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The removal of cataracts of the eyes...
..is comparable with the removal
of a particular form of forgetfulness.
Your eyes begin to remember first times...
..and it is in this sense
that what they experience after the intervention
is a kind of visual renaissance.
heterogeneousness of the existent
has marvellously returned...
..and the two eyes,
portcullises now removed,
again and again register surprise.
Tomorrow, it will be three weeks after the operation.
And if I try to sum up
the transformed experience of looking, I'd say it's like
suddenly finding oneself in a scene painted by Vermeer.
The surface of everything you're looking at
is covered with a dew of light.
Ah, such a...an endless
I had a dream
in which I was a strange dealer,
a dealer in looks or appearances.
I collected and distributed them.
And in the dream I had just discovered a secret.
I discovered it on my own, no help.
was to get inside whatever I was looking at,
get inside it.
When I woke up from that dream...
I couldn't remember how it was done...
and I now no longer know
how to get inside things.
I started writing art criticism.
How old was I? I was...
And a great deal of my life up to that moment
had been involved with drawing and with painting.
Kokoschka, as both a man and a painter,
has fascinated me for a long time.
Somehow, when you consider Picasso,
it is the spirit of the man, rather than any single work,
which dominates and is so striking.
The act of looking, for Giacometti, is a form of prayer,
a way of grasping or glimpsing the absolute.
was something that I thought I knew something about,
and therefore the only experience I had really was about looking.
Looking and doing something on paper or in three dimensions
with what one saw, the interrogation of appearances.
There I was about 16, 17, maybe 18, I don't know.
And you were in your...
And that is...
-That's at Roche Ballue.
-I think so...
-I think it's at Roche Ballue.
-I think so, too.
-But we look good, don't we?
-Both of us.
Since you were a small kid,
we used to look at pictures, reproductions together.
In books, on postcards,
and then we would chat about them.
-Um, so here...
This is a little collection of pictures
that could come from our life.
-Let's go on chatting.
Good. You start.
Do you feel like that, sometimes, in the morning?
Not really, but I...
I would love to be able to plunge my hand
in such luxurious hair.
I wish I could, but no, I don't.
But do you think that this could be
the head that fits behind this?
-Well, they're both paintings by Courbet...
And...the funny thing is that, looking at this one,
which is called The Origin of the World...
..you don't think about the woman's face.
You don't think about the rest of her.
At the same time, it's not...
it's not sexually provocative.
You're just in the face of...
always surprising reality.
In that sense, is it like a naturmort?
Like a naturmort?
No. It's the opposite of a naturmort.
I mean, we could call it the naturvivant.
Huh? SHE LAUGHS
This is the first of four programmes
in which I want to question some of
the assumptions usually made about the tradition of European painting.
Filming this was a moment of great tension for me,
because if John was going to screw it up
there was no way we could repeat it.
Well, this is where a lot of my old films and all this stuff...
Including some... Including, I think...
the original film cans containing the cutting copy of Ways of Seeing.
There it is. Ways of Seeing.
Programmes one and two.
And the old film.
I think the first idea he had was to use an archetypal European painting
as a point of departure
and deconstruct the concept of national heritage -
what did national heritage mean when we talked about national heritage
when we really were talking about the private wealth
of enormous landowners?
The process of seeing paintings or seeing anything else is
less spontaneous and natural than we tend to believe.
A large part of seeing depends upon habit and convention.
All the paintings of the tradition used the convention of perspective,
which is unique to European art.
I remember saying, "Well,
"John shouldn't we just say 'maybe' or 'perhaps' or something?"
He said, "No, no, no, no, you've just got to say it.
"If you say it and somebody disagrees, then they're engaged."
Now, perspective centres everything on the eye of the beholder,
just like a beam from a lighthouse,
only instead of light travelling outwards, appearances travel in,
and our tradition of art called those appearances "reality".
We tried a lot of experiments and, funnily enough,
most of them didn't work terribly well, but one worked amazingly,
when we had the Caravaggio.
-I think it's a man.
-I think it's a woman.
I think it's a woman. There's no bristles even.
Yes, but he hasn't got any bristles.
-He's got a moustache.
-He hasn't got any bristles.
Well, all of the...no, not quite all,
but most of the boys thought that he was a man and most of the girls,
you thought that she was a woman.
-I'm not sure.
-You said she was perhaps both.
'Because they were really looking and really relating what they saw to
'their own experience,
'they recognised something that most adults wouldn't.
'Without knowing the artist's name,
'let alone anything about Caravaggio's life
'or the fact that he was a homosexual,
'they immediately saw how sexually ambivalent
'the principal figure was.'
Caravaggio is, I think...
he's my favourite painter.
I mean, there are paintings by other painters
which perhaps I prefer,
but as a figure,
as a life...
