Ways of Seeing Art


Students write a response paper on their experience viewing art online versus in the context of a museum.

First, the students read Ways of Seeing, a book by John Berger, which makes a strong argument about the effects of the reproduction of art on society and that the context through which you see art affects what your reaction. In an attempt to apply this argument, the students were instructed to  search online for images of art from the Fogg Museum from some non-museum location, like a dance club or a cafe. Once they have found a piece that interests them, they are to visit the museum and find the original version of the art. The 2 to 3-page response paper asks for a reflection of this experience of seeing the art both ways and an analysis of Berger's argument about viewing art in different contexts. 

The purpose of the assignment is to think deeply about an argument and assess it through application, as well as to introduce students to some of the Fogg Museum's overlooked collection.  Matt notes that the papers were not very successful, but that this meant that the students could discuss the experience of seeing art from different contexts and how this engages with Berger's argument in section.