A Week of Conversations, Collaborations, Screenings and Workshops inspired by
John Berger (5-10 Nov)

Jonah who will be 25 in the year 2000 (Screening on Friday, 9 November)

With just under two weeks to go, we can announce the initial programme for Redrawing the Maps, with details of all the sessions confirmed so far. (There’s still time to add your own session to the mix, though.)

We’re excited about the range of things that will be going on, from drawing and mapping workshops to walks, conversations with Berger’s collaborators, screenings of his film and TV works, as well as discussions of the relevance of his writings to the situation of the world today.

All of this has come about as a result of an open invitation to anyone who wanted to get involved, inspired by our experiences of spontaneous, temporary, liminal spaces like the Temporary School of Thought and the Really Free School. On the edges of the John Berger: Art & Property Now exhibition at the Inigo Rooms, we hope we can be true to those experiences, and to the spirit of Berger’s work.

You can explore the full programme elsewhere on our site. Here are a few of the things I’m personally looking forward to during the week:

  • The Radical Art of Walking with Ruth Potts and Molly Connisbee of Bread, Print and Roses (Monday 5pm, Wednesday 6.30pm, Thursday 7pm): Throughout the week, BP&R will be exploring the multiple stories that make up our cities, building a collaborative map of the area around surrounding Somerset House. Ruth Potts will be introducing this project on Monday afternoon and it will also include a walk on Wednesday and a discussion on Thursday evening.
  • Jonah who will be 25 in the year 2000 (Friday, 7.15pm): I can’t wait to finally see this film, which Berger wrote with director Alain Tanner. Set in the mid-1970s on the Swiss-French border, it follows the stories of eight friends left behind as the revolutionary wave of the 1960s retreats. As such, it’s part of Berger’s process of making sense of the events of 1968 and the coexistence of hope and disillusionment. By all accounts, though, it’s also a very funny, playful piece of cinema, and one that has had a lasting influence. (Alfonso Cuarón cites it, for example, as the overriding influence on Children of Men.)
  • The Field of Performance (Friday, 4pm) with Chris Goode, Mary Paterson, Theron Schmidt and others: This promises to be a fascinating cross-over between conversation and performance, involving writers, critics, theatre makers and performers for whom Berger’s work has been important.
  • John Berger, the Peasantry and Salvation (Friday, 6pm) with Martyn Hudson: Academic writing about someone like Berger often feels at odds with the nature of the work being written about, so I remember being pleasantly surprised when I came across Martyn’s paper, ‘The Clerk of the Foresters Records: John Berger, the Dead and the Writing of History’. I’m looking forward to finally meeting him and hearing him speak about what can be salvaged from the wreckage of European peasant culture and its stories.

I’ll also be hosting a couple of sessions myself over the week. On Monday evening (6pm), Jeppe Graugaard and I will hold a discussion on Berger’s relationship to ‘Progress’, starting with a line from Hold Everything Dear: ‘A break-out from the prison of modern time is possible.’ And on Saturday afternoon (2pm) – following a screening of Timothy Neat’s feature film, ‘Play Me Something’ – I’ll be exploring some ideas around making, meaning and memory, drawing on William Golding and Alan Garner.

Finally, as I say, there’s still time to add more sessions to the programme, and we still have ideas for conversations and collaborations we’d like to help make happen. How about revisiting Berger’s essay, The Nature of Mass Demonstrations, in the light of last Saturday’s TUC March, or Paul Mason’s arguments about Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere? Perhaps we can find someone who was at that Transnational Institute meeting where Berger played a recording of a Beethoven sonata, then proposed that the left might be better off assuming the world was a hellish place, rather than a place that could ever be heaven-on-earth?

There are so many other strands to pick up, and so many directions in which we could take them, but hopefully the existing programme gives some sense of the scope of what we’re looking for, as well as what we’re looking forward to.

Redrawing the Maps takes place at the Inigo Rooms, Somerset House, London, 5 – 10 November, 2012. Full programme here.

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John Berger (5-10 Nov)”

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