McGill”
(from Collected Essays, 1941)

Soren Kierkegard, “The Immediate State of the Erotic”
(from Either/Or, 1843)"

[via:
"Nilanjana Roy calls this a "'How to be Human' Playlist," and I agree: John Berger's ten favorite essays"
https://twitter.com/tejucole/status/366912570600333312 ]
lists  readinglists  toread  johnberger  italocalvino  rebeccasolnit  canon  simoneweil  arundhatiroy  ionaheath  mauricemerleau-ponty  walterbanjamin  dhlawrence  georgeorwell  kierkegaard  nilanjanaroy  tejucole 
january 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger: ‘If I’m a storyteller it’s because I listen’ | Books | The Guardian
"After lunch we move into his study, a den of paintings, a place of light, its windows thrown wide, looking on to trees. He tries to make himself comfortable on the white sofa, an arthritic back giving him trouble. As a writer, Berger has that rare and wonderful gift of being able to make complex thoughts simple. He once said, in a BBC interview with Jeremy Isaacs, that he likes, in all his work, to follow the advice of the photographer Robert Capa: “When the picture is not good enough, go closer…” His eye for detail remains unrivalled and consistently surprising (think of his irresistible observation that cows walk as if they were wearing high heels). Reading him is like standing at a window – perhaps a bit like the window of this study – with no one blocking the view. “The way I observe comes naturally to me as a curious person – I’m like la vigie – the lookout guy on a boat who does small jobs, maybe such as shovelling stuff into a boiler, but I’m no navigator – absolutely the opposite. I wander around the boat, find odd places – the masts, the gunwale – and then simply look out at the ocean. Being aware of travelling has nothing to do with being a navigator.”"



"In 1944 he joined up, refusing a commission with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire light infantry, and became a lance corporal at a training camp. He preferred the company of working-class recruits, for whom he became a scribe, writing their letters home. In a sense, he has continued to do this all his life: telling other people’s stories lest they vanish. In a conversation with Susan Sontag, he once said: “A story is always a rescuing operation.” And he has also said (in The Seasons in Quincy): “If I’m a storyteller it’s because I listen. For me, a storyteller is like a passeur who gets contraband across a frontier.”"



"And what does he think about Brexit? He leans back on the sofa (we have now shifted from the overheated study into a cooler parlour, a sofa crawl in operation) and admits it has always been important to him to define himself as European. He then attempts to describe what he sees as the bigger picture: “It seems to me that we have to return, to recapitulate what globalisation meant, because it meant that capitalism, the world financial organisations, became speculative and ceased to be first and foremost productive, and politicians lost nearly all their power to take political decisions – I mean politicians in the traditional sense. Nations ceased to be what they were before.” In Meanwhile (the last essay in Landscapes) he notes that the word “horizon” has slipped out of view in political discourse. And he adds, returning to Brexit, that he voted with his feet long ago, moving to France.

We talk about what it is for a person to adopt a foreign country as home, and about how it is possible to love a landscape like a familiar face. For Berger, that face is the Haute-Savoie. “This is the landscape I lived in for decades [he left only after Beverly died; his son Yves still lives there with his family]. It matters to me because during that time, I worked there like a peasant. OK, don’t let’s exaggerate. I didn’t work as hard as they did but I worked pretty hard, doing exactly the same things as the peasants, working with them. This landscape was part of my energy, my body, my satisfaction and discomfort. I loved it not because it was a view – but because I participated in it.”

He explains: “The connection between the human condition and labour is frequently forgotten, and for me was always so important. At 16, I went down a coal mine in Derbyshire and spent a day on the coal face – just watching the miners. It had a profound effect.” What did it make you feel? “Respect,” he says quietly. “Just respect. There are two kinds. Respect to do with ceremony – what happens when you visit the House of Lords. And a completely different respect associated with danger.” He says: “This is not a prescription for others, but when I look back on my life I think it’s very significant I never went to a university. I refused to go. Lots of people were pushing me and I said, ‘No. I don’t want to’, because those years at university form a whole way of thinking.” And you feel free from that? “Yes.”"



