A Berger Primer

I read John Berger’s Ways of Seeing for an undergraduate English course, and look back to it as one of the seminal moments of my education.  Any discussion of art or a museum must include Berger, and since my interest in the subject started there, so shall this blog.

The museum removed art from its original setting…it was created in order to preserve and collect works of art so that more people could access them.  From there, the photograph and television allowed images to travel from the museum to the world.  Now, the Internet and global telecommunications allow these images to be captured, remixed, utilized in a myriad of scenarios.  There are benefits and drawbacks — the images are available to an exponentially greater number of individuals than they were even 20 years ago, but the further they are from their original place and space, the easier it is for the original intention to be lost.  The multiple meanings art can have as it leaves its original setting could be a great benefit to society, but by creating so many unique meanings there is a fear of losing the original meaning and creating a simulacrum.

How, in the 21st Century, do we make the museum a more accessible place while not stripping the displayed items from their original intention? What are the different issues between the real space of a museum and its virtual counterpart?  I believe both the original and the new can coexist in the real and virtual space of the museum; how to do it is another question.

I’m amazed at the lack of scholarly application of this book available through a cursory search of the Internet; most hits are to undergraduate book reports rather than any cognitive wrestling with the content.


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