..he is my...
His life is my favourite life of a painter.
Um... And why?
Because he was consistently a rebel.
You cannot predict the impact a series has, and not...
I don't think it occurred to John and myself
the effect the series was going to have,
because it didn't certainly occur to the BBC
that it might have any impact.
To actually suggest at the end of a television film,
"Be critical of what we're telling you,"
that was also just something which was just so different.
But remember that I am controlling and using for my own purposes
the means of reproduction needed for these programmes.
The images may be like words, but there is no dialogue yet.
You cannot reply to me.
I hope you will consider what I arrange, but be sceptical of it.
From a very, very early age,
really when I was a small kid at my first school...
..sceptical about the world
and what was happening around me.
I became a conspirator against it.
And then, now, I think, as soon as I'm really in contact with somebody,
whether I know them very well and love them
or whether it's a stranger,
if there is that common feeling,
I treat them as a fellow conspirator.
As an accomplice? Complicity?
An accomplice, and with a wink.
a conspiracy of orphans.
We exchange winks.
We reject hierarchies, all hierarchies.
We take the shit of the world for granted...
and we exchange stories about...
ways in which we nevertheless get by.
We are impertinent.
Yes, we are impertinent.
And I guess that I approach
and chat up viewers and readers
in the same way...
as if you too were orphans.
Get what I mean?
I said to him, you know, I knocked the ball to him and I said,
"Well, how can we start? How shall we start?"
And then he said to me, you know,
with a bang, the ball came back, and he said...
"Why don't you just send me a colour?"
And I said, "OK, great," and it was...
But then of course I put the phone down and thought,
"What's he talking about? How am I going to do that?"
Send him a colour, I mean, would I send him...
some powder, I don't know, some coloured powder? What would I do?
So, here we have the very first letter I sent.
"Yesterday I went to a funeral - someone I didn't really know
"very well - and during the service, before the cremation,
"I was looking at the flowers..."
But when I got home I was still thinking about these flowers
and I thought... I posed myself a problem
to try and find the red colour which I liked very much.
I tried to identify it and I went to my watercolour box.
"And so, for no better reason than the memory of those flowers,
"I send you this cadmium red."
And then very soon I got a letter back from him.
BERGER: "Red is not usually an innocent colour...
"but the red you sent me is."
"It's the red of childhood,
"a pretend red...
"or, if you like, the red of young eyelids shut tight."
It's like the colour, when you're a kid,
when you shut your eyes and look up at the sky, and it's that colour,
that red colour with the blood in your eyelids.
And I thought, "Gosh, that's amazing."
And then of course we went on from that where we were making and making
these different letters and replies.
We didn't start off with a proper list or anything,
I mean the list of colours, "These are the ones we're going to do,"
they were very much colours that presented themselves to us.
It was John's question to do with Genevieve being pregnant -
"What colour would you see inside her?"
And so the colour I worked out or thought about was mother of pearl.
And so, look, there's the photo.
Where is she? Hold on.
Genevieve's there, this one little figure in the blue dress,
and John described this,
the bay, all the things leading to this figure.
BERGER: "The world is spread out for her.
"The waters break.
"The bay opens.
"The sand is skin-coloured.
"The houses wait, watching.
"I'd name that bay
"so conscious does it make us aware
"of everything that is within, inside, moving, moving,
"inside that tiny figure of Genevieve."
So they were all things that came from really thinking about, um...
just thinking about the show, I mean, I hadn't even looked at for...
But cos I was writing about it to John,
trying to make something interesting,
I then discovered that things that I hadn't seen at all.
-Now, don't you think it's John's son?
-No, it's you!
No, no, no, it's not me.
-No, no. Really, really, you're completely wrong.
Look again. It's really not me.
Of all the things we've done together, books anyway...
I think I'm proudest of The Seventh Man.
On one hand, it's a book that
we were incredibly precise about,
laying out every page,
-considering every space, every juxtaposition of image...
..seeing exactly where a poem should occur.
So we actually made something with this maximum of concentration,
which, in a certain sense, can be called aesthetic.
And, at the same time, the book, once it's out,
actually goes to its target, that is to say
not really principally to sociologists
but to migrant workers themselves.
What I appreciate in him is that he goes up and down,
I would be tempted to say, like a woman sometimes,
but it's wrong because it doesn't belong only to women
to be so expressive, so warm.
But he's just outspoken.
There are pictures of John as a young man,
like that one,
where he's very strong and certain of himself and...
well, very positive,
but it's more or less the public face he wants to give away,
while in the last ten years
I begin to catch on his face all kinds of other feelings,
a certain anxiety,
also doubts about some of his beliefs.
OK, so here is somebody else travelling,
and I know that this painting counted a lot for you
in your whole life...
