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Saturday, February 28, 2015

John Berger's Ways of Seeing

"The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe"- John Berger. The book is one of the greats for understanding art and how perception makes all the difference in our lives. In any painting there are the perceptions of the painter and the perceptions of the audience. Each person sees something a little different from the painting based upon how they perceive the world around them. The concepts in his book have broader implications.

We know this through this experience but his book helps highlight this for the artistic crowd. Most of us have experienced two people seeing the same thing but interpreting what they are seeing differently. This can lead to all types of arguments and discussions on whose interpretation of the version is real.

To us our perceptions are real. What we see is real and what we feel is real. Despite this belief it is not necessarily true. Most of us have a single way of seeing the world and simply can't comprehend the ways others view the world. Entire cultures are in the delusion of their perception which leads to conflict.

In the book he looks at a number of different paintings and shows how the artists perception is built within the painting. Each painting has a hint to the nature of the author much like each of our actions gives a hint to us. Paying close attention to the objects, styles and colors in the painting will help you see a glimpse of who the author really is and how he/she views the world.

This is why we must sometimes close our eyes and see the world beyond the obvious. Take a look at the pieces, parts, and manners of a people and you will start to see how they view the world. Berger's specifically uses the concept that "men act-women appear". Men seek to gain and possess and women simply exist in relation to themselves. One is projecting outward and the other projecting inward.

The book has implications beyond art and sexual relations. The gazes he talks about can also be seen as the way we engage in selective attention. We see what we want to see in the world around us. We have been programmed in our lives to pay attention to certain cues from our environment and we are blind to the other cues and interpretations of the world. The scariest part of human nature is that we often misinterpret and try and force that misinterpretation on others.

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