Images and desire Lecture:

“The Culture is mad.”

We looked at John Berger’s programme “The ways of seeing” (1972) on the BBC, where the most sticking statement, I thought was the phrase “Art galleries are like banks.” Berger states that “oil paintings have become commodities – monetary worth.” He claimed that money existed in oil paintings and sculpture, and thus are what started a critic of all art objects; that is they become objects of snobbery, wealth and/or power.

His most frequent phrase is “Glamour”, that idea of beauty that depends entirely on looks, although we all seem to pretend otherwise. Berger states that “The model has taken the place of the goddess.” That is, the ideal feminine figure in oil paintings of mythical scenes and statues of young, beautiful women posed dramatically has been replaced with the contemporary, for whichever era, women that are posed, and fixed, and styled to be the ultimate form of beauty.

The final part of the show comments on the idea that glamour cannot exist without a social envy; as glamour, particularly in the “publicity”, i.e. advertisements, preys upon the human aspiration to something you’re not, that make you believe you will be richer in life for buying whichever product, although in reality you will still be the same although with less money.

“You are what you have.”

Berger sticks with the fact that any one persons place in society is determined by birth, which we must admit is still a fact, and will always be so. Although he does bring up the idea that advertisements mock that, turn it into something like a whispered insult: “you are inadequate as you are.”

“Now it has evolved to “not being faceless but just not being famous.”

He also notes on the advertisements echoing devices of art and sometimes, particular works of art, sometimes including the original in the actual advertisements. There was also a comparison of oil paint and colour photography as technological developments: they both quickly worked the way up to the most versatile and useful media at their times.

The ending of the programme covers the manipulation that advertisements use to convince you; that they appeal to the public conscience although there is no conversation between advertisements themselves; charity advertisements for the starving, the old or the lame, whilst the next page will be a luxury item of chocolate, alcohol or clothes.

 

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