"As he nudges closer to 90, Berger feels his own way of seeing has changed surprisingly little, although, he points out, technology has changed the way younger generations explore art. He admits, then, to his enthusiasm for texting: “I’ve been a fan for a long while because it’s like whispers – and with that goes intimacy, secrecy, playfulness…” But there is nothing fixed about the way he sees. He believes one never sees the same picture twice: “The second time I saw the Grünewald altarpiece was after a terrorist attack – it was the same painting yet I saw it differently.” The importance of certain painters has shifted too. He reveres Modigliani less, admires Velázquez more: “When one is young, one likes drama, excitation, bravura – Velázquez has none of this.”"



"But Berger’s greatest strength in old age is his ability to live in the present. “I cultivated this early on – and this is the paradox – because it was an escape from prescriptions, prophecies, consequences and causes.” The present moment is key to his thinking too. In Ways of Seeing, he suggests that paintings embody the present in which they were painted. Defining the secret of reading aloud well, he says it is “refusing to look ahead, to be in the moment”. And he says that a story puts its listener “in an eternal present”. He has also written about the circularity of time. Does he think that applies to an individual life? Is there, in old age, a way in which one starts to hold hands with one’s younger self?"
johnberger  art  seeing  listening  2016  observation  noticing  storytelling  writing  robertcapa  presence  migration  reading  marxism  globalization  capitalism  participation  labor  participatory  texting  intimacy  secrecy  playfulness 
october 2016 by robertogreco
2 × 4: Essay: Ways of Seeing
"Everyone is talking about the way in which digital media is destabilizing print. I thought it was interesting to choose the reverse scenario: something that started digital but found its real audience in print. Ways of Seeing started as a four-part television series on the BBC in England conceived of and written by art critic John Berger. Berger was reacting specifically to the traditional connoisseurship of Kenneth Clark in the Civilisation series, another famous television program, which inscribed the canonical march of Western culture in heroic terms. As a critique of Clark, Berger created a popular reading of the icons of western art not as aesthetic objects, but deeply cultural artifacts that reveal, upon close “reading”, the limitation, prejudice, bias, and obsession of the culture from which they sprang.

This form of cultural criticism was established in the Universities, especially Marxist leaning polytechnics, but had never before had such a popular airing. The idea that classic paintings could be decoded to reveal social facts — and in fact Berger compared them to modern advertising — was heretical and his work was met with incredulity and anger in the hallowed halls of University Art History departments around the country, But Berger’s position, especially his proto-feminist critique of female nudes, would grow to become the dominant form of art criticism in the years ahead.

The television program had moderate success but shortly after it aired Berger joined with producer Mike Dibb and graphic designer Richard Hollis to produce a printed version of the televised series. Clark had also produced a book to accompany Civilisation: a huge, lavish, full-color coffee table monster that must have weighted 10 kilos. In contrast Berger, Dibb and Hollis produced a slim paperback, 127 x 203mm, of only 166 pages. Even more radical, the book was produced in black + white, reducing the famous art to mere notations on standard, uncoated paper of a trade book. It was published by the BBC Books under the Pelican Books imprint, a division of the venerable Penguin Press organized to publish books to educate rather than entertain the reading public.

Even more striking was the book’s design. Hollis starts the text of the first essay on the cover: “Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.” This simple typographic trick gives the book both a certain modesty (saves on pages) and an urgency (no time to waste). Starting on the outside also suggests a digital quality, the content is broadcast to the reader even as they pass the shelf.

