John Berger’s Ways of Seeing Episode 1

The Icon, representative of God, had a deeper meaning long ago. In order to see it, and therefore be close to God, people had to travel to see it. The habit of making the pilgrimage gave the Icon great significance. The Icon is given a different kind of significance today, as the viewer can feel close to God while sitting in their home. I think this is part of what John Berger was trying to convey when he said “seeing is shaped by habit.”

Museums are designed to create a certain ambiance for viewing art. The art is also the focal point of a trip to the museum. A person gets up, takes public transport, and tours a museum to see it. The dedication and general feeling around seeing an authentic art piece can be dulled when seeing it is as simple as typing the title into Google. Additionally, when seeing art on a screen the viewer can’t zoom in and focus on specific parts of the art. They must trust the person operating the camera to get as much detail as possible. This is how seeing art in a museum is different form seeing it on a screen.

I think that when Berger refers to reproduction as a “form of information,” he is referring to the art as having a message to convey. I think this is why he also mentions them having to compete with other information “jostled together on the same page.” The idea of “talking with reproductions” is sort of lost on me and I’m not sure I understand it. I think this is the way that images can have a universal meaning? Like a red octagon means “stop” and a yellow triangle means “caution,” these images have stable meaning because they have been reproduced so many times.