12.10.11

The Gestalt and Its Researchers


Gestalt Psychology: Central Premises
1. Holistic thinking. Übersummativität, i.e., "the whole is more than the sum of its parts" and transposability
2. The primacy of unitary analysis of phenomena, rather than analysis of stimuli
3. Experimental methodology, which had to be congruent with the type of event under investigation
4. Psychophysical isomorphism or psychological processes are clearly assigned to physical processes

Max Wertheimer (1880–1943), Kurt Koffka (1886-1941), and Wolfgang Köhler (1887–1967) contributed to the creation of Gestalt psychology.

"I stand at the window and see a house, trees, sky. Theoretically I might say there were 327 brightnesses and nuances of colour. Do I have 327? No. I have sky, house, and trees." Max Wertheimer

Paul Klee. "Creative Credo," 1920, VII. Art is a simile of the Creation. Each work of art is an example, just as the terrestrial is an example of the cosmic.
The release of elements, their grouping into complex subdivisions, the dismemberment of the object and its reconstruction into a whole, the pictorial polyphony, the achievement of stability through an equilibrium of movement, all these are difficult questions of form, crucial for formal wisdom, but not yet art in the highest circle. In the highest circle an ultimate mystery lurks behind the mystery, and the wretched light of the intellect is of no avail. One may still speak reasonably of the salutary effects of art. We may say that fantasy, inspired by instinctual stimuli, creates illusory states which somehow encourage or stimulate us more than the familiar natural known supernatural states, that its symbols bring comfort to the mind, by making it realize that it is not confined to earthly potentialities, however great they may become in the future; that ethical gravity holds sway side by side with impish laughter at doctors and parsons.
But, in the long run, even enhanced reality proves inadequate.
Art plays an unknowing game with ultimate things, and yet achieves them!
Cheer up! Value such country outings, which let you have a new point of view for once as well as a change of air, and transport you to a world which, by diverting you, strengthens you for the inevitable returns to the greyness of the working day. More than that, they help you to slough off your earthly skin, to fancy for a moment thta you are God; to look forward to new holidays, when the soul goes to a banquet in order to nourish its starved nerves, and to fill its languishing blood vessels with new sap.
Let yourself be carried on the invigorating sea, on a broad river or an enchanting brook, such as that of the richly diversified, aphoristic graphic art.

Rudolf Arnheim (1904-2007) was a path-breaking psychologist of visual experience in the arts. He conducted some of the earliest experiments in the application of Gestalt theory in the perception of a work of art. Arnheim was born in an age when many remembered life without telephones and during his long and prodigiously productive scholarly life, he would witness the emergence of cinema, radio, and television. Arnheim was among the first theorists to write in significant ways about these new media of the twentieth century. A towering figure in the field of visual studies, he was a pioneer in the psychology of art and wrote seminal books on visual perception and artistic creativity. Arnheim has published more than a dozen books on art, architecture and film.

"All perceiving is also thinking" (Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception, 1954). For thirty-five years his book Visual Thinking (1969) has been the standard for art educators and psychologists alike. In this groundbreaking work, Arnheim asserts that all thinking (not just thinking related to art) is basically perceptual in nature—and that the ancient dichotomy between seeing and thinking, between perceiving and reasoning, is false and misleading. Far from being a "lower" function, our perceptual response to the world is the basic means by which we structure events, and from which we derive ideas and therefore language. Although intended for the general reader, Visual Thinking is of immediate interest to the educator because of its practical consequences for the function of art in education and more broadly, in all fields of learning.

"Order is a necessary condition for anything the human mind is to understand. Arrangements such as the layout of a city or building, a set of tools, a display of merchandise, the verbal exposition of facts or ideas, or a painting or piece of music are called orderly when an observer or listener can grasp their overall structure and the ramification of the structure in some detail. Order makes it possible to focus on what is alike and what is different, what belongs together and what is segregated. When nothing superfluous is included and nothing indispensable left out, one can understand the interrelation of the whole and its parts, as well as the hierarchic scale of importance and power by which some structural features are dominant, other subordinate" (Arnheim, Entropy and Art: An Essay on Disorder and Order, 1971).

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