On 1 February 1993, Wilhelm Salber gave his farewell lecture at the University of Cologne. It was entitled "Media Effectiveness Unit". The listeners present at the time gave the long-time chair holder a moving farewell. We hereby make the core of this farewell lecture available to the visitors of this website. It can be heard via the video recording by Armin Schulte as well as read as a transcribed text.

The reading of the transcribed text is interesting in that it makes Salber's lecture style Wilhelm visible. Salber always prepared his lectures very carefully, but then delivered them freely. This way of lecturing encouraged him to unfold and develop the material once again in the presence of his listeners. This "formulation of thoughts while speaking" (freely after von Kleist) can be seen in the text. It differs in style both from scientific lectures, which are read out, and from the printed texts of Wilhelm Salber.

After Wilhelm Salber had - as was his habit - summarized the previous lecture in about ten minutes, he continued with the main part as follows:

The lecture is called: Medium Unit of Action. That's what I've always tried to call to mind. Our view is from the outset that there is always something like art in every development of reality. What I am about to tell you is also a kind of morphological cultural psychology. I will try to demonstrate this to you in half an hour.

  1. Reality

I'm going to assume first of all that you know what turning figures are. That we always make the attempt to bring several things into a circle or a spiral. We can also do that with the pivots of reality, images, art and culture. And this figure is at the end of the lecture, because we can use it to make clear to ourselves once again when we talk about advertising, when we talk about the university: our everyday culture always has something to do with lived images. There's always something of art in it, and it's always a cultivation process. What goes on at work, for example, or here at the university, has something to do with the images and literature that are commonplace at the moment. So travel is very popular in literature, travel to history, ancient or medieval times is very popular at the moment, or travel to completely different cultures. We are very interested in Indians, in East Asia, in oppressed peoples. And we are now living out this literature in our company. So this can be a company that only deals with computers, but what they take up in this literature is also dealt with in the company. There is nothing where we can say that this is pure industrial psychology, organizational psychology. That is the mistake, we could divide into such subjects. From the outset, we are also concerned in the company with such images, with such literatures, with what is currently commonplace in literature.

I have always said, ceterum censeo, we do not want to think in boxes, but we want to take into account that all these traits that we find play a role in the development of units of effect. In everyday life, in advertising, all the way to therapy. So nothing is exempt, that's always true in the same way. And what I'm saying now about the fulcrums of reality, lived images, art and culture, that of course applies in the same way. No matter what we examine. Even if you think you have a very individual personality on the couch now, you always have the literature of our time and the whole culture with you at the same time. And if you don't see that and take it into account, then you also don't understand how the thing works that you have just formalized as a "unit of effect," called "personality," in front of you.

Psychologically understood, reality is not a simple thing and not a thing that we find 'beyond the subjects' per se, but reality has something to do with the fact that the psychic can take up what presents itself in a multiplicity of realities. And that, after all, is called medium. The soul is always in a medium. It does not exist for itself and then occasionally reaches out of the inner space into reality. But what is there and effective in this reality, the forests, the ponds, but also the machines, the gardens, the parks, the furnishings, our clothing, all these contribute to the design of the soul.

The mental is co-determined by the fact that it imitates these realities. Consequently, in a cultural psychology we must assume that there is no creativity out of nothing. We always lean on some forms that are prescribed and prefigured in the design of reality, and we then seek to imitate that.

But, and here comes the but again, which we have encountered so often when we deal with the Gestalt refractions of the soul. We can't bear to simply reproduce something, but we also displace it. We dislocate what we find into other figures. If we have machines, we turn them into works of art; we can then find them in museums. If we have forests, we first cut them down, and then we replace them with plastic, and then when we sit in the plastic for an hour, we think longingly of the forests and say, now we want forests again. This turn of phrase is characteristic of the soulful. And you have to see that with it. Nothing stands still. We try to pick something up, we are shaped by what we find as design, but we also always have to shift something about it.

If we relate this to culture, and that's what we wanted to talk about: everything that bourgeois culture revealed around 1900 as ugly, as residual, as embarrassing, that became a new starting point for understanding reality in Dadaism and Futurism. To a certain extent, this is also true of psychoanalysis. What had been under the table until then, what was held unconsciously, that suddenly went into language use, science began to talk about it, and then in 1968 it was already a program: "Free the partial drives!" That was the new direction, to turn the university around. It's these transformations that are important to us when we deal with reality. So once design, but then always shifting in reality, in reality always cultivation, always art, always images.

