Due to copyright concerns I cannot reproduce exact copies of the photo essays in John Berger’s book of the TV series. Hopefully what follows is in the spirit of those essays.
Here is a link to a Google search for images of women as portrayed in 1972 advertising: https://www.google.com/search?q=1972+images+of+women+portrayed+in+advertising&sxsrf=AOaemvJzgDDc5bJJHbfy94cMNXNKRhOY6Q:1641052576342&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj23_qe9ZD1AhWMM-wKHZJhAwsQ_AUoAXoECAEQAw&biw=1367&bih=809&dpr=2
How does it differ from today’s advertising?
Chapter Two and Three, Women and Art
What It Feels Like To Be Human
A Golden Shovel
We set sail with Columbus in La Niña in 1492. In 1992, Sylvia
Wynter decides to work on a new interpretation of 1492. Wynter
says Columbus went ‘beyond the orthodox geography of the time’. She says
social status, desire for wealth, lust for gold makes him deconstruct
beauty and valour in Botticelli’s Venus and Mars, isolating the
girl so she’s central to a portrait and not part of the allegorical mechanisms
Botticelli intended. She’s beauty, he’s valour, surviving storms by
praying and sending a letter to Ferdinand saying belief saves him, which
keeps his rich patron happy, or he’s just lucky, we
will never know. In Ways of Seeing, John Berger shows that to continue
to isolate the girl so the bigger picture is lost, is to
believe Mandeville’s 1357 Book of Marvels and Travels, to make
a mountain of unmet urges, to kiss dragons, to make opaque
our desire to conquer damsels with too much treasure to
leave lying around in vaults in castles, to have it for ourselves
and to be lord of her and those islands we know as the
Caribbean. Mandeville doesn’t meet Hippocrates’ daughter. The reality
is there’s no Sir John Mandeville, that a travel book of
desires is constructed out of fantasies our
minds continue to trick ourselves into believing. On its own,
Berger’s gap between words and seeing reveals human agency,
self-delusion buried deeply along with
any sense of what it feels like to be human. We respect
Columbus for his valour, for his success in charting the way, to
draw a map of what it is to be Western, but his programming
ensures he doesn’t know what human is, and
being set adrift in oceans beyond ‘humanity’ ensures his reprogramming
never happens. He sails into oblivion with no sense of
how he cheats himself, blinded by potential riches our
Western world still thrives on, not facing up to his own
declining ecology, not curbing his own desires
for excess, not realising how his behaviours
are the problem, but succeeding in putting into the minds
of others how they should be transformed when we ourselves
need to be agents of change the
planet needs. So, I
set sail on this adventurous project and
wonder how to celebrate John Berger’s fifty years—the
word that comes to mind first and last is We.
Cy says: “A golden shovel that uses Sylvia Wynter’s call for ‘deconstruction of the mechanisms by which we continue to make opaque to ourselves the reality of our own agency with respect to programming and reprogramming of our own desires, behaviours, minds, ourselves, the I and the We’.”
I lifted it from p192 David Scott‘s The Re-Enchantment of Humanism: An Interview with Sylvia Wynter:
-Anjum Wasim Dar
I am called an attractive woman.
The male gaze stalks me.
Men say they need me.
They can’t do without me.
Tell me I give meaning to their lives.
I politely refuse, but they push.
Until they tell me I become monster,
When I say “No.” They tell me I snap their bones,
braise their sinew and muscle over fire,
Sup their blood. When I say “No” they say
I gouge out their heart and chew it raw
In front of their faces. When I say “No“,
they say I lick their bones dry, break them
To suck out their marrow.
They say I have goat horns above my gorgeous face,
a shaggy haired body and bandy bairns legs.
They can’t accept my refusal.
Bios and Links
is from Manchester but now living in Wiltshire. Poems in the Honest Ulsterman, IceFloe Press and The Wombwell Rainbow. Poems due to appear in Stand in 2022.
Nude by Picasso,
Nude by Modigliani, 1884- 1920 , Courtauld Institute Galleries, London38
Nevermore by Gauguin Courtauld Institute Gall eries, London 1848- 1903 ,
Nude Standing Figure by Giacometti , Tate Gallery, London
Bathsheba by Rembrandt van Ryn , 1606- 69 , Louvre , Paris
Judgement of Paris by Peter Paul Rubens , 1577- 1640,
National Gallery, London