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Ways of Seeing
April 30, 2008 2:06 PM   Subscribe

Ways of Seeing, the BBC documentary written and hosted by novelist and art critic John Berger, is back up on YouTube. (scroll down for direct links to all four half-hour episodes) "I actually find it rather disturbing that -- despite our claims to be a culture that's increasing freedom of choice all the time -- we haven't come up with anything quite as astute, subversive or beautiful as Ways of Seeing since. Not on the BBC, and not even -- especially not -- on the internet. Download it while you still can."
posted by vronsky (32 comments total) 74 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks for this! I've carried his book with me from home to home for years. Definitely a classic.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:39 PM on April 30, 2008


this is pretty spectacular.
posted by shmegegge at 2:40 PM on April 30, 2008


Great stuff. Berger's a surprisingly good novelist, too. I'm especially fond of the Into Their Labours trilogy: Pig Earth, Once in Europa, and Lilac and Flag.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:45 PM on April 30, 2008


Claim: We haven't had a ground-breaking masterpiece in this field for 35 years.
Inescapable conclusion: Kids today hate freedom of choice.
Corollary: GET OFF MY LAWN
posted by DU at 2:54 PM on April 30, 2008


Not to get into a big argument or anything DU, but the "get off my lawn" bit that gets trotted out in pretty much every mefi thread is getting a bit old. Things change, golden ages disappear, and some things were simply better in the past.

Thanks for that Ubu. I was wondering how his fiction stacked up. This series is the only part of his work I am familiar with. (I love his charming little lisp)
posted by vronsky at 3:17 PM on April 30, 2008


Not to get into a big argument or anything DU, but the "get off my lawn" bit that gets trotted out in pretty much every mefi thread is getting a bit old

Unfortunately, our culture has yet to come up with anything quite as good.
posted by transona5 at 3:20 PM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Claim: We haven't had a ground-breaking masterpiece in this field for 35 years.

The artists of our generation are not dead yet.
posted by clearly at 3:29 PM on April 30, 2008


vronsky: fwiw, i also specifically dis-recommend To the Wedding. two words should be enough to convey its dated "edgy-topicality": HIV bride. (ymmv)
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:27 PM on April 30, 2008


I've carried his book with me from home to home for years.

Indeed, I bought my copy in 1977, some 30 years ago, and it was an old book then. Still on my shelf though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:55 PM on April 30, 2008


fwiw, i also specifically dis-recommend To the Wedding. two words should be enough to convey its dated "edgy-topicality": HIV bride.

Are you suggesting that the only books worth reading are ones whose situations are still topical? Do you not care for Homer because we don't use war chariots, or Jane Austen because women are no longer dependent on men for their livelihoods? Berger writes like an angel; I don't give much of a damn what he chooses to write about. As you say, ymmv, but I find the attitude strange.
posted by languagehat at 5:01 PM on April 30, 2008


Just finished the first episode, and this has awesome written all over it.
posted by localroger at 5:12 PM on April 30, 2008


More thumbs up for the Into Their Labours trilogy. Many more thumbs. But I loved To the Wedding, too. So no "dis-recommendations" here.

I've also carried Ways of Seeing with me from house to house (from continent to continent, even) - but without ever cracking it open to date. I see now I must rectify that ...
posted by melixxa600 at 5:23 PM on April 30, 2008


Just finished the first segment and am very much looking forward to the rest. Also, I really must get the book.
posted by languagehat at 5:29 PM on April 30, 2008


Are you suggesting that the only books worth reading are ones whose situations are still topical? Do you not care for Homer because we don't use war chariots, or Jane Austen because women are no longer dependent on men for their livelihoods? Berger writes like an angel; I don't give much of a damn what he chooses to write about.

No; I'm not suggesting that at all. Almost the opposite, in fact. It reads as an early attempt to come to grips with a new scourge, but one which has since faded into part of the background of everyday life. That is, it was super-topical 20 years ago, and remains topical now, but I think it's hard for people at this point in history to relate to the sense of fear & anxiety about HIV that existed such a short period ago. That is, it's simultaneously too close to current attitudes, and yet not far enough; a kind of literary uncanny valley.

I'm trying to come up with a parallel, but the best I can think of right now would be if Dostoyevski published Ippolit's rant from The Idiot as a standalone work, merely because it dealt with consumption.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:40 PM on April 30, 2008


Wonderfully contrarian and thought provoking, vronsky. I, too, will seek out the book. Thank you.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 5:52 PM on April 30, 2008


Finished the rest of it HOLY CRAP THAT WAS LIKE AN AWESOME STEAK SMOKED IN AWESOME SMOKE SERVED WITH AWESOME SAUCE IN THE AWESOME CAFETERIA ON AWESOME DAY. I would be noting some awesome notes but I was too dumbstruck by the awesomeness to fetch a pencil while it was blowing me away.

