Sentences on Gestalt

Michael Johansson


My work on formulating sentences about gestalt began three years ago. I went into academia in the late ’90s with a background in art/design and it was especially important for me to incorporate the unique qualities of digital media as a material and its methods and process in relation to the physical and real worlds. This was a way for me, in collaboration with others, to practice, explore and gain systematic insight into what can be created.

Inspired by the American artist Sol LeWitt and his Sentences on Conceptual art, I started to develop my own sentences to guide my work. I have written the following 14 sentences so far:

  • In most of my work, I approach Gestalt as an inquiry method, influenced by Design theories, according to which Gestalt creation is analogous to a design process that results in knowledge acquired during the process, and creates an artifact that stores that knowledge in some way.
  • Gestalt can thus be considered a process of knowledge acquisition or learning from the previously unknown. The knowledge acquired pertains not only to the particular domain of the gestalt but to the process itself. That is, we acquire knowledge about how to evolve both gestalt and process.
  • From art and craftsmanship, I can learn, use, develop and transform moods of expression, acknowledge material aspects, underline the importance of embodied knowledge and Concepts (formatting activities) to enhance and better understand my work methods.
  • Gestalt in its making is a practiced space to think, digest, and re-work the object of investigation. It is a matter of adding knowledge, linking what we already know, and spotting the new – all of which differ greatly from our mere observations -, and to also incorporate this knowledge and observations into other practices and science as a by-product.
  • A gestalt begins when its parts and what they signify exceeds their signification. When something that means one thing, or conventionally functions in one role, discloses other possibilities, a double movement occurs, in which new families of association and structures of meaning are established.
  • It is an approach that does not explicitly define and reduce objects to a sole function, but instead enables objects to continually generate something else, to develop hidden potentials – to be discovered or re-discovered.
  • Furthermore, it is a method whose application is in no way confined to resolute, practical problems, but is one that may well be used theoretically, poetically, hallucinatory, phantasmatically etc.
  • The experience of working in multidisciplinary settings with gestalt through artifact creation, communicating and testing our ideas is challenging, since each discipline has its own context and formats for communicating and executing its findings, via conferences, exhibitions, etc, and by doing so, only use selected parts of the overall Gestalt, and therefore disregard the whole.
  • Try to work with gestalt that is generative rather than produced, generative in the sense that it does not appear in its original or final form. It has sprung out of a chain of associations, through our work process and methods that generate new forms, which in turn recombine into new wholes.
  • The work should not solely illustrate a concept; it should grasp systematic insights through its generated realities, through the parts and the whole, the complementary and antagonistic, the product and the producer.
  • The friction created by allowing the work to evolve through specific procedures, materials, and media, enables us to explore this area by complex connections through iteration of artistic intention/screenwriting, digitally generated expressions, procedurals, physical objects, and script/code writing, where we try to “game” the rules of play.
  • Working in ambiguity is key to exploring different possibilities without jumping to conclusions too quickly. This often involves undoing the connections between program, objects, signs, and images which constitutes what we intend as reality, and at the same time draws attention to the methods that made this a reality.
  • The gestalt also acts as a generator, while generating new and unforeseen processes, which extend into new and likewise unforeseen contexts. Whereas the people and professions involved disseminate their knowledge into the artifact, also extracting something which could inform their own and future practice.
  • This creates time to add idea upon idea, returning in several steps to the same subject, and allowing space for thinking, digesting and re-working the object of investigation. It is a matter of adding knowledge, linking what we already know, and spotting the new in a sequence, whilst also utilising pre-established knowledge and its associated methods, formats of creation, and inquiry.