-Are we approaching motorbikes here?
Yes. Yes, yes.
Here we're approaching motorbikes.
And if course it's by Rembrandt,
and it is called The Polish Rider.
Who he was,
where he was...
I don't think Rembrandt called it Polish Rider, but...
if I was a manufacturer of motorbikes,
I would call one The Polish Rider.
-Use that publicity.
If you're going to survive riding a bike,
you have to be totally concentrated on the here and now,
about everything observed of the here and now.
You don't think about the past, you don't think about the future,
you don't have memories, you don't have expectations,
except the immediate ones which are to be negotiated.
And this concentration on the here and now
is curiously calming.
Because...well, you are alive, you're moving...
..and you notice what you're moving through and that's all that exists.
When my father moved out of London, out of England,
the few things I know just from what I heard of him,
first that he never felt at home in England, and also, politically,
the story of England and the years of Thatcher
and all the conservatism going on there...
Well, he couldn't...he simply...
It was a war, a rather grey, sad war,
and I think at that time, for him,
France, in general, with its history and its politics
- at least at that time - was quite the opposite.
I think he says that he never felt really at home anywhere,
but probably here more than anywhere else,
because of his relations with the people here
which was mostly based upon their work.
When he had this project of writing this trilogy about
the peasant community and this disappearing way of living,
he started to basically offer help to those people and...
..learn from them throughout this help
he was trying to provide in his unexperimented way,
because those people are so rooted with the land,
the place, the time, the season, everything.
I think that maybe made him...
It allowed him to have some roots here.
THEY MIME THE WHOOSHING OF SCYTHES
I was looking at that time for a piece that I was going to make,
and a friend of mine said,
"Oh, but you'll remember what John wrote in Pig Earth.
"Do you remember The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol?"
And I wrote to John and said, you know,
"Would you consider letting me make this for the stage?"
And John being John said, "Well, of course.
"The only payment I would require
"is if I could come and watch you work at some point."
So then I went up to visit him for the first time in the mountains
with my designer...
..and we walked with John through the mountains,
and he'd showed us the very places which had been inspirational
to him in making Lucie Cabrol,
and that really started what became a very deep friendship.
And so, as a consequence, we've done many, many...
created many pieces together.
You know, the story of Lucie Cabrol,
there was really a woman, and most of the characters in the story are
people I came to know very closely.
And now, to see those lives transported here
and actually speaking to thousands of people who are so,
so far away from the life of peasants in mountain villages
is still something which is very, very mysterious to me.
Lucie Cabrol, who is known as the cocadrille, is dead.
In the writing of Into Their Labours,
he holds sort of the generations of all these people who don't...
who are nameless and who had no voice,
who don't exist, really, for us - they've disappeared -
and he brings them to life.
It's a girl!
Generations of labour,
a particularly precarious form of
very, very brutal agriculture.
I might say, "Well, what if we do this?"
and we change it and develop it,
or I might add something
or I'd found something or we missed something and
I would invent something else.
Whatever I suggested,
he would not only consider it or be open to it,
he would be immediately interested.
mother, brothers, sisters,
cows, horses, rabbits, chickens, goats,
all have gone.
And Lucie Cabrol...
I say that...
..but I do not altogether believe it...
And I don't altogether believe it.
Sometimes it seems to me...
..that I am nearing the edge of the forest.
I will never again be 16,
and if I am to leave the forest,
it will be on the far side.
..it will be on the far side.
Do I feel this because I am old and tired?
I doubt it.
But there are moments when I see something different...
Moments when a blue sky...
..reminds me of Lucie Cabrol.
For myself, he was my father, not John Berger the writer.
I didn't really notice almost...
..what my father was doing, or I didn't pay any attention anyway,
and I didn't read what he wrote until very, very late.
To think of the people here and the peasants...
the fact that my father was a writer,
and even if he was writing...
about them, they knew that...
but, to consider that as a real work,
that's a bit too much for them.
A week ago, I cleared out and buried the year's shit.
The shit of my family and of our friends who visit us.
Has to be done once a year.
Cow and horse dung
are relatively agreeable.
You could even become nostalgic about them,
even though they smell of fermented grain...
and somewhere on the far side of their smell there's hay and grass.
Chicken shit is disagreeable and rasps the throat
because of the quality of ammonia in it.
Pig and human excrement, however, smell the worst,
because men and pigs are carnivorous
and their appetites are indiscriminate.
Whilst shovelling, images of paradise come into my mind.
But from where I dug the hole,
a lilac tree is coming into flower.
I can smell the lilac through the shit.
It smells of mint
mixed with a lot of honey...
and this perfume takes me back to my very early childhood...
to the first garden I ever knew,
from long before I learnt
lilac or shit had a name.
