‘At first I referred to the field as a space awaiting events; now I refer to it as an event in itself’. John Berger – ‘Field’ (1971)


Billy & Berger on the sofa 2014

Berger and Big Ears on the sofa, July 2014

In early September I am presenting a paper at the Thinking With John Berger conference at Cardiff Metropolitan University, entitled ‘Fields Of Knowledge: Berger, The Outdoors And The Possibilities of Experiental Practice’

In my abstract I make many promises: to explore the boundaries of the academy and the ownership of academic practice; to examine the relationships between the orthodox and the unruly, the academic and the emotional, the empirical / validated and the wondering / intuitive… (what was I thinking). The challenge in writing up a predetermined piece of writing is to stay close to the initial liveliness of the ideas, and to the wonder and vitality with which so much of Berger’s work fills me. In 2012 I took part in Redrawing The Maps at Somerset House, and as a guest blogger for the event I wrote these words:

I feared my knowledge and I feared my ignorance, unable to reconcile the different strands of my practice. In all these matters, Berger’s work has been redemptive. He gives me courage. His willingness to embrace uncertainty; his ability to sincerely inhabit the difference of the other; the co-mingling of the theoretical and the lyrical, the written and the visual, the personal and the political is liberating. He does not dictate – he wonders. An idea, a theory, is never proposed as a given, but as a possibility, to be willingly handed over for us to shape in our own minds. Dogma is death. Uncertainty is life. (The Other Compass And The Other Stars).

The reading list I have set myself is long, in truth ‘pot luck’ and incomplete, but most of the Berger texts are old friends, already bookmarked at relevant essays, passages and quotes. The conference is programme is bristling with academic credentials, of which I have none. I shall read and write to my own strengths, as I expect Berger himself would advise.


The Pedagogy Of The Not KnownDerek Atkinson, (in On Not Knowing: How Artists Think – ed. Fisher, E. & Fortnum, R.) Black Dog Publishing (2013)
Social Learning Theory – Albert Bandura (1971)
The Ship of Thought. Essays on Psychoanalysis and Learninged. Barford, D. Karnac Books (2002)
About Looking – John Berger (collected essays), Bloomsbury (2009)
And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos – John Berger, Bloomsbury (1984)
Bento’s Sketchbook – John Berger, Verso (2011)
Berger On Drawing – John Berger (collected essays) Occasional Press (2005)
Pages Of The Wound – John Berger, Bloomsbury (1994)
The Shape Of A Pocket – John Berger, Bloomsbury (2001)
Railtracks – John Berger and Anne Michaels, Go Together Press (2011)
Place & Memory – ed. Bodor, J. Bolland, E. Lewis, B. & Rodgers, T., Gordian Projects (2014)
Gulp – Sonia Boyce and Sarah Cole in conversation, (in On Not Knowing: How Artists Think – ed. Fisher, E. & Fortnum, R.) Black Dog Publishing (2013)
West North East – Matthew Clegg, Longbarrow Press (2013)
Tactics For Not Knowing: preparing for the unexpected – Emma Cocker (in On Not Knowing: How Artists Think – ed. Fisher, E. & Fortnum, R.) Black Dog Publishing (2013)
Dillon de Give (projects blog)
Teaching And Learning as Performing Arts – Robert Filliou (1970) Facsimile reprint Occasional Papers (2014)
Pedagogy of the OppressedPaulo Friere (1970)
Not Everyone Has (the) Balls: Urban Exploration and the Persistence of Masculinist GeographyCarrie Mott & Susan M. Roberts (2013)
Writings 1995 – 2005 – John Newling, SWPA (2005)
The Contemporary Flaneuse: exploring strategies for the drifter in a feminine modeHelen Scalway (2002)
Wanderlust: a history of walking – Rebecca Solnit, Verso (2001)
The Show That Has Emerged From My Walking PracticeSarah Wishart (2012)

PS: if anyone knows where I can get hold of a copy of The Ship of Thought then please let me know!