The Gestalt Program: Answers to Your Questions

Mariano Akerman: Bridging Cultures

1. The Swiss Residence: The Gestalt Program as Meaningful Configuration

What is the Gestalt Program?
The Gestalt Program involves a series of fifteen educational activities that take place in Pakistan in October-November 2011 . It counts with the generous support of the Swiss Confederation and the Federal Republic of Germany. Promoting participation, the Gestalt Program includes lectures, training sessions, workshops, and a collage contest, with numerous prizes.

Why this Program may be special?
The Program is the result of a personal research and emerges from the desire to sharing its fruits with both teachers and students in order to stimulate their productivity and inventiveness.

Which are the main topics to be considered in the Program?
One of them is the Theory of Perceptual Organization, as formulated by the Gestalt school researchers during the Goldene Zwanziger, the Roaring Twenties. Another comprises the achievements of the Bauhaus, whose contribution can still be felt in our lives daily.

Mariano Akerman, "Gestalt Program as Meaningful Configuration: Its Shape and Content," lecture
Swiss Residence, Islamabad, 20 October 2011

2. Islamabad College for Girls: The Theory of Perceptual Organization

The parts and the whole
If a person only perceives the parts and not the whole, is that person abnormal?
No, not necessarily. In general, and as it emerged from the Gestalt school experiments, under normal conditions a human being tends to perceive a totality, because our brain is holistic and integrates the information that receives. Sometimes, because of different factors, one may not perceive the whole, but some parts. This does not necessarily mean abnormality. Let's remember that the Gestalt researchers were mostly interested in what happens with the regular pattern of the human mind and not with the exceptions in particular. Besides, the fact that a person doesn't perceive something at one moment does not signify that the person won't be able to perceive that in another. Instead of being preoccupied about who is abnormal and who isn't, we should keep in mind that our perception as human beings is dynamic. In this world everything changes, and so does our perception.

A tigger-rabbit
As the rabbit-duck image is shown, why is it that some people perceive first the duck and why that some perceive first the rabbit?
The rabbit-duck is an extraordinary double-image which proves that most people tend to "read" complex figures too quickly. And in this case, most people tend to see either this or that, but not both. Only a few usually realize they are contemplating a double-edged figure. Concerning why a person perceives one thing or another first, this is simply connected with our pre-existences and probably with other factors as well. The problem studied by the a Gestalt researcher may not be why one perceives this or that thing first, but whether one is able to shift his/her viewpoint in order to see something else. The point here is whether we are able to show some flexibility in our perception or not.

A collage by Ernst
Some pieces of paper pasted on a page: are they a collage?
Although the term collage comes from the French coller that means "to paste," pieces of paper pasted on a page do not necessarily constitute a collage in the strictest sense of the term, which is both artistic and holistic. In a true collage, one needs to transcend the parts in order to obtain an integrated whole. As a result, a true collage will not be an aggregate of parts but a truly organic unity. That's why Max Ernst was fond of saying that feathers may make the plumage, while glue does not necessarily make a collage: Si sont les plumes qui font le plumage, ce n’est pas la colle qui fait le collage.

3. International School Islamabad: Gestalt in the Collage

The boy misrepresents the image.
No. He simply perceives it in a way which is different from yours. Now it is your turn to try to see things from another viewpoint, the boy's.

4. Departamento de Español, National University of Modern Languages: La idea de collage y su relación con el todo integrado

¿Por qué se asocia el término "Gestalt" con la totalidad y sus respectivas partes?
Porque la Escuela de la Gestalt se dedica a estudiar la relación que existe entre el todo y sus respectivas partes.

Para la Gestalt, ¿qué importancia tiene la relación que se da entre el todo y sus respectivos componentes?
Una importancia fundamental: dicha relación es de primordial significación tanto para la teoría y los experimentos desarrollados por los investigadores de la Gestalt.