The interior is equally unusual. Hollis set the entire book in a bold sans serif font, a very unlikely choice and aggressively un-civilized. There is no nod to classicism, the book is an entirely modern form. The text is broken down into short bursts, usually no more than a paragraph coupled with a visual example. Again reflecting its origin as a televisual experience the text and images work simultaneously, one form leveraging the other. There are five such text-and-image essays on everything from renaissance nudes to modern advertising. But Berger also adds for entirely visual essays. He assembles a series of examples that by the power of his selection and through their aggressive juxtaposition, he makes his thesis without any words at all. In so doing he presages the development of the curated playlist as a predominant contemporary form and creates the first pre-digital book."
johnberger  michaelrock  waysofseeing  books  2011  bookdesign  richardhollis  fiveparagraphessays 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Designing for touch, reach and movement in post-war English primary and infant schools | Catherine Burke - Academia.edu
"
Clothes quickly pile up on the desks as children busily undress for the dance lesson. The first to change are soon by the door, ready to make their way to the hall, their bare feet wriggling impatiently in their shoes for the moment when they can kick them off and spring on to the hall floor. On the way along the corridor the bodies bustle and an animated walk threatens to break into running ... Once inside the hall, a line of shoes immediately appears under chairs lined up along the wall and swift bare feet dart and prance in lively stepping and jumping. Some rush across the space exhilarated by the feel of air against their faces, some pluck their feet off the floor in hops and leaps, and others swing wide their arms in unrestrained gesture which sweeps them high onto their toes, or pulls them into an off-balance suspension that dissolves into the slack of a downwards spiral. Soon the teacher calls for the classÕs attention and the lesson begins." (McKittrick, 1972: 11)."

Introduction

In his seminal work, About Looking, John Berger (1980) succeeded in opening up new avenues of critical discussion focused on visual texts and the impact of such on their makers and audiences. Ways of Seeing reminded us that seeing comes before words and that the infant looks and recognizes before it can speak (Berger, 2008 front cover). Seeing comes before speaking, but touching is a necessary part of understanding, while movement affords freedom and enables choice. As Raymond Tallis has eloquently established, the pointing finger is a fundamental sign of the human mind in the exercise of its powers of observation and discernment (Tallis, 2010). Together, the sense of touch, the facility of reach and the act of movement imply living fully. It has been long noted that the first sense experienced by infants in exploring the world is touch (Charlton Deas 1913-26 in Grosvenor & MacNab 2013). The sense of touch has been examined by scholars in relation to a range of perspectives involving teaching and learning including object lessons (Keene 2008) and tactile engagement in the context of visual impairment (Grosvenor & McNab 2013). Outside of schools, the sense of touch has been used as a lens to appreciate and explore the experience of learning in museums (Chatterjee 2008; Classen 2005; Pye 2008). The principal anatomical parts involved in touch - the fingers and the hand - have been subjected to critical and creative scrutiny within cross-disciplinary discussions about what it means to be human (Napier 1993; Tallis 2010). In a previously published article (Burke & Cunningham, 2011), I explored with Peter Cunningham the significance of hands as part of what might be called the choreography of the classroom. In that piece we noted how the relationship between the hand and cognitive function has been well established and recognized by teachers and others (Sennett 2008). We also noted how ‘critique of how children were encased in unsuitable or uncomfortable school furniture… (was) characteristic of progressive educational discourse during the first half of the 20th century’ (Burke and Cunningham, 2011: 538).

Few scholars have so far paid critical attention to the ways that designers of school buildings have incorporated into the design process notions of bodily movement. One exception is found in the work of Roy Kozlovsky who has examined how interpretations of movement in the primary school environment engaged post-war architects in England. Consideration of the significance of rhythmic movement shifted their metaphorical conceptualization of the eye of the pupil from a technical apparatus to an organic association as a living muscle ‘that requires its own cycle of concentration and relaxation’ (Kozlovsky, 2010: 707). In this paper, I will extend a focus on the sense of touch to embrace the attributes of reach and movement exposed by a close reading of Building Bulletins reporting on English primary school building design during the period 1949-72. The rationale for this is found in the discourses fueling the drivers of educational redesign in post-war education when ‘reach’ became associated with an idea of the child enabled to exercise powers of freedom and self-expression. I will demonstrate how the imagined exercise of touch, reach and movement evidences an understanding, shared among architects working for the Ministry of Education in the post-war government, of how the body of the school child mattered in the transformation of education towards the design of the modern school and the nurturing of the modern citizen (Stillman and Castle-Cleary, 1949). Through an analysis of the content of a series of Building Bulletins, published by the Ministry of Education (later Department of Education), I will show how, for architects, the imagined use, place and disposition of body parts in close (often touching) proximity to the material environment of school, informed their thinking and featured in their planning. Building Bulletins reported on the design of school buildings in general and on certain particular aspects, such as colour or furniture."



