Monday, February 6, 2017

Ways of Seeing

In John Berger's "Ways of Seeing," Berger discusses the ambiguousness of perception and how it can be altered when viewing a piece of art.  Berger talks about some of the negatives and positives that result when pieces of art are replicated.  He especially emphasizes how reproduction of artwork can make its meaning ambiguous, but also can assist in making it easier to connect our experience of art directly with other experiences.

One insight that I found to be particularly interesting is that because paintings are silent and still, they easily lend themselves to be manipulated.  I found this to be an extremely valid point because by adding movement and sound or isolating specific details with a camera, a painting's significance can be drastically changed.  For example, Berger displays a painting by Van Gogh on the screen with no music or movement.  At first it seems like a normal painting and the viewer is able to come up with their own view of its significance.  He then notifies the viewer that it is Van Gogh's last painting before he committed suicide and displays it a second time with sad, dark music playing in the background.  This dramatically changes the viewer's perception of the painting because the background story as well as the background music contribute to an overall sad and dreary essence of the painting.  This goes back to Berger's point that "as soon as the meaning of a painting becomes transmittable, this meaning is liable to be manipulated and transformed."

Another interesting insight discussed is how the meaning of an image can be changed according to what you see beside it or what comes after it.  I was intrigued by this insight because this method is used everyday in the world of advertisements and marketing.  Just like adding music or movement to a painting, displaying certain images, words, or clips before or after an image can manipulate the image's message or meaning.  This meaning could be very different from what the image's original meaning might be without those additions.  This is another example of how drastically a person's perception of a piece of art can be altered.