¿Prevalece siempre el todo sobre las partes?
No. A veces las partes adquiere una gran importancia y pueden llegar a amenazar a o incluso a prevalecer sobre el todo. En ese caso, tales partes funcionan como un árbol que no nos deja ver el bosque.

¿Cuál es la diferencia entre agregrado y sistema?
Los componentes de un agregado se hallan asociados accidentalmente o solo por casualidad; los componentes de un sistema son concebidos según un determinado diseño y con el fin de trabajar en conjunto, ya sea para alcanzar cierto propósito o llevar a cabo un función específica.

Desde un punto de vista artístico, ¿un collage ideal implicaría un todo cuyas partes se hallan perfectamente bien integradas?
Claro que sí.

¿Por qué a veces no es fácil discernir los componentes que constituyen ciertas estructuras?
Por un lado, los componentes pueden a veces haber sido amalgamados. Por el otro, las estructuras de la realidad no siempre se caracterizan por ser claras y sencillas.

¿Por qué el Guernica de Picasso presenta un todo confuso?
Existen varias explicaciones posibles. Una de ellas es que su cuadro evoca el momento del estallido de una bomba sobre una indefensa población civil española.

5. Alliance Française d'Islamabad: Collage et intégration
Exercise : poser des questions
Qu'est-ce que c'est la théorie de la Gestalt?
Qui a developpé cette théorie? Quand? Où?
Comment définir le mot "collage"?
Y a t-il a des règles pour intégrer des parties dans un collage?

6. Post-Graduate Government College for Women Rawalpindi: Gestalt

Does everyone perceive things in the same way?
Not always. There are of course certain thing that most of us will perceive in the same way. And there are other things that each person will perceive in a different way.

Why we perceive the whole and not the parts?
Because our mind operates in a holistic way.

Why Gestalt psychology studies the whole and not the parts? Aren't the parts important?
The Gestalt psychology studies both the whole and the parts. As a matter of fact it focuses in the ways they relate one another. In this last sense, the parts are as important as the whole.

Can Gestalt psychology help us to cope with or even overcome the harsh realities of life?
Yes, of course.

Can looking at things holistically help us to overcome our prejudices?
Not only it can it also should do so, after all and despite our differences all human beings have much in common, haven't we?

Was the Gestalt theory applied to the visual arts?
Yes. It was first incorporated in the Bauhaus in the 1920s. Artists such as Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky painted and developed their own theories basing themselves on the Gestalt achievements. Others applied the Gestalt principles to elaborate new fabrications of universal value.

Being you an architect, how is it that you are interested in psychology?
I don't see why I shouldn't be interested in psychology. One can be an architect and simultaneousy be interested in quite a number of other things. Well, I suppose that's my case.

7. COMSATS UNiversity: Gestalt Theory and Bauhaus Design
Under construction


Gestalt Educational Program

"There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception." -Aldous Huxley

Theory and Design in the Age of New Objectivity. Fifteen lectures, training sessions, and workshops, by Mariano Akerman. October-November 2011

1. Gestalt Program as Meaningful Configuration
2. The Theory of Perceptual Organization: The Whole and the Parts
3. The Bauhaus: Form and Function in the Machine Age
4. Common Sense meets the Irrational
5. Gestalt and Bauhaus: A Matter of Perception
6. Modern Art and Design in the Age of New Objectivity
7. Innovation meets Tradition: Is Ornament a Crime?
8. Gestalt Theory and Bauhaus Design
9. Design and Arbitrariness: A Matter of Calculated Provocation?
10. Creation and Commitment
11. The Parts and the Whole: Gestalt in the Collage
12. La théorie de la Gestalt et les arts visuels modernes
13. Diseños Bauhaus y "Lo bueno, si breve, dos veces bueno"
14. History, Language, and Education in the 1920s
15. The German-Swiss Contribution to the Age of New Objectivity

Gestalt Principles: Unity, Symmetry, Proximity, Similarity, Continuity, Closure, Figure and Ground. A Composition by Mariano Akerman, September 2011. Theory of Perceptual Organization: "The whole is different from the sum of its parts."