"Sensory contexts of touch, reach, and movement

So what, in conclusion, can we say about this scrutiny of the discourse around touch, reach and movement in the Building Bulletins published in the period 1949-72? First, the findings clearly demonstrate how close was the vocabulary of touch, motion and emotion shared by progressive educators and architects during these years. Feeling (touching) the material environment through an imaginary identification with a young child, was a strategy of design. The material — designed — environment of education was perceived as a key pedagogical force in an education which emphasized the role of the senses. This is well captured in the following statement by Alec Clegg, CEO for the West Riding of Yorkshire during these years (1945-74).
'Children learn mostly from that which is around them and from the use of the senses. These impressions so gained will depend a great deal on interests that will vary considerably. If children are interested they will listen more carefully, look more closely and touch more sensitively. With interest there is created the element of wonder, the most precious element of life' (Sir Alec Clegg, 1964).

Close observation of children's active engagement with the material environment they encountered through their skin, limbs and whole bodies was characteristic of educational and architectural discourses regarding the most appropriate contexts for teaching and learning at this time. Second, observable by its absence in the Building Bulletin's commentary on touch, reach and movement is the figure of the school-teacher, within a systematic approach to designing from the body of the child outwards. This sits easily with the progressive image of the school as discussed through visual evidence from iconic school environments in this period (Burke and Grosvenor, 2007). Finally, in examining the imagined settings for touch alongside notions of scale and reach in the context of the built environment, we are forced to address questions of comfort and discomfort, agency and non-agency. In this analysis, the sense of touch leaves its anchor of materiality and comes to appear essential to affording a sense of belonging, allied to a notion of rights to participate in an imagined democratic community."
catherineburke  1940s  1950s  1960s  1970s  schools  schooldesign  multisensory  education  children  learning  progressive  howwelearn  howwteach  teaching  pedagogy  environment  touch  reach  movement  motion  emotion  alecclegg  johnberger  furnitue  color  architecture  design  scale  bodies  body  furniture  christianschiller  materials  difference  accessibility 
june 2015 by robertogreco
The Filmic Page: Chris Marker's Commentaires: Observatory: Design Observer
"Commentaires presents the scripts of five films directed by Marker: Les statues meurent aussi (1953, co-directed with Alain Resnais), Dimanche à Pékin (1955), Lettre de Sibérie (1957), Description d’un combat (1960) and Cuba si (1961), as well as an unmade project, L’Amérique rêve (1959). In each case, Marker puts stills from the film into or alongside the text. It would be easy to take such plasticity for granted today, although this degree of integration of text and image in a film book, or any kind of small-format book for continuous reading rather than reference, is still unusual. At the time, it was a remarkable accentuation of the image in relation to the text. Marker uses wide fore-edge margins, and spaces between the paragraphs and other kinds of writing, such as song lyrics, to create open, dynamically organized layouts. The effect is to make all the elements appear to float in loosely placed, almost provisional arrangements. Turning the book’s pages, text and image strike the eye as being equally important.

“As you read [Commentaires] you knew exactly what was being talked about,” Richard Hollis notes in an interview with Eye. “It was a substitute for description: instead of talking about something, you show the objective visual evidence. That’s how I wanted to do Ways of Seeing, rather than have images by the side or text followed by a page of images.” In Commentaires, though, the image isn’t a substitute for the text (as it was sometimes in Berger’s book) but rather a selective approximation and evocation of the film experience, running in parallel with the words."



"In one of the film’s most audacious conceits, Marker shows the same sequence three times: a bus goes past, some men work on the road, another man walks by. With each viewing, the voiceover changes to describe the city of Yakutsk first as a worker’s paradise, then as hell on earth, and finally in more measured terms. The man walking by transforms from a “picturesque denizen of the Arctic reaches” into a “sinister looking Asiatic” before becoming merely a worker “afflicted with an eye disorder.” But even objectivity, notes Marker, can end up being a form of distortion; Yakutsk cannot be understood just by walking (and filming) the streets. After this piece of demystification, the reliability of any documentary, including his own, must forever be in doubt. When the sequence is translated into a layout in Commentaires, there is no need to repeat it to make the point. Marker compresses the narrative into a triptych of representative images displayed opposite the three competing modes of voiceover.