My mother, Beverley, was...
played a great role in...
..in my father's work,
simply because she did everything else from writing.
She took care of everything which was needed to be done...
for my father to be able just to concentrate on writing.
So that goes from typing what he wrote,
because he writes by hand,
sending it out,
doing all the relation with the publishers and newspapers,
creating the archive gradually,
doing his accounting, his taxes.
And she did that out of...
not only out of love for him, of course...
but I think because both shared the same belief -
the belief that doing that was worth it,
that it brought something which was needed into the world.
She was the first one with whom he shared what he wrote,
and always when he was writing he was waiting for her response.
So they had this very strong complicity.
My father wrote his dedication to her...
"To Beverley, mistress of each page."
And he showed it to her when she was in the bed,
the bed where she died, just next-door,
and that made her very happy to see that dedication.
Since Beverley is gone, my father now mostly lives in Paris,
but we're in very close contact and
there's many ways by which we share
what we're doing.
There, this is a present for you.
I will show it.
Gosh. This is beautiful.
I think he's going upstream a river.
Yes, indeed. LAUGHTER
It was hot, perhaps 28 degrees centigrade,
and it was the end of the month of May.
An old woman with an umbrella was sitting very still
on one of the park benches.
She had the kind of stillness that draws attention to itself.
To whom was it addressed?
Abruptly, abruptly, as I was asking myself this question,
she got to her feet and turned and,
using her umbrella like a walking stick,
came towards me,
and I recognised her walk long before I could see her face -
the walk of somebody already looking forward
to arriving and sitting down.
It was my mother.
"All my books have been about you," I suddenly say.
"Books are also about language, and language, for me,
"is inseparable from your voice, Mother."
"Maybe you wrote them so I should be there, keeping you company,
"and I was.
"Yet they were about everything in the world but me.
"I've had to wait until now, until you're an old man in Lisboa,
"for you to be writing this very short story about me."
In The Economy of Death,
you said that the living are at the core of the dead.
They surround us and they depend on us,
like the passage that you read where you meet your mother in Lisbon.
No, I mean, I follow what you mean.
Maybe I suggest that, but it's not really quite what I mean,
it's rather more the other way round.
I mean, it is that...
We need the dead...
To recognise ourselves in any way,
the dead are essential to us.
..that recognition begins with their company in mortality.
Not immortality, mortality.
Paul. It's a very curious painting.
-Very, very curious.
Do you have anything to tell me about this man?
I think the window is his life...
..and he's trapped in it,
maybe wondering what's outside...
..and when he shuts his eyes...
What does he tell you? About himself?
What does he tell me?
-For some reason he tells me that, and I'll tell you why.
Because he actually looks like you and always made me think of you.
And there's something there, too.
Well, I mean, that's too flattering...
-..but his scepticism...
..which is never cynical,
very close to me.
And you know, this is not to claim anything for myself,
but, I mean, that is really the image of the storyteller.
Not the novelist,
not the fashionable literary creator,
but the guy, often nomadic,
who goes from place to place
and tells stories that he has lived or that he's making up.
And that idea of a traveller...
that idea of...
..somebody who is completely free from institutions...
is something also which
is contained for me in this term, storyteller.
And which in all modesty...
I try to be myself.
I do mostly painting and my father mainly draws,
but the reason for that, for him,
he did paint when he was much younger and he went to art school,
then he wanted to become a painter
and he started to work as a painter,
but, from what he says, at some point he felt the urge
to write more important,
more politically, historically important at that point.
But he kept on drawing.
It's a way of listening,
it's a way of understanding,
discovering the visible.
And I think that's why, in the last years, my father has
done a lot of drawings of
very simple things such as flowers or...
mainly subjects coming from nature.
"In answer to your last letter, I send two postcards.
"One is a photo
"of a terracotta by Della Robbia...
"..and the second is a sketch,
"primarily what I call a text, of a white rose from the garden.
"I noticed that it had a certain curious echo
"with the photo of the Madonna...
"..something a little similar in mood and rhythm, no?
"Neighbours on the same table, that's all.
"And the rose doesn't offer consolation but resists -
"resists by itself the cruelty of life."
During the last week, I've been drawing.
I've been asking myself whether natural forms
- a tree, a cloud, a river, a stone, a flower -
can be looked at and perceived as messages.
Messages, it goes without saying,
which can never be verbalised
and are not particularly addressed to us.
'Is it possible to read
'natural appearances as texts?' Hmm.
Well, that'll be a bit of fun amongst all the pretension.
Why don't you have some wine?
-Or some whisky. LAUGHTER
JOHN MAKES A TOAST AND THEY CLINK GLASSES
-It is wonderful.
-JOHN LAUGHS UNCONTROLLABLY