John Berger’s Ways of Seeing #4 (1972)

Notes on Episode 4: Publicity

[0’16”] “We are surrounded by images of an alternative way of life.” [0’53’’] “but where is this other way of life?” Here — There — Nowhere— A Dream?

[2’23”] “Publicity proposes to each of us in a consumer society that we [can] change ourselves or our lives by buying something more.” Publicity persuades us to transform into that more (what makes us ‘richer’ by making as ‘poorer’) by showing us people who have already transformed and are therefore enviable. [2’57’’] “This state of being envied is what constitutes glamour, and publicity is the process of manufacturing glamour.”

Glamour works through the eye and the mirror.

[4’40”] “Glamour is a new idea. For those who once lived in the country houses and owned the classical oil paintings, the idea of glamour did not exist. Ideas of grace, elegance, authority amounted to something apparently similar but fundamentally very different.” [5’03”] “When everybody’s place in society is more or less determined by birth, personal envy is a less familiar emotion. Without social envy, glamour cannot exist.”

Publicity uses devices of art: Atmosphere, settings, objects, poses, gestures, symbols of prestige, sign of love.

Colour photography now performs a similar role as oil painting then: [9’42”] “The physical texture and tangibility of things.” [10’34”] “You are what you have”.

Purpose and effect: oil painting consolidated his own sense of his own value. It enhances the view of himself as he already was.

Publicity appeals to a way of life we aspire to […] but have not yet achieved.

[11’45”] If we buy our life will be different from what it is.

[12’53”] […] it promotes the illusion that a man’s ability to consume is directly related to his sexual virility.”

[13’35”] “It [publicity] suggests that you are inadequate as you are, but it consoles you with the promise of a dream.”

3 dreams: [16’40’’] The dream of later tonight (pleasure) — The Skin Dream [17’44’’] — [17’44’’] The dream of a faraway place.

From You tube channel of tw19751: “A BAFTA award-winning series with John Berger, which rapidly became regarded as one of the most influential art programmes ever made. In this programme, Berger analyses the images of advertising and publicity and shows how they relate to the tradition of oil painting - in moods, relationships and poses. Ways of Seeing is a 1972 BBC four-part television series of 30-minute films created chiefly by writer John Berger and producer Mike Dibb. Berger's scripts were adapted into a book of the same name. The series and book criticize traditional Western cultural aesthetics by raising questions about hidden ideologies in visual images. The series is partially a response to Kenneth Clark's Civilisation series, which represents a more traditionalist view of the Western artistic and cultural canon.”