Riffing on the Gestalt

Æther Cavendish
5 min readNov 13, 2022

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Observations on friendship and emergence through the lens of Web3

Joint Exhibition of Daniel Buren & Philippe Parreno, 2021 — Photograph by Kamel Mennour

Everything is breath and movement in this place, that is never really a place, since it is endlessly forming and deforming itself. —Philippe Parreno

Iam a long time fan of the French conceptual artist Daniel Buren, who is well known for his installations and performance art. I only recently heard about his first solo exhibition, À partir de là, which dates back to the 1970’s. In this work Buren painted his signature stripes on the walls of an estate where a private collection was once held for generations. The artist deliberately cut out the spaces where paintings were previously hanging, thus creating an experience for the viewer based on the observation of the absence of artwork.

More recently Buren collaborated with Philippe Parreno, also a French conceptual artist, on an exhibition titled Simultanément travaux in situ et en movement, another conceptual artwork in which the the architecture of the space is the Art. Parreno desribes the space he co-created with Buren as: A space undergoing the time of its own unveiling. A stochastic space, one given up to chance, made up of glimmers and events. Everything is breath and movement in this place, that is never really a place, since it is endlessly forming and deforming itself.

A stripped down way of paraphrasing Parreno might be to say that the artists were staging an experience as much as creating anything. This could be said of many performative conceptual artworks across all media: John Cage’s work 4'33" comes to mind. In this piece the experimental composer drew a frame around a durational container which itself became the composition. Each time 4'33" is performed, all the attendees become full participants in the composition.

Highlight from étude for a system unfound in C# #238 by petStarChippy, 2022 — Collection of the Author

Performance Art is about joy, about making something that’s so full of a kind of wild joy that really can’t be put into words.—Laurie Anderson

When asked what I “really” do, I often respond that all I do is hold space. I use different tools whether I’m teaching or engaging in any number of creative disciplines, but I am largely relying on a single core skill. This skill is at once the most simple thing in the world, and yet something quite delicate: it consists in active listening with a view to creating space for that which desires to come forth, in other words that which is emergent.

I’m especially curious about creating and exploring the possibilities of new participatory spaces in the context of Web3, which I find uniquely reminiscent of the Temporary Autonomous Zone (“TAZ”) such as Burning Man. This is something I previously touched on here. For reasons which seem rooted in denial, there is a seductive cultural belief that all things enmeshed with the Blockchain are themselves immutable and by extension timeless. I challenge this belief and consider anything I facilitate to be impermanent in nature, like the creature of the Anthropocene writing these very words…

Unsigned Gestalt, the experimental, decommodified creative space I recently co-created with Nick Barton falls under the loose category of a TAZ. At this time the Unsigned Gestalt community exists mostly on Discord and to a lesser degree on Twitter. In this sense its borders are nebulous: there is no formal frame, which is not to say there isn’t a container. The sense of community is what creates the container which holds the minds and sensibilities of flesh and bone individuals living all over the globe and coming together to create large scale Art compositions. If the 4'33" durational container created by John Cage is the composition, the “composition” that is Unsigned Gestalt itself is created by the people sharing the space.

Yoko Ono & John Lennon reading Grapefruit, 1971—Photograph by Gijsbert Hanekroot

The computer is my favorite invention. I feel lucky to be part of the global village.—Yoko Ono

If the gentle reader will humor me for a few more short paragraphs, my point is that Unsigned Gestalt is not only an experimental community focusing on a common collaborative endeavor, it is an emergent and performative artwork in its own right. Within the intangible borders of the Unsigned Gestalt community, Art comes into manifestation as the materialization of relation: relation to the underlying body of artwork we are using as building blocks (the Cardano unsigned_algorithms project) to create Art and relation to each other.

This notion of relationship rests on friendship, which is one of the core values of Unsigned Gestalt. But it is more sophisticated than that! We are organized in pools for the purposes of building our large scale Art compositions. In concrete terms, this means that there is at once artwork being created through the actions executed by our participants and there is an active audience witnessing the unfolding of the artistic event that is Unsigned Gestalt.

As we participate individually in the creation of these large scale compositions, we express our own aesthetic preferences and biases and in so doing become better known to each other. This Performance Art project is thus as much about coming together and co-creating as it is about witnessing an unveiling. This process of unveiling reveals both the emergent artwork we are co-creating and the subtle colors and energies of the participants we like to call friends.

To wrap things up: we have intentionality and we have a group of people creating Art, we have an audience, we exist in time and space …and here I find myself documenting this artistic happening… There is no doubt in my mind that Unsigned Gestalt is an experimental artwork falling under the category of Performance Art!

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Æther Cavendish

Artist, Writer, Tantrika. Practicing letting go, one attachment at a time.