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John Berger – 1926-2017 January 3, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Sorry to hear this. Berger had become a fixture, seemingly permanent. But I can still remember reading Ways of Seeing in the early 1980s and the impact that had on my understanding of the world around me. Ostensibly about art, I’d tentatively think it was as important as any political work I read then – but, of course, it was an highly political work in itself dealing with class and gender and race. No surprise that:

Berger was a lifelong Marxist, a vehement critic of capitalism. He began his career as a painter before turning to writing, becoming an art critic for the New Statesman. He published his first novel, A Painter of our Time, in 1958.

I’ve never read his fiction, but I’ve a number of his other works on art and other matters.

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1. sonofstan - January 3, 2017

Ways of Seeing was one of those books that many, many people who are not particularly professionally academic seem to have read and to have been influenced by. Rather like The Uses of Literacy or Keywords (or Culture and Society), a work of left wing cultural criticism that had a wide, if not quite mass influence. Makes you wonder are there equivalents today – No Logo? Piketty? Something from Zizek’s vast output?

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2. GW - January 3, 2017

Now there’s a non-celebrity I’ll really miss.

He enriched the intellectual and aesthetic commonwealth enormously.

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3. Gerryboy - January 3, 2017

How to ‘see’ visual art – Berger performed a major service to popular appreciation of art internationally, and his passing should be mourned. Visual artists in contemporary Ireland sometimes mutter among themselves about what they think is a popular indifference to painting, drawing and sculpture. We have some impressive site-specific public sculpture (and a lot of uninspiring stuff) and we have notable living painters like Sean Sweeney, Martin Gale, Dorothy Cross and Robert Ballagh. On the other hand, we have hundreds of hopeful artists holding down day jobs and struggling to get their works exhibited in local and regional galleries. Irish Art Review is a well-produced publication selling for only 10 euro and sometimes focuses on worthwhile artists living and dead.

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4. James - January 5, 2017

I’ve only recently seen the WoS tv series, and it reminded me that my introduction to serious left theory came via Bourdieu’s “ostensively about art” stuff as well. Looking back on that, my personal experience fits in well with the “cultural turn” description of western Marxists withdrawing into literary theory etc, but I’m in the States, and would assume that other readers here, growing up in places where there were more/stronger practical, non-academic radical left institutions wouldn’t recognize that as a default path to Marxist politics.

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WorldbyStorm - January 5, 2017

“I’m in the States, and would assume that other readers here, growing up in places where there were more/stronger practical, non-academic radical left institutions wouldn’t recognize that as a default path to Marxist politics.”

Very interesting point James. I’d always hope that that wasn’t the only path or indeed the optimal one. I was already active in the WP in communities before reading Berger so it was in addition rather than as a substitute. But it was useful either way.

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