Berger’s Ways of Seeing and Starry Night abused


Van Gogh’s Starry Night is one of the most famous and recognizable paintings in the world. Its value is priceless and seeing in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City is truly a magical sensation. Berger explains this is partly due to its monetary value. This may be true, but to see it in its silence and stillness, after seeing it everywhere from books to coffee mugs, the real thing transcends just its rarity and authenticity. Starry Night has a brilliance in it’s dark contrasting colors and brushstrokes that are lost in most prints. Berger correctly explains how photography has changed that. Now art can be used or abused as its own language by someone other than the artist. I think John would shudder to see the effects of not just photography but now years after his video, Photoshop and the ability to not only reproduce but severely alter an image into a completely different image. In this ‘meme’ Starry Night has been altered as a joke to make people laugh on the internet. It has been photoshopped so someone can increase their social media presence. Van Gogh painted this scene in a severe depression in a mental hospital. He never intended for his painting to be used as a language of humor. Berger uses the camera as the culprit for this trend of manipulation of art, but I’d argue it goes well beyond the camera. It’s modern technology that is the true offender. If Berger had experienced the digital world, he would see art being metamorphized not just by its context but by actual true digital manipulation. He would see his theory proven to an extreme he never imagined when he filmed this 40-50 years ago. Images today’s day are so accessible to manipulation that anybody with a computer can abuse art for their own purpose. It has ultimately changed the value of visual art and stripped it of its original meaning.

1 thought on “Berger’s Ways of Seeing and Starry Night abused

  1. Paul Fess

    This is interesting, and I’m wondering if you think of this meme at all as making a more serious point. About militarism, for example.

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