robertogreco + payingattention   5

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
Austin Kleon — John Holt, How Children Learn Children do not...
"After I re-read that section, I was reminded of Laurence Weschler writing about David Hockney, and how “interest-ing” for Hockney is a verb: it is the continual projection of interest. (The more you look at something, the more interesting it gets.) This was certainly the case with me after I started reading this book, and Holt in general: I, who felt like a somewhat enlightened parent, started noting all the ways I wasn’t paying attention to them, and over time, they have become more interesting to me, not because I’m doting on them more, or even spending more time with them, but because I am looking at them like little scientists, or just little people, who are worthy of interest. (It sounds so stupid: of course a parent should find their kids interesting, but think about how many parents and teachers and adults you know — maybe including yourself — who, secretly, probably don’t.)

Holt’s work has really shaken me up, blown my mind, and given me a different way of thinking about my kids. Some of my favorite bits, below."
johnholt  howchildrenlearn  education  learning  children  trust  austinkleon  lawrencewescheler  davidhockney  art  interestedness  interested  interesting  attention  payingattention  noticing  parenting  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  librarians  teachers  purpose  belonging  work  community  conversation  cv  pacing  meaningmaking  unschooling  deschooling  departmentalization  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  control  independence  anxiety  howchildrenfail  testing  assessment  reggioemilia  punk  games  play  standardizedtesting  love  2016  listening 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Taking Care of Youth and the Generations (Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics): Bernard Stiegler: 9780804762731: Amazon.com: Books
"Bernard Stiegler works systematically through the current crisis in education and family relations resulting from the mesmerizing power of marketing technologies. He contends that the greatest threat to social and cultural development is the destruction of young people's ability to pay critical attention to the world around them. This phenomenon, prevalent throughout the first world, is the calculated result of technical industries and their need to capture the attention of the young, making them into a target audience and reversing the relationship between adults and children.

Taking Care exposes the carelessness of these industries and urges the reader to re-enter the "battle for intelligence" against the drive-oriented culture of short-term ("short-circuited") attention characteristic of the negative aspects of the new technologies. Long-term attention, Stiegler shows, produces retentions of cultural memory mandatory for social development—and for the counteracting of ADD and ADHD. Examining the history of education from Plato to the current quagmires in France and the United States, he tracks the notion of critical thinking from its Enlightenment apotheosis to its current eradication. Stiegler is unique in combining the most radical of theoretical constructs—such as "grammatization"—with quite traditional values, values he proposes we re-address in our not-so-brave new world."
via:bobbygeorge  books  toread  youth  add  adhd  education  attention  payingattention  2010  bernardstiegler  marketing  capitalism  technology 
december 2013 by robertogreco
William Gibson On MONDO 2000 & 90s Cyberculture (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #16) | ACCELER8OR
"REGARDING THE ’90S UTOPIANISM: I never though that cyborgs and virtual worlds were particularly utopian, so I’ve never been disappointed. The world is always more interesting than some futurist’s vision. If you think it’s not, you’re not really looking."

"WHO WE ARE: Who we are is largely who we meet. Cities are machines that randomize contact. The Internet is a meta-city, meta-randomizing contact. I now “know” more people than I would ever have imagined possible, because of that. It changes who I am and what I can do."
urban  urbanism  contact  meta-city  life  whoweare  change  payingattention  noticing  reality  cyborgs  utopianthinking  online  web  internet  cities  vr  futurists  futurism  timothyleary  cyberpunk  cyberculture  rusirius  simonelackbauer  mondo2000  williamgibson  scifi  sciencefiction  virtualreality  from delicious
may 2012 by robertogreco
The Most Dangerous Gamer - Magazine - The Atlantic
"Thoreau…“With a little more deliberation in the choice of their pursuits,” he proclaimed, “all men would perhaps become essentially students and observers, for certainly their nature and destiny are interesting to all alike.”

Blow clicked off the stereo and turned to me. “I honestly didn’t plan that,” he said.

In so many words, Loud Thoreau had just described Blow’s central idea for The Witness. Whereas so many contemporary games are built on a foundation of shooting or jumping or, let’s say, the creative use of mining equipment to disembowel space zombies, Blow wants the point of The Witness to be the act of noticing, of paying attention to one’s surroundings. Speaking about it, he begins to sound almost like a Zen master. “Things are pared down to the basic acts of movement and observation until those senses become refined,” he told me. “The further you go into the game, the more it’s not even about the thinking mind anymore—it becomes about the intuitive mind."
literature  narrative  taylorclark  miegakure  marctenbosch  interactivefiction  asceticism  storytelling  payingattention  attention  observation  noticing  intuition  myst  littlebigplanet  money  belesshelpful  fiction  jenovachen  flow  tombissell  gamedev  chrishecker  einstein'sdreams  alanlightman  invisiblecities  italocalvino  jonblow  deannavanburen  art  2012  thewitness  thoreau  srg  edg  videogames  gaming  games  braid  jonathanblow  if  cyoa  from delicious
april 2012 by robertogreco

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