One final example taken from a sequence about the Siberian gold rush that turned the Aldan district into a lawless territory over which the Soviet government, a decade after the revolution, could maintain no control. Marker teases the viewer: “You expected to see Indians? There were Indians, cowboys, sorcerers, trappers, fights and romances.” The oval vignettes used on the page on either side of the descriptions are a direct re-creation of the devices employed ironically in the film to mythologize the figures in these old photographs. A bearded, modern-day worker living in the area is shown in the same manner before the moving image expands, like an iris-in, to fill the full frame.

The final likely reason that Commentaires has been neglected as a piece of advanced editorial design is that its layout was not the work of an established graphic designer. We are back to the familiar limitation that graphic design history tends to concern itself with the output of people formally identified as professional designers. As it happens, Marker was an outstanding example of the kind of communicator many designers now aspire to be, a versatile, multi-talented figure able to cross disciplinary boundaries — in his case writing, photography, filmmaking and design — and combine these endeavors in a unified personal life project. It’s hardly surprising that critics who analyse his work primarily as a filmmaker haven’t taken a close interest in Commentaires, the multi-volume Petite Planète series (1954-64), or Coréennes (1959), his book of photographs of Korean women, as designed objects. The two volumes of Commentaires are highly imaginative, inventive and challenging interpretations of the book form and, quite apart from their importance as documents in film history, they rightly also belong within an expanded historical understanding of editorial design."
rickpoynor  chrismarker  books  via:litherland  documentary  film  bookdesign  graphicdesign  objectivity  2014  commentaires  johnberger  waysofseeing 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Teju Cole: By the Book - NYTimes.com
"What books are currently on your night stand?

I just got in the “Selected Poems” of Bill Manhire, who is from New Zealand. He’s a mature poet with his own voice, but his unobtrusive authority and his tenderness remind me of Seamus Heaney. I’m teaching Intermediate Fiction at Bard this semester, and I’ve assigned Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri, Petina Gappah, Lydia Davis and Stephanie Vaughn. So I’m rereading them, too.

Who is your favorite novelist of all time? And your favorite novelist writing today?

Penelope Fitzgerald was the author of several slim, perfect novels. “The Blue Flower” and “The Beginning of Spring” both had me abuzz for days the first time I read them. She was curiously perfect. Among living novelists, my favorites include J. M. Coetzee, Michael Ondaatje and Michel Tournier, none of whom need my praise. I cherish James Salter’s short stories, and his every sentence.

Sell us on your favorite overlooked or underappreciated writer.

Lydia Davis is famous, but not nearly famous enough. Ditto Anne Carson. It’s notable that neither of them is really a novelist; “the novel” is overrated, and the writers I find most interesting find ways to escape it.

Have you read any good contemporary poetry lately?

I’m very pleased to have encountered in the past couple of years the work of two astounding young poets, each of whom has one book out: Ishion Hutchinson (“Far District”) and Rowan Ricardo Phillips (“The Ground”). Both have impressive reserves of insight and the language to bring those insights to life. They are the future of American poetry.

And I’m glad I finally got round to reading “Stag’s Leap,” by Sharon Olds. There is the feeling that one gets when one “discovers” a new song only to realize it has a million views on YouTube already. “Stag’s Leap” was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the T. S. Eliot Prize last year. But the book is new to me, and I love it.

And which recent books by or about photographers would you recommend?

“Wall,” by Josef Koudelka; “Sergio Larrain” (a monograph on the reclusive Chilean genius, who died in 2012); and “The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus,” by Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen.

I wrote the introductory essay to Richard Renaldi’s “Touching Strangers.” Nevertheless, it is an excellent book. Ivan Vladislavic’s novel “Double Negative” is another great book that wasn’t marred by my introduction.

