Continuing the conversation: remembering the work of John Berger

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Last month, the great critic, artist and writer John Berger died. Renowned for his Marxist ideologies, he was a public intellectual who we will miss hugely for his writing and radical, unafraid wisdoms that have challenged, provoked and inspired us.
Rather than dwell on the many memorials and obituaries, we wanted, at Hereford College of Arts, to celebrate his work, and share his insights with our students beyond the ‘reading list’.

Turning the research space into a small movie theatre was straightforward enough (thanks to Cai and Oliver Cameron-Swan) and it was a great delight for Simon Denison, Daniel Pryde-Jarman and myself to  welcome staff and students to the space and watch a selection of Berger’s work together.img_1624

On reflection, the opportunity also presented us with an informal space in which to engage in critical discussion and have our ideas informed by external opinions. Potter talks of being engaged in conversation with Berger, and watching Sontag and Berger discuss storytelling as part of an 1983 ‘Voices’ episode reminded me of how engaging with a community around ideas gives us the opportunity to continue these conversations.

The power of audio-visual material here is also telling. We are perhaps so used, as educators, to creating ‘snapshots’ of audio-visual materials to illustrate our own points, or help us narrate our own stories that sometimes we cease to listen. Playing ‘Ways of Seeing’ in a darkened room helped us focus on the points and ideas Berger was communicating, and left us free to reflect before continuing the conversation outside the research space.

Huge thanks to all img_1625the staff and students who dropped in to listen and continue the conversation with us. Comments came from those new to his work; “Unbelievably insightful and relevant…have we learned nothing” and those who returned to it; “Still incredibly relevant, he was a magnetic, powerful presenter” but the message was the same. Let’s listen to Berger’s insights, and continue the conversations he started.

And we shall. On the back of our Berger event we’ve decided to run these audio-visual events more regularly; small informal scholarly spaces open to students and staff.

Next up will be Grayson Perry’s ‘Reith Lectures’ and if anyone has any further suggestions for content, please get in touch.

Please see below for video links to the Berger programmes and interviews we showed on the 10th January.

Ways of Seeing: Episode 1

https://youtu.be/0pDE4VX_9Kk

Ways of Seeing: Episode 2

https://youtu.be/bZR06JJWaJM

Ways of Seeing: Episode 3

https://youtu.be/Z7wi8jd7aC4

Ways of Seeing: Episode 4

https://youtu.be/xhOVdoMxYxU

John Berger and Susan Sontag: To tell a story

https://youtu.be/9PcJR5MWrzc

Newsnight interview with John Berger

https://youtu.be/b5y7QRt2bws

Interview: Face to Face

https://youtu.be/VLwmv-1AZDg