Festival trib­ute to late art critic John Berger

Kathimerini English - - Focus - HARRY VAN VERSENDAAL

Or­ga­niz­ers of the Thes­sa­loniki Doc­u­men­tary Festival will pay trib­ute to English art critic and author John Berger, who died ear­lier this year.

Berger, whose ground­break­ing 1972 BBC tele­vi­sion se­ries and book “Ways of See­ing” is cred­ited with trans­form­ing the way in which a gen­er­a­tion looked at and un­der­stood art, is the sub­ject of two doc­u­men­tary films which will be show­cased at the an­nual event tak­ing place in the north­ern port city from March 3 to 12.

“The Sea­sons in Quincy: Four Por­traits of John Berger” is a four-part cin­e­matic por­trait crafted over five years by his actress friend Tilda Swin­ton, to­gether with Colin MacCabe, Christo­pher Roth and Bartek Dzi­a­dosz.

Also screen­ing is Cordelia Dvo­rak’s “John Berger: The Art of Look­ing,” an in­ti­mate take on the man’s per­son­al­ity and work on the oc­ca­sion of his 90th birth­day.

Now in its 19th year, the festival will screen more than 210 doc­u­men­taries – both shorts and feature-length works – by di­rec­tors from all over the world.

Mean­while, the Con­tem­po­rary Art Cen­ter of Thes­sa­loniki (Ware­house B1, Thes­sa­loniki Port) will host an ex­hi­bi­tion of orig­i­nal art­work by Berger. The show, or­ga­nized by TDF and the Con­tem­po­rary Art Cen­ter of Thes­sa­loniki – State Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art, is the first of its kind since Berger’s death. Some 30 draw­ings and paint­ings, video footage and copies of his books will go on dis­play.

A round-ta­ble dis­cus­sion on Berger’s legacy will take place at the same venue on March 8, start­ing at 7.30 p.m. Speak­ers will in­clude Berger’s editor and bi­og­ra­pher Tom Over­ton, and An­to­nis Ko­tidis, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at the Aris­to­tle Univer­sity of Thes­sa­loniki’s Art His­tory Depart­ment.

A com­mit­ted Marx­ist and ve­he­ment critic of cap­i­tal­ism, Berger trained as a painter, but soon turned his hand to writ­ing. He worked as an art critic for the New States­man for 10 years.

Berger’s novel “G” bagged Bri­tain’s pres­ti­gious Booker Prize in 1972. Re­act­ing to re­ports of slave la­bor that had en­riched the spon­sor Booker McCon­nell, Berger fa­mously pledged to do­nate half his prize money to the Black Pan­thers, who were, as he put it, “the black move­ment with the so­cial­ist and rev­o­lu­tion­ary per­spec­tive that I find my­self most in agree­ment with in this coun­try.”

“He showed us how to see, not as in­di­vid­u­als, but to­gether,” BBC arts editor Will Gom­pertz said on the news of Berger’s death. “He showed us how to see art not as a re­lay race of in­di­vid­ual ge­niuses but as a kind of com­pan­ion­ship.”

Hav­ing lived for many years in a farm­house in the French Alps near Mont Blanc, Berger died in Paris in early Jan­uary. He was 90 years old.

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