What are your literary guilty pleasures? Do you have a favorite genre?

No guilt. I read many kinds of things, but my deepest happiness is in reading poetry.

What are your favorite art history books?

I was trained in art history and still get a great deal of joy from reading it. The best art history books, I feel, are as good as the best novels. Among the most illuminating for me are the following: “The Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Germany,” by Michael Baxandall; “The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus,” by Paul Zanker; “The Painting of Modern Life,” by T. J. Clark; “The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art,” by Joseph Leo Koerner; and “Inside Bruegel,” by Edward Snow. The last of these, a startling interpretation of Bruegel’s “Children’s Games,” is great for nonspecialist readers.



What kind of reader were you as a child? And what were your favorite childhood books?

I began early — around 6 — and by the time I was 10 I had read Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart,” Charles and Mary Lamb’s “Tales From Shakespeare” and an abridged edition of “Tom Sawyer.” I wasn’t a prodigy, but I developed a sense that access to any book was limited only by my interest and my willingness to concentrate.

Whom do you consider your literary heroes?

They are many: Michael Ondaatje, most of all. But also Marguerite Yourcenar, John Berger and Seamus Heaney.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

I suppose at least a little faith in literature’s ability to make us better is what lies behind this question. But I have no such faith. The president has already read many wonderful books from many different cultures. Now we need him to act justly in certain matters: to stop killing people extrajudicially, and to stop deporting people with such enthusiasm. I doubt that more reading will quicken his conscience in these matters.

You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?

Alice Oswald, Laila Lalami and Zadie Smith.

You’ve got an active Twitter account going. Does it influence your thinking or writing process?

I suppose it must. It’s such a combative place at times that it makes me less worried about putting ideas out into the world. You realize that anything you have to say is going to annoy some stranger, so you might as well speak your mind. But being active on Twitter also means that the literary part of my brain — the part that tries to make good sentences — is engaged all the time. My memory is worse than it was a few years ago, but I hope that my ability to write a good sentence has improved.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

I have not read most of the big 19th — century novels that people consider “essential,” nor most of the 20th-century ones for that matter. But this does not embarrass me. There are many films to see, many friends to visit, many walks to take, many playlists to assemble and many favorite books to reread. Life’s too short for anxious score-keeping. Also, my grandmother is illiterate, and she’s one of the best people I know. Reading is a deep personal consolation for me, but other things console, too."

[via: http://tumblr.austinkleon.com/post/78770035787 ]

[via: https://twitter.com/tejucole/status/446639178843840512 ]
tejucole  2014  interviews  books  literacy  illiteracy  reading  politics  barackobama  booklists  poetry  novels  literature  writing  howweread  howwewrite  twitter  guiltypleasures  seamusheany  billmanhire  alicemunro  jhumpalahiri  petinagappah  lydiadavis  stephanievaughn  penelopefitzgerald  hmcoetzee  michaelondaatje  miceltournier  jamessalter  annecarson  rowanricardophillips  ishionhutchinson  sharonolds  josefkoudelka  sergiolarrain  robhornstra  arnoldvanbruggen  richardrenaldi  ivanvladislavic  michaelbaxandrall  paulzanker  tjclark  josephleokoerner  edwardsnow  chinuaachebe  charleslamb  marylamb  margueriteyourcenar  johnberger  aliceoswald  lailalalami  zadiesmith  sergiolarraín 
march 2014 by robertogreco
thinking out loud: Hold Everything Dear
"for John Berger

as the brick of the afternoon stores the rose heat of the journey

as the rose buds a green room to breathe
and blossoms like the wind

as the thinning birches whisper their silver stories of the wind to the urgent
in the trucks

as the leaves of the hedge store the light
that the moment thought it had lost

as the nest of her wrist beats like the chest of a wren in the morning air

as the chorus of the earth find their eyes in the sky
and unwrap them to each other in the teeming dark

hold everything dear

the calligraphy of birds across the morning
the million hands of the axe, the soft hand of the earth
one step ahead of time
the broken teeth of tribes and their long place
steppe-scattered and together
clay’s small, surviving handle, the near ghost of a jug
carrying itself towards us through the soil

