From B to X. Making Art (History) since John Berger
The first episode of Ways of Seeing, the 1970s television series broadcast by the BBC, opens with a long take in which the presenter, British writer, artist, and art critic John Berger (1926-2017), cuts up Venus and Mars (1483), a painting by Sandro Botticelli that is housed at the National Gallery in London. In the very opening images of the film Berger cuts out the head of Venus and later lays it out flat on a stack of photographic prints. Surprising, worthy of a vandal, and unexpected within the context of the museum, this gesture reveals the materiality of the painting as well as the practical and pragmatic dimensions of the discourse on art. It also highlights the implicities of the museum world and the iconoclastic impetus in Berger’s critique of western art history.