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Lost in transmission? John Berger and the origins of Ways of Seeing (1972)

Lost in transmission? John Berger and the origins of Ways of Seeing (1972)
Lost in transmission? John Berger and the origins of Ways of Seeing (1972)
Directed by Mike Dibb, John Berger’s 1972 BBC2 documentary series Ways of Seeing is a landmark in the history of art history and visual studies as well as the history of arts television. In the absence of scholarship on Berger’s early career and arts television generally, however, art historians have struggled to move beyond nostalgia for a series their younger selves received as an epiphany. Drawing on new archival material and the works of forgotten Marxist exile art historians, this article provides an intellectual pedigree for the series as well as an account of the collaborative process by which Dibb and Berger transformed those ideas into compelling, at times arresting television. The presenter’s charisma and the rhetorical power of the series’ editing, it argued, prevented the series from achieving its intended goal. A humanist as well as a socialist, Berger sought to liberate art from politics, enabling it to narrate universal human experience.
1363-3554
Conlin, Jonathan
3ab58a7d-d74b-48d9-99db-1ba2f3aada40
Conlin, Jonathan
3ab58a7d-d74b-48d9-99db-1ba2f3aada40

Conlin, Jonathan (2020) Lost in transmission? John Berger and the origins of Ways of Seeing (1972). History Workshop Journal, 90, [dbaa020]. (doi:10.1093/hwj/dbaa020).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Directed by Mike Dibb, John Berger’s 1972 BBC2 documentary series Ways of Seeing is a landmark in the history of art history and visual studies as well as the history of arts television. In the absence of scholarship on Berger’s early career and arts television generally, however, art historians have struggled to move beyond nostalgia for a series their younger selves received as an epiphany. Drawing on new archival material and the works of forgotten Marxist exile art historians, this article provides an intellectual pedigree for the series as well as an account of the collaborative process by which Dibb and Berger transformed those ideas into compelling, at times arresting television. The presenter’s charisma and the rhetorical power of the series’ editing, it argued, prevented the series from achieving its intended goal. A humanist as well as a socialist, Berger sought to liberate art from politics, enabling it to narrate universal human experience.

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Accepted/In Press date: 17 December 2019
e-pub ahead of print date: 24 August 2020
Published date: 1 October 2020

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 437969
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/437969
ISSN: 1363-3554
PURE UUID: 7dd24dfa-90cd-4cf6-b9da-ad647aed6bb0
ORCID for Jonathan Conlin: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-0394-4931

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Date deposited: 25 Feb 2020 17:30
Last modified: 09 Jan 2022 07:28

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