4 Days to Go: Death through the Lens of Art

Today’s blog post is from Helen, one of our marketing team, in the lead up to the opening of our exhibition in 4 days time!

As part of our coursework assignment alongside the planning of Looking Beyond we were tasked to write a critical analysis of the exhibition source text – Lapwing and Fox. I chose to write about discussions of death in the public sphere – specifically in published book form or displayed as part of a museum exhibition.

As the common phrase goes, death and taxes are the only certainties in life. The subject of death is one that has produced a large catalogue of artwork and literature in an effort by so many people throughout history to understand this certain unknown. Berger and Christie share stories, in Lapwing and Fox, on how photographs and artwork make them remember friends and family who have passed away. The art acts as a opening for the men to talk about difficult topics, and to share painful memories. Art and artefacts have the power to conjure memories and often we form emotional bonds with these inanimate objects themselves. These responses are the basis of our upcoming exhibition.

 Museums and galleries are ideal places to deal with the difficult subject of death – after all, historical museum collections are echoes of the past themselves. Death is a shared certainly. Psycological studies show that taking about death openly is beneficial to a healthy awareness of mortality, and of reflection on life. However, this does not always  mean that people are happy to discuss death in a public setting. Over the course of the 20th century, death has become an increasingly private affair; mysterious and unseen. Death happens behind closed doors, and spoken of in hushed tones.

Would you be comfortable sharing views on death in a public space? In writing or out loud? How do you feel about discussion of on death in museum and gallery displays? 

Let us know @LookingBeyond16 and on #LookingBeyond16



5 Days to Go: Walking Through the Gallery…

We are now in the last week of planning before opening – and are  looking forward to installing all of the pieces that we have chosen! Over the next 6 days, in the run up to opening on Saturday (7th May), we will be posting daily blogs to whet your appetite for  Looking Beyond. We hope you’re as excited as we are to see the exhibition on display!

Our blog post today comes from Rose – a member of our Marketing Team – about her interest in visitor behaviour:

As someone interested in why and how people visit museums and galleries, I was struck by John Christie’s unusual behaviour as a visitor in the Sainsbury Centre. Unlike the slow and steady wander performed by many gallery-goers, Christie negotiates the space with confidence in order to engage with his favourite works. As is described in Lapwing and Fox, their upcoming collaboration, he feels a initial pull from Giacometti’s Self Portrait and uses it as his own centre of gravity in the gallery. Aware of the watchful eyes in the largely figurative collection, he feels ‘surrounded by eyes’ and performs re-enactments of the artists to provoke the drawings and sculptures to return his gaze in different ways.

Giacometti Christie gesture self portraitI challenge you to look at visitor behaviour in the Sainsbury Centre, or in other galleries, and think about why they perform certain rituals and habits. What do you often do when visiting a gallery, and why?

If you have an unusual way to approach art, do get in touch as I am very curious to find out! Tweet at us @LookingBeyond16 or use #LookingBeyond16

Illustration by Rose Hughes.

“I thought I would take you on a visit to a favourite place of mine…”

smiling people

John Berger and John Christie met on a BBC set in 1972, when Christie was a cameraman at the start of his career. Since this meeting, the two friends have enjoyed an ongoing creative collaboration of over several decades.

In 1984 Christie approached Berger with the idea to transform his book Another Way of Telling, meditations on photography with renowned Swiss photographer Jean Mohr, into a series of films. Four years later they gained the rights and began work on what would become a BBC series of the same name. This adventure took them to Finland to put concepts of photography into practice.

After the film series, their next collaboration grew into a publication titled Pages of the Wound in 1994. A collection of Berger’s rarely seen poems, photographs and drawings, the book was designed and produced by Christie.

In 1997 Berger and Christie began another correspondence, which developed into a book titled I Send You This Cadmium Red published in 2000. Initiated by Berger asking ‘just send a colour’, Christie responded with a handcrafted book inspired by the memory of red carnations. Cadmium Red is an exploration of the many meanings of colours, ranging from the art historical to the deeply personal. The book, which is illustrated with paint splashes, photographs and collages, is considered a work of art in its own right, and has since been reimagined as a stage play.

Here are some excerpts from that play, produced by the Art of Time ensemble for the stage in October 2011.

Cadmium Red ends with Berger musing about their next project: ‘Perhaps we could make an atlas for the next life – with some fold outs!’ Lapwing and Fox is the publication inspired by their latest correspondence, this time initiated by Christie inviting Berger on a ‘visit to a favourite place of mine, the Sainsbury Centre…’

Visit Looking Beyond: Conversations between John Berger and John Christie to experience their latest correspondence in the gallery in which it was inspired, and initiate a journey of your own. Opening 7th May 2016!


Welcome to our blog! We are a group of 15 MA Museum Studies students currently studying at UEA , and putting on an exhibition as part of our course. The exhibition Looking Beyond: Conversations between John Berger and John Christie will open on the 7th May – exactly one month from today! – at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich.

Over the next month, and throughout the run of the exhibition, we will be updating this blog with behind the scenes peeks, personal reflections, and interesting stories from our own experience of putting on this show! So keep coming back to stay up to date with our work and progress.

Also on this blog are details of the events that we are running alongside the exhibition, and information on how to get here. We are currently working on putting together an educational pack – so watch this space!

If you want to see even more then you can follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

A New Exhibition

This exciting exhibition brings together the letters and handmade booklets of renowned writer John Berger and artist John Christie with works of art from the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts.

The previously unseen letters begin with Christie taking Berger on a journey through the gallery through a collage of printed descriptions of artworks, handwritten reflections and pasted postcards. As the two friends share thoughts on favourite pieces of art, their correspondence wanders through personal memories, shared life experiences, and philosophical reflection.

Berger and Christie’s correspondence is presented as an inspiring starting point for visitors to look more closely at the artworks around them and encourages new conversations about the Sainsbury Centre collection. Based around this theme, the exhibition will be accompanied by an exciting programme of talks, film screenings, and workshops.

The correspondence is to be published this summer under the title Lapwing and Fox and will be the most recent in a series of John Berger and John Christie collaborations including I Send You This Cadmium Red and Another Way of Telling.