the pledge of offered arms, the single sheet that is our common walking
the map of the palm held
in a knot

but given as a torch

hold everything dear

the paths they make towards us and how far we open towards them

the justice of a grass than unravels palaces but shelters the songs of the searching

the vessel that names the waves, the jug of this life, as it fills with the days
as it sinks to become what it loves

memory that grows into a shape the tree always knew as a seed

the words
the bread

the child who reaches for the truths beyond the door

the yearning to begin again together
animals keen inside the parliament of the world

the people in the room the people in the street the people

hold everything dear

Gareth Evans, in Hold Everything Dear (thank you, Jen)"
garethevans  poems  poetry  johnberger  appreciation  noticing  everything 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Spinoza, Plums, and Why We Draw - NYTimes.com
“Although we do not remember that we existed before the body, we sense nevertheless that our mind in so far as it involves the essence of the body under a species of eternity is eternal and its existence cannot be defined by time or explained by duration.”
time  mind  body  drawing  tejucole  2011  johnberger  bodies  from delicious
august 2012 by robertogreco
It's Nice That : Bookshelf this week comes out of Brooklyn and the library of The Believer's online editor, Max Fenton
"Max Fenton is stalwart of and evangelist for all sorts of reading and writing experiences, both on and off screen (particularly A Book Apart and Reading.am). He is also the online editor of The Believer magazine – a literary vehicle for very long essays and book reviews, a length absolutely justified by the overwhelming goodness of the content.

With this is mind, his shortlist of literary cornerstones was never going to be a simple compilation – especially if you peruse his ongoing bibliography – but that said, it’s a great quintuplet of poetry and alternative titles from known authors, contemporary writers with a tech and design bent and a few honorary bedside book mentions…"
maxfenton  booklists  books  toread  walterbenjamin  nickharkaway  2012  frankchimero  johnberger  jackgilbert  rebeccasolnit  sheilaheti  wendywalker  henrywessells  christopheralexander  adamlevin  desmondmorris  lists 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Between the By-Road and the Main Road: Being in the Middle: Learning Walks
"So imagine a commitment to learning that involved making regular learning walks with high school students as a normal part of the "school" day. Now, these learning walks should not be confused with walking tours, which are designed based on planned outcomes. One walks to point X in order to see object or artifact Y. The points are predetermined, hierarchical in design.

Instead, learning walks are rhizomatic. They are inherently about being in the middle of things and coming to learn what could not been predetermined. Learning walks are part of the "curriculum" for instructional seminar (which I described here)."

[My comments cross-posted here: http://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/7182110515/walking-and-learning ]
maryannreilly  comments  walking  walkshops  adamgreenfield  flaneur  psychogeography  derive  dérive  education  learning  schools  teaching  unschooling  deschooling  noticing  observation  seeing  2011  rhizomaticlearning  johnseelybrown  douglasthomas  unguided  self-directedlearning  serendipity  johnberger  willself  rebeccasolnit  sistercorita  maps  mapping  photography  alanfletcher  lawrenceweschler  kerismith  exploration  exploring  johnstilgoe  noticings  rjdj  ios  situationist  situatedlearning  situated  hototoki  serendipitor  flow  mihalycsikszentmihalyi  experience  control  ego  cv  coritakent  from delicious
july 2011 by robertogreco
John Berger: a life in writing | Culture | The Guardian
"At 16 Berger left school and enrolled at the Central School of Art, where he encountered "older painters and teachers". Lucian Freud was there briefly at the same time. "I'm not saying we predicted what would happen with his career, but equally it is not that much of a surprise. He was an outstanding student, and it was clear that he was very gifted and also very confident.""

""The only rule in collaborations is that one should never strike deals and never compromise," he says. "If you disagree on something you shouldn't yield and you shouldn't insist on winning. Instead you should just accept that the solution is not right and carry on until it is right. The temptation to say 'you can have this one and I will have the next one' is fatal.""

