John Berger

owen

Well-known member
I went to see a few of his documentaries at the NFT last week. had no previous knowledge other than the undergraduate perennial book of 'ways of seeing', so didn't quite know what to expect- it was all remarkable stuff, a few things that stuck out-

- so much of this doesn't seem to be talked about anymore-advertising, art as something worth arguing seriously over, the ability to generalise without (for the most part) sounding patronising

- this mesmerising sequence in the fourth episode of 'WOS', a cut ups of oil paintings and advertising in incongrously bleak places, set to incredible delia derbyshire music (my god, there must be albums worth of stuff of hers this good!)- so sinister...

- there's this faith in people there that is very unusual now, from left or right. one of the programmes ('drawn from life') i think it was called) consisted of an 'ordinary' member of the 'public' talking about a selection of paintings for 10 minutes or so. another was about the palais ideal, this construction that a rural postman had worked on their entire life, this astonishing, unique thing (and there was none of that 'outsider art' guff here, it was all taken with the utmost seriousness)...running through all the films was a wierd optimism. there was a line about how we were 'a society half way to democracy'- coupled with this belief that anyone is capable of thought, of creativity. a stressing of potentiality rather than a sub-situ rant about how people are lulled by the spectacle etc- although much of it had a lot in common with the situs.

sometimes it veers slightly close to romanticisation of the working class, but i found it all...rather touching, to be honest.

anyway, i'm rambling now. any thoughts?
 

Melmoth

Bruxist
Going to hear him at speak at the NFT tomorrow night. His novel 'G.', which won the first Booker prize, is one of my favourites. He gave the cash to the Black Panthers.
 

ripley

Well-known member
He's one of my favorite writers ever, but I've never seen his films.

_King_ is one of the best arguments for the existence of art ever.. it kept me sane and grounded when I was studying economics. But just generally, I think he's genius.

Please report back, I am wildly curious!
 

Melmoth

Bruxist
He was superb the other night, seemed like a genuinely warm, open and thoughtful human being, which of course made me suspicious, but unnecessarily so, I'm sure. The main cinema in the NFT was packed and he talked for well over an hour, took questions too. He really does act out the process of thibking, screwing up his face, rubbing his (shaven) head, pausing interminably. There is an element of showmanship, of performance in this, but its so far from the slick, manicured Q & As you get with hacks like Amis or McEwan - the titbits buffed by endless repetition - that its very compelling and attractive.

Couple of things I remember: He made an opposition between optimism and hope. The former is a measured assessment, the latter has nothing of calculation about it.

Also, in proabably the most energetic answer he gave, he argued that perhaps its time to give up words like 'democracy' and 'politics', that have been sullied and cheapened through manipulation by our dear leaders, and forge new terms for these things.

Perhaps the most memorable comment was in answer to a question about his views on London, where he was born but left over 40 years ago. He said that over the past two weeks he's been watching people a lot on the streets here, and that in London, compared to other European cities like Madird, Paris, Berlin or Warsaw, people were prepared to show their vulnerability in public, they didn't waer masks. Intriguingly, he went on to say he had an intuition that this was related to the fact that London was by far the most multicultural city in Europe.
 

maurice

New member
owen said:
I went to see a few of his documentaries at the NFT last week. had no previous knowledge other than the undergraduate perennial book of 'ways of seeing', so didn't quite know what to expect- it was all remarkable stuff, a few things that stuck out-

- so much of this doesn't seem to be talked about anymore-advertising, art as something worth arguing seriously over, the ability to generalise without (for the most part) sounding patronising

- this mesmerising sequence in the fourth episode of 'WOS', a cut ups of oil paintings and advertising in incongrously bleak places, set to incredible delia derbyshire music (my god, there must be albums worth of stuff of hers this good!)- so sinister...

- there's this faith in people there that is very unusual now, from left or right. one of the programmes ('drawn from life') i think it was called) consisted of an 'ordinary' member of the 'public' talking about a selection of paintings for 10 minutes or so. another was about the palais ideal, this construction that a rural postman had worked on their entire life, this astonishing, unique thing (and there was none of that 'outsider art' guff here, it was all taken with the utmost seriousness)...running through all the films was a wierd optimism. there was a line about how we were 'a society half way to democracy'- coupled with this belief that anyone is capable of thought, of creativity. a stressing of potentiality rather than a sub-situ rant about how people are lulled by the spectacle etc- although much of it had a lot in common with the situs.

sometimes it veers slightly close to romanticisation of the working class, but i found it all...rather touching, to be honest.

anyway, i'm rambling now. any thoughts?
Hasn't Berger ALWAYS romanticised the working class? In the late 50s he embraced London's Kitchen Sink Realist painters (Bratby,etc.) then dropped them "like a cold potato" when they denied the Marxist politics he imputed to them. He's been around a long time finding new variations on his old tune.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
Just read this in something of Berger's...

"Any sense of History, linking past and future, has been marginalized, if not eliminated. And so, people are suffering a sense of Historic loneliness. The French refer to those who are forced to live in the street as S.D.F. Sans Domicile Fixe. We are under constant pressure to feel that we may have become the S.D.F. of History. There are no longer any acknowledged occasions for us to receive the dead and the unborn. There is each day's life, yet what surrounds it is a void. A void in which millions of us are today alone. And such solitude can transform Death into a companion."

Sounds about right.
 
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version

Who loves ya, baby?
Although I wonder whether "ordinary" people have always felt that way. It's just that they can actually be heard now.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
 
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