Both liberals and Marxists shared this view; what they disagreed over was whether it was good or bad

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Both liberals and Marxists shared this view; what they disagreed over was whether it was good or bad

The traditional narrative of nineteenth-century modernism follows the rise of the avant-garde away from mimesis towards an aesthetic of subjectivity, abstraction and pure sensation.

The Marxists thought it was bad, and now Berger was telling them it was good. His about-face stems from his deeper, unchanged commitment to seeing:

The point best free asian hookup apps of departure for Berger was the work of [Juan] Gris who, he says, was ‘as near to a scientist as any modern painter’. Disciple rather than innovator, the Spanish artist worked from a formula derived from the discoveries of [Pablo] Picasso and [Georges] Braque, and so became, in Berger’s words, ‘the purest and most apt of all the Cubists’. From his canvases more general principles can be gleaned. ‘The real subject of a cubist painting is not a bottle or a violin’, Berger hypothesized, ‘the real subject is the functioning of sight itself.’ The transposition had profound philosophical implications. The static empiricism of fixed appearances had given way to a new union: the Cartesian categories of mind (self-consciousness) and matter (extension in space) were brought together by the painters in their work. As in phenomenology, sensory experience was both in and of the world. As in post-classical physics, measurement and nature were now entangled in a kind of quantum dance. Looking at cubist painting was, for Berger, like looking at a star. ‘The star exists objectively, as does the subject of the painting. But its shape is the result of our looking at it.’

Seeing also formed the method for his essays, where he often describes an act of seeing and the thoughts that arose from it

Seeing, more than anything, was the substance of Berger’s career. It extends backward to his first creative aspirations as an artist. He never gave up sketching, often including his drawings in later books.

While Berger’s range as a writer was broadening and his thinking as a critic deepening, he also transformed his life. Lire la suite