John Berger and History

1537 Words Apr 28th, 2002 7 Pages
In his first essay of Ways of Seeing, John Berger claims that all power, authority, and meaning that was once held by an original work of art has been lost through the mass reproduction of these works that has occurred in recent years. He writes of an entirely bogus religiosity (116-117) that surrounds these art objects and that the meaning of the original work no longer lies in what it uniquely says but in what it uniquely is (117). He claims that because of reproduction, the art of the past no longer exists as it once did (127). Obviously, something created hundreds of years ago is not the same as it once was, but the distribution of art and music to the general public has had a positive effect on society rather than a negative one. …show more content…
how our perception is influenced). In using that word, he is referring to the social exploitation of the past: how the rich were painted, patronizing poor artists (i.e. Hals), and in this fashion demonstrating the monopoly the wealth and upper class had on the arts. To support his argument, he writes that reproduction is used all the time to promote the illusion that nothing has changed except that the masses, thanks to reproduction, can now begin to appreciate art as the cultured minority once did. Understandably, the masses remain uninterested and skeptical (127). He claims that the masses don't appreciate the art because it is not a part of their history. It seems that because of this, however, the art has not really lost any integrity anyway. The only change is that now, anyone who wishes to access it is able to, but it still holds an esoteric quality that the cultural elite can enjoy. Berger shows that the majority of the population does not attend museums. Does not this give them power that the rich can still enjoy, while making it possible for the masses to experience as well if they want to? Reproduction has opened the lines of education of culture as well. Before reproduction, the rich were the only ones who owned art, attended the opera, and the like, but it is probable that these people only attended these functions to show off their wealth, without really knowing or caring about the
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