[via: http://www.gyford.com/phil/writing/2011/05/03/easter-reading.php ]
johnberger  collaboration  compromise  marxism  karlmarx  waysofseeing  books  writing  spinoza  ruralcomp  kennethclark  2011  activism  biography  materialism  history  religion  christianity  socialism  managementtheory  lucianfreud  painting  renatogattuso  from delicious
may 2011 by robertogreco
How to avoid getting a proper job - Dougald's posterous
"Our education system is constantly justifying itself as a route to securing a good job. So what do you do if you get to the university careers service and they don't have a life your shape?

That was the question I set out to talk about a week ago, in a guest lecture to students at Winchester School of Art.

It was Friday afternoon and I was in an art school, so it was also a chance to indulge my enthusiasm for John Berger - not least as the writer whose work helped me most when I walked away from the beginnings of a successful career at the BBC and had to work out what I was actually going to do with my life.

How do we find something to live for? How do we organise our lives around what matters most to us? How do the wider changes we're living through interact with these decisions? And could art school be a better preparation for life in the 21st century than an MBA?"

[See also: http://www.archive.org/details/HowToAvoidGettingAProperJob ]
dougaldhine  work  labor  education  commoditization  artschool  learning  unschooling  deschooling  entrepreneurship  careers  johnberger  life  yearoff  lcproject  artschools  from delicious
february 2011 by robertogreco
Education and Community Programs » Astra Taylor on the Unschooled Life
"This anarchist approach to education has been fundamental to Taylor’s D.I.Y. attitude towards learning, creativity, and pedagogy. As one interviewer wrote, ‘Her non-traditional upbringing, or as she calls it, her “super weirdo hippy background,” stood her in good stead, providing a strong sense of confidence and an affirmation in her own abilities and artistic vision.’ Thinking about Astra’s unconventional past, I began to wonder how education and the way we’re taught to learn can hinder or support our creative development.

Luckily, Astra will be back to the Walker next Thursday night (talk and gallery admission are free) to speak about how her personal experiences of growing up home-schooled without a curriculum or schedule have shaped her personal philosophy and development as an artist. If you need a primer, check out this great interview she did with CitizenShift or you can get a better idea of Astra’s influences by her recommended reads:

Animal Liberation by Peter Singer

A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guatarri

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

Ways of Seeing by John Berger

Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit

The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World by Lewis Hyde

* * * *

Other Suggestions:

“Against School” by John Taylor Gatto in Harpers Magazine, September 2003

How Children Learn by John Holt

How Children Fail by John Holt

Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich

The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School & Get a Real Life & Education by Grace Llewellyn"
astrataylor  books  lists  education  unschooling  deschooling  pedagogy  art  toread  anarchy  anarchism  glvo  learning  creativity  lcproject  readinglists  deleuze  guattari  rebeccasolnit  dorislessing  johnberger  johnholt  gracellewellyn  petersinger  lewishyde  ivanillich  gillesdeleuze  félixguattari  from delicious
november 2010 by robertogreco
[VIVARIA.NET] ["The project asks: Why Look at Artificial Animals? (paying homage to John Berger's essay 'Why look at Animals?' published in 1980)."]
"Animals are both like and unlike humans. If this was partly reinforced by human isolation from the wider world of nature under the culture of capitalism, under late techno-capitalism, animals can be said to be increasingly both like and unlike machines — or to put it another way, machines are increasingly being classified according to the model of the animal. The inter-relationships are enduring ones, reactivated by changes in social and technological production, making the former distinction further complicated by the addition of artificial life-formds and biotechnologies — the merging of biological and computational forms. The task of classifying and differentiating between animals, humans and machines is one performed with increasing amounts of difficulty, born out of complexity, to use an adaptive term. Perhaps, under the conditions of bio-techno-capitalism, humans are both like and unlike artificial animals."
animals  art  literature  science  poetry  vivaria  borges  taxonomy  relationships  humans  complexity  shakespeare  darwin  sulawesicrestedmacaques  johnberger  via:chriswoebken  biotechnology  capitalism  bio-techno-capitalism  machines  classification  sorting  differentiation  hybrids  isolation  nature  techno-capitalism  technology  charlesdarwin  from delicious
november 2010 by robertogreco

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