Gary Pritchard, Ph.D. - Ways of Seeing – Ourselves
Ways of Seeing - Ourselves from Science and Nonduality on FORA.tv
Ways of Seeing – Ourselves: How John Berger's seminal arts theory text foreshadowed the mindfulness movement and remains hugely relevant today
Gary Pritchard, Ph.D University of Wales
Almost forty years after John Berger's polemic on cultural semiotics, his treaty to review art history via shape-shifting contemporary cultural conventions remains strangely relevant. His words however, now have to compete for an audience living in a very different cultural and spiritual landscape than when he originally wrote them. The emergence of the mindfulness movement has drawn heavily on Kabat-Zinn's definition: "Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally." This resonates profoundly with Berger's framework for encouraging a new Way of Seeing. While Berger himself would probably baulk at this association, his arts pedagogy provides a profound framework for scanning the world – on purpose and in the moment.
This paper seeks to map Berger's semiotic structure onto several of the key tenets of mindfulness approaches to engaging time and space. Those of us who aspire to negotiate the non-dual through arts education and practice, can use this framework in attempting to navigate the everyday contexts we face. In a climate of postmodern diffidence, new ways of articulating old values has become critical. Reflective arts practice demands movement by the practitioner - into the moment, and has a rich heritage within arts education. David Thomas describes it as: "…a way of researching through the practice of making art. Such making is not just doing, but is a complex informed physical, theoretical and intellectual activity where public and private worlds meet." This study adds 'spiritual discovery' to Thomas's list of creative complexity, and also draws upon Ken Wilber's integrated approach to human creativity to forge a compelling argument for a new way of seeing. It posits that reflective arts practice becomes infused with a dynamic heuristic when it is accompanied by pedagogic strategies that promote psychosocial and transpersonal self-reflective intelligences.