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A tribute to art critic, novelist, painter and poet John Berger

vaidehi, narendra modi, editorial, congress, bjp, afternoon voice, editsAs a booklover what most of the time I enjoyed reading is John Berger’s most memorable quotes. I am mentioning one of my favourite quotes below

““A man’s death makes everything certain about him. Of course, secrets may die with him. And of course, a hundred years later somebody looking through some papers may discover a fact which throws a totally different light on his life and of which all the people who attended his funeral were ignorant. Death changes the facts qualitatively but not quantitatively. One does not know more facts about a man because he is dead. But what one already knows hardens and becomes definite. We cannot hope for ambiguities to be clarified, we cannot hope for further change, we cannot hope for more. We are now the protagonists and we have to make up our minds.”

John Berger, the British critic, novelist and screenwriter whose cutting-edge 1972 television series and book, Ways of Seeing , declared war on traditional ways of thinking about art and influenced a generation of artists and teachers, died on Monday at his home in the Paris suburb of Antony. He was 90.

The great weakness of Berger’s writing comes from the same source as its success. Berger loves synopsis, and he generalizes in ways that are at times outright misleading. His statements on gender, for example, reduce reality to a set of false axioms: “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves.”

As the host of Ways of Seeing, with his shaggy hair and tieless, loud-patterned shirt, Berger was a public intellectual who became a countercultural celebrity in 1970s Britain, where the BBC kept the four-part series in frequent rotation. The book became an art-school standard on both sides of the Atlantic. The author of criticism, novels, poetry, screenplays and many less classifiable books, Berger had considerable influence as a late 20th-century thinker. He consistently, provocatively challenged traditional interpretations of art and society and the connections between the two.

He examined the role consumerism played in the rise of Picasso in 1965’s The Success and Failure of Picasso. He claimed that cubism anticipated the Russian revolution in The Moment of Cubism, and Other Essays. When he won the prestigious Booker Prize in 1972 for his novel G, Berger spoke against the prize’s roots in Caribbean slave labour and pledged to give half his reward to the Black Panthers, a group he said more accurately reflected his own politics.

That same year, Berger with a head of wavy brown hair, a beige ’70s shirt and a magnetic authority captivated the British public with Ways of Seeing, a series of four 30-minute films. In it, he mined imagery for larger cultural discoveries. How women were depicted in art, for example, revealed much about a time period’s attitude towards gender.

Born to a middle-class London family on Nov. 5, 1926, Berger never attended university. He was drafted into the British Army in 1944 and was dispatched to Northern Ireland.

After the army, he joined the Chelsea School of Art. He began as a painter, later taught drawing and eventually began writing criticism for the New Statesman. But his studies later expanded significantly into other realms. He examined the lives of migrant workers in 1975’s A Seventh Man: Migrant Workers in Europe.

In 1980’s About Looking, he considered, among other subjects, how animals exist alongside human lives. Berger also wrote several screenplays, among them 1976s’ John Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000, a drama set amid the 1968 protests in Paris. Berger’s considerable output ran right up until last year, when he published a collection of essays, Confabulations. A documentary on Berger, produced by Tilda Swinton, was also released in 2016.Berger’s intention was to upend what he saw as centuries of elitist critical tradition that evaluated artworks mostly formally, while ignoring their social and political context. Among many other subjects, Berger burrowed into the sexism underpinning the tradition of the nude; the place of high art in an image-saturated modern world; the relationship between art and advertising; and, of particular importance to him as a voice of the British New Left, the way traditional oil painting celebrated wealth and materialism.

I am concluding here with one of his quote “Glamour cannot exist without personal social envy being a common and widespread emotion”, this critic too had many critics, but he rocked always. Listener, poet, painter, seer and Philosopher John Berger left us but now he is everywhere, in his writings, in our memories and in our hearts.

Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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