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Ways of Seeing: Response

John Berger's Ways of Seeing discusses our perceptions of perspective, nudity, ownership, and advertisements. He does this all within the context of the traditional European art medium of oil painting. Oil painting is an important comparison because it is the reason people go to museums, it has incredible monetary value behind it, and video and photography is seen as the challenging form against the traditional ideas of art. In the first episode discussing the video camera, I found it interesting how Berger illustrated the way the person behind the camera has great control over the perception of what is being shown. Both in manipulation of time spent on one shot, and in sound, camera movement, and just what the director chooses to put in the frame. This is such a great advantage that film has over a painting, forcing the viewer to stick around for longer. And these elements of video and photography seem obvious now, of course what is within the frame is highly controlled and arranged, but it truly forces the viewer's eye in one spot and nothing to wander towards.
This is in contrast to modern day publicity, in which advertisements are everywhere. Serious concerns about war are just a page away from an ad about how drinking one kind of beer will make you sexier. Berger states,

“What surrounds the publicity is us, as we are.”

We cannot help comparing ourselves to what we are inundated with. Publicity suggests that we are nothing without desiring more for ourselves.
Similar to this, is the idea of the nude. Women are taught that their body will always be seen as an object, and taught they must constantly present themselves as a thing on display for others. What I hadn’t thought of before, is that idea that a painting of a nude is in modesty for the viewer. There is no portrait in nude that allows them to be naked as they are, it is the concept of being portrayed for the viewer. And any nude that doesn’t have that sense of discomfort and modesty for nudity, is nonconsensual. I was trying to think of a nude painting I’ve seen that really depicts nudity not in the form of shame of nakedness, and I thought of Gaugain’s paintings of nudes in his travels. This, of course, is worse than a European woman’s modesty and discomfort around nakedness. There’s no way to portray a nude without this idea of being seen. But that’s part of the intimacy around it, I think.