Sunday, 23 November 2008

Ways of Seeing

Just finished watching the last episode of John Berger's Ways of Seeing, a BBC series from the seventies about ways of seeing things (believe it or not), with particular reference to art. We were shown a bit of the first episode at uni back when the course first started (the course titled Ways of Seeing, believe it or not) and it's interesting stuff. The final episode deals with advertising and publicity, and brings home the important realisation of the false 'other-world' offered in adverts (bearing in mind the series was made in the seventies when 'adverts' were quite different to how they are now, believe it or not) by juxtaposing the other world with this world, specifically in the printed medium, where an advert for an expensive perfume can be just over the page to an article about genocide.

It made me think back to when I was working in the old office (for a company that dealt with bonuses and incentives for large clients, believe it or not) and how all our products were emblazoned with smiling happy people with shopping bags, or folks who were so happy to be working wherever they were working, they couldn't help but grin vacuously. I was re-reading Nineteen-Eighty-Four at the time (my favourite novel, believe it or not) and thought a lot about the reality of the images, how these people are actors and models wandering around London somewhere who don't actually smile all the time, or even work for the companies that they were shown to work for in the images. Back in 2004, the extras agency I was with sometimes sent me off for auditions for photoshoots and modelling work. Talk of £600 for a days work being surrounded by lingerie models doesn't really paint the true hell it was having to go into clean, white spaces in exotic Soho, populated by disgustingly beautiful people and to have your appearance (your external self) assessed for it's worth and value in the art of making something else look good (a product, or a service, or whatever).

It's hardly a groundbreaking claim that image-obsessed culture is shit and miserable, but it's good to be reminded of the gulf between actual, tangible reality and experience and a false world made purely out of images which a lot of people accept as being real, believe it or not. Here's one of my favourite ever pictures that shows just how wide the gulf can be.

I'm living in chaos at the moment (and as usual, come to think of it) as work on my exciting new kitchen starts next week. I'm looking forward to washing machine and dishwasher ownership, and it doesn't affect me a jot whether you believe that or not.

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