Ways of seeing

  1. One of the first points John Berger makes is that the act of seeing something is not as objective as we might at first think. Instead, he argues that what we see is conditioned by habits and conventions. What does Berger mean when he says that the process of seeing is not “natural,” that it is shaped by habits and conventions? What kinds of habits and conventions shape the ways we see and how do they do this? Why is this significant when we think about what artworks like paintings mean for viewers?        

John Berger states “ the act of seeing something is not as objective as we might at first think”. He explains that what we see is conditioned by habits and conventions because we are conditioned to see the world in a different perspective through photography and modern technology. We tend to believe a large part of seeing depends upon habit and conventions. All the paintings of the tradition used the convention of perspective which is unique because our perspective centers everything on the eyes of the beholders. Our habits and conventions go beyond just what the eye sees at the moment. He further explained how cameras changed everything and the uses of it changes the concept of art. The uses of cameras help to see a mile away and how the use of cameras leads towards the creation of a fresh perception of the art. He added that with the invention of the camera we can view art everywhere outside of its intended environment as a part of building, museum, church and so on .However, in a modern perspective we are conditioned to see but as we lose its original purpose .

2.  According to Berger, how has the camera changed our senses of perception? How has this device changed our engagement with works of art? Conversely, Berger describes the experience of being in the presence of an authentic artwork–at a museum, for instance–in terms of “stillness” and “silence.” What does he mean by this? According to Berger, why is seeing an artwork in a museum different from seeing it on a screen or in a book?

According to Berger, cameras have completely changed our sense of perception because it helps to see such icons in the home. The images come to you through an image of painting which travels. He explained  how the images he standing  in the studio travel and  and appears on screen the meaning of a painting no longer reside in its unique painted surface which it is only possible to see in one place at one time its meaning or a large part of its has become transmittable. Further he illustrates camera work of art transmittable has multiplied its possible meaning and destroyed its unique original meaning. Berger experience of being in the presence of an authentic art–at a museum, for instance–in term of “stillness” and “silence” is pureness because these things are important things in paintings. Painting as a whole is simultaneous. It  is silent and still because their meaning in no longer attached to them but has become transmittable paintings lend themselves to easy manipulation.Painting themselves in the images is silent still. On the television  or in a screen are never still and in a sense the pages of a book are never still but it demonstrates the silence and the stillness of a painting can be very striking. 

3.  What does Berger mean when he describes reproductions of paintings becoming a “form of information?” Paraphrase what he means by his idea of “talking with reproductions.” What is the significance of this?

According to the Berger when paintings have reproduced they become a form of information which is being continually transmitted  and so there they have to hold their own against all the other information which is jostling around them to appear on the same page or the same screen. Reproduction makes the meaning of work of art ambiguous. He states reproduction of work of art can be used by anybody for their own purpose and  image can be used like words. It is significant because this is not as negative as it necessarily sounds. Reproduction makes it easier to connect our experience of art directly with other experiences.

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