Saturday, 28 May 2011

...Great World Thinkers...

John Berger completely changed my outlook on art when I read his collaboration ‘Ways of Seeing’. Studying Aesthetics as part of my philosophy degree had initially got me thinking about how we perceive and define art. That book summed everything up: we are all capable of ‘looking’. As long as we are aware of the process in which we looking. Scrutanizing and observing all that is around us.

Seeing him in the flesh on Wednesday, listening to his words, threw me into a state of shock. I was hooked. I wanted to run backstage and hug him, literally not joking. Tilda Swinton made a guest appearance, reading extracts from his new book, ‘Bento’s Sketchbook’. Everyone listened intently being drawn into the story. This is precisely what Berger suggests we should be doing. Engaging with our experiences, using the same habits as a storyteller, painter, writer etc, and applying them to the “chaos of life”. When we create something, ultimately, it’s that ‘frontality’ of an object that’s interesting. Getting closer to an object, we want to enter into it, becoming aware, noticing that this piece of work is related to many other things that are not necessarily a part of it.
A quote from the evening that clarified what he was saying perfectly was that we must “look fiercely at the world in which we are living”. Looking fiercely with, as Berger suggests, indignation and love, which in turn will help us over come our ignorance, knowing exactly what is happening on the ground. This is an utterly fascinating view to uphold. The fact he is referencing one of the greatest 17th Century philosophers, Bento de Spinoza (hence the title of his new book) makes my stomach do summersaults.
During the discussion of his new book, a question was posed, which resulted in Berger answering that he would need at least 2/3 days to think on it all. It was too complex to explain then and there. This is what I need; time to think and digest. It was about the parallels, if there are any between drawing and reading/storytelling. Berger suggested that possible, yes...there are but there's more to it than a simple yes or no. It is these small insights into his mind that gripped for the entire evening. I urge you all to read some of his work, even if it is just a snippet. This man is genius in my eyes.

I hope what I've written makes any sense to you. This is mostly my ramblings and interpretation of Berger's work. I'm still attempting to understand everything I experienced on Wednesday. All I know, it was one of the best experiences of my life. By the book now!