The odd thing is that, other than the specific modern fashions, it isn't dated at all. If anything it's more relevant today than it was when I was eight years old, and it's ever harder to find anyone who will point these things out.
posted by localroger at 6:46 PM on April 30, 2008


vronsky this is a wonderful treat. Thanks for posting.
posted by nola at 7:20 PM on April 30, 2008


Thanks for this: I too have had the book for ages, but have never seen the documentary.
posted by Ritchie at 7:27 PM on April 30, 2008


Excited to watch this docu. My class was assigned this book my Senior year in High School, and it has stayed with me ever since.
posted by Snyder at 7:46 PM on April 30, 2008


They were painted as though they were a strange mixture of livestock, furniture, and tailor's dummies.

This is so cool. Thank you!
posted by marble at 7:51 PM on April 30, 2008


I once had an idea that an artist, painter what have you, would build for himself or herself a pedigree that afforded praise and prosperity. The "artitst" paints their paintings, those painting sell for mountains of money, but hidden in them a device that a few year after their death would combust, causing a massive fire that would destroy both the prized work of art and anything around it.

I was very fond of art at one time, and painted for many years. One day I became uncomfortably aware that I was making art for those that could appreciate it and that those who could appreciate it were people who could afford it. I never painted again. I'm not judging, it was and is a personal moment, but one I could never see past it for my part.

Since then I've looked for ways to be creative for the people that I wanted to create for. I feel happer creating something I know will be enjoyed by someone I enjoy.
posted by nola at 8:17 PM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this, I enjoyed it a great deal.

For all the modern "stinky hippies haha swingers" jabs at the late sixties and early seventies, you can see it must have really seemed like the dawn of a new age if you were of a certain age and in certain places.

Certainly the idea of living in a society where casual nakedness (and accompanying social mores) doesn't provoke shouts of "think of the children!" would be refreshing. Or a society where a thought provoking show like this had a chance of being made, shown nationally and appreciated or debated.
posted by maxwelton at 9:34 PM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Berger is my hero. Love love love him. Thank you for this.
posted by ifjuly at 9:54 PM on April 30, 2008


Really? A critique of popular (low) culture that relies on the assumption of an entirely idiotic and passive spectator?

If the words, "television" and "magazine" were, in each case, replaced with 'the internet', would you feel the same way?

Genuinely curious here.
posted by xod at 11:23 PM on April 30, 2008


I enjoyed this but kept being distracted by his voice. I couldn't stop thinking, "Mawwage. Mawwage is what bwings us togevew, today."
posted by Deathalicious at 8:49 AM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


For me, the first episode was completely uninspiring, but it turns out to be a great series. He stops being pedantic, and starts making a strong and original argument, with episode two. Three and four are just as interesting, so bear with it. Great stuff!
posted by Chuckles at 8:33 PM on May 1, 2008


For those trying to actually download the series using Miro, make a channel out of this feed, filter it for "seeing", and download all the results.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:21 PM on May 1, 2008


Finally got around to watching this, and it is brilliant. I wonder what sort of magical incantations and tectonic shifts would have to happen for me to live in a parallel universe where television was like this now. Or even some website somewhere. I guess Metafilter is all I get - I guess that's okay.
posted by blacklite at 1:52 AM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you're going to download the series, you should probably go ahead & get the high quality versions. HQTube (Greasemonkey plugin) seems to work. Would DL links be helpful, or discouraged?
posted by Pronoiac at 2:00 PM on May 3, 2008


Ah. It looks like Miro already gets the higher quality versions. You'd have to fix the filenames with the download links anyway.
posted by Pronoiac at 2:41 PM on May 3, 2008


Only slightly related, check out the 60-minute documentary on Francis Bacon, via Kottke who provides YouTube links to the doco in parts. But apparently the complete doco can be obtained from here.
posted by =^^= at 3:12 AM on May 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Berger (end of episode 1, part 4):

"But remember that I am controlling, and using for my own purposes, the means of reproduction needed for these programs. The images may be like words, but there is no dialogue yet. You cannot reply to me. For that to become possible in the modern media of communication, access to television must be extended beyond these present narrow limits."

YouTube commenter:

"that was teh gayest thing i ever seen. i wanna kik babies out of windows now lol!1!!"
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:41 AM on May 7, 2008 [6 favorites]


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