The Ambassador of Switzerland and Mrs Regula Bubb hosted a function to mark the opening lecture of the Gestalt Educational Programme, which is being supported by the embassies of Switzerland and Germany.
The series of fifteen educational lectures, training sessions and workshops by Argentinean artist, Mariano Akerman, architect and historian, Summa cum Laude, has been conceived especially for Pakistani audiences. Focusing on the Swiss-German contribution in the fields of theory and design it aims at sharing experience and reconsidering the interplay between tradition and modernisation, over 2,500 students have been invited to participate from educational institutions around Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
After invitees representing the arts had arrived and were seated, the host welcomed them and said he and his wife were delighted to host the event which would showcase the artistic achievements of the great artistes from his country as well as neighbouring Germany. He thanked the ambassador of Germany, Dr. Michael Koch, for his help and collaboration and said it was so readily forthcoming that he was tempted to ask for it more often! With a few words about the Gestalt programme, he thanked the speaker for his contribution and asked him to take the floor.
Lectures by Mariano Akerman are never boring and you can listen to him for more than the usual length of time even though the subject may not be your cup of tea. His talks combine facts and figures with touches of humour and just a little spice in the form of taking a dig at people and places — in the nicest possible manner — thrown in for good measure, much to the delight of the audience! The students who attend his series in connection with the Gestalt programme will enjoy his style, probably compare it with that of others and generally come away with a greater understanding of the subject under discussion since he encourages his listeners participation.
Mariano began by saying he had been in Pakistan for five years because he had a passion for art and because he has been inspired by the interest Pakistanis display in his artistic activities. “When people in Argentina ask when I am coming home, I reply, home is here,” he said. “Because I feel at home among my friends.”
With a slide show to emphasise the points he made, Mariano began by speaking of European art of the 20th century, in particular the period of the Weimar Republic from 1918-1933; its ups and downs especially the economic downside between 1921-23 and the golden years from 1924-29 when there was a switch towards change of accepted norms and practises. It was interesting to hear and see the comparisons he made and how he explained what ‘modern art’ was all about and his arguments may have convinced some sceptics — though not all — as found out later when guests enjoyed a variety of snacks and discussed the talk.
In a statement Mariano says that the Gestalt theory and Bauhaus design are two of the important themes to be explored in this cycle of fifteen lectures, training sessions, and workshops. Figure and ground, chance and intention, form and function, the rational and the irrational, repression and expression are discussed, which reconsiders the modern idea of form and function integrated in a single, effective whole.
Yet, significantly, close observation may reveal that modernity is not only based on functionality and common sense, as it may present surprises too. Besides, is ornament a crime? Tradition has often associated it with identity. Can abstraction and mass-produced fabrications provide it? And what is the common raison d’etre supporting the work of German-Swiss creators so diverse as Walter Gropius, Arp, Alberto Giacometti, Le Corbusier, Meret Oppenheim, Mies van der Rohe, Johannes Itten, Paul Klee, and Max Ernst?
A possible answer is that it was precisely around the 1920s that such inventive creators provided us with the best of Modern Art. Following their example and being characterised by its experimental nature and full-of-prizes collage contest, The Gestalt Programme aims to open a window towards the achievements of geographically and historically distant cultures, stimulating local productivity and inventiveness, without rejecting ancestral traditions.