2. lived images

This brings me to the second pivot. The clues to which we refer in psychology are never particulars. When we look at the relation between literature and action, we find, words have an effect, it may be said, but they have an effect only because they are always bound up in works and because works are always called up from these words. Now looking again at dislocation: the works, they do not hold these words, but the words can be released from the works. We find, if we look at literature, that every new literature rewrites old literature. If we consider that every new image is a challenge to the old images. This is what the Russian formalists called differential qualities, and we call it Gestalt refraction. We try to make perceptible what moves us and we can only do that by dislocating something old, by trying to put new qualities into this reality in a difference quality.

The easiest way to make this clear is to look at the beautiful Cologne sketches, where first of all what they say is depicted, and then in the next scene what they think is depicted. Between what exists as ideology and behavior there are qualities of difference to be observed, and this can of course also be observed when we deal with science. In morphology, when we try to draw on everyday language before all, that seems to some people to be a foreign language. So when you talk about appropriation and reshaping, it seems foreign. But that's because we've become so accustomed to scientific Chinese that we can't pay any attention at all to what's actually going on in everyday life. And in this respect, the everyday language of morphology, the use of German terms, is a break in order to highlight a different point of view. It is not a question of these individual words, but rather of two different kinds of psychology under which we view reality and which must enter into competition if we attempt to say something about the interrelationships of mental effects.

However, again, it must be remembered that anything can be perverted, anything we put out can take on a life of its own. We can also use language to embellish, brotherhood and such words are part of it. But it's just like in the market when you see apples, the apples that are particularly beautiful, that sell well, they don't taste good because they are so refined that they would succumb to any competition with a shriveled apple. So it can become with words. It is, I think, always similar gestalt relations that we take up when we deal with reality.

The lived images, then, that is the wholeness in which we think. It is always whole entities, whole dramas, whole views, with which we occupy ourselves. To this end I have elaborated the whole, there is never a pure beginning here. Every image relates to other images that it reshapes. And the question at issue in the spiritual is always the question of how can something be transformed? Where can something be transformed? What can be reshaped, what can be transmuted? It is in this process that the spiritual gains its meaning. The soul is not related to any fixed qualities, but only gains its meaning by entering into such a development. These transitions are the actual. There is nothing 'actual' in the soul, but this process of change is what gives life to these soul images.

I need to add something to these images, and that is something which also concerns our time right now. The images that we talk about, that we live, are gripping images. But that does not mean that we misunderstand the images now as something harmonious, as something beautiful, or as something which always gives a good solution.

On the 60th anniversary of the seizure of power on Saturday, a Swedish documentary about Hitler was shown. It was interesting for psychologists who want to know something about images. Hitler was a failed artist. He always wanted to be a painter. That's what the film shows. That's a very important thing for us, to see what's in the pictures and with which pictures you can come to what dangerous developments. Hitler had the idea that he had to develop a clean art. I learned on that occasion that he always bought half the pictures from the German art exhibition in Munich. All this nasty stuff he actually bought because he thought that was the art he wanted to trim a whole nation to. Next to it, gigantic architecture. Streets where 60 people could walk side by side; streets where, therefore, on the March Field in Nuremberg, half a million people could stand one behind the other on the street. These were of course, we would say, idiotic projects, but the terrible thing was that these images were now practiced as images that destroyed other images of the enemy. To this end, war was waged to enforce these images against the "rats," the "unclean," the "cancers" of reality.

The Swedish film now shows how a very specific artistic image, which highlighted this ideology, repeatedly translated itself into a warlike action, where everything that did not fit into this image of cleanliness and this marching image was destroyed. There we see what an effective image is, and we are warned to assume that images are something that always lead to a beautiful solution. We can also make it clear from this depiction in the Swedish film that these images serve to 'fight fear'. Obviously, it was a petty-bourgeois fear and at the same time a petty-bourgeois creator that was acting out here, and if we substitute the word petty-bourgeois, we end up with the Nietzschean word of ressentiment. It was the drama of ressentiment that had sought out his images and that also enforced his images in a terrible action of annihilation, because they were obviously terrible simplifications.
We should not forget that. Then you will understand better what is meant when we say that images are attempts to express something that moves us in the soul. Images are an attempt to come to terms with the restlessness of the soul, to give it a frame. That always sounds so elegantly formulated. We have to see where it takes us, this seizure of power 60 years ago. The images express terrible destruction, fears that can only be overcome by killing other people. Then we see what it means to express images, what restlessness and explosiveness determine the soul. We also see something else. The images are always at the same time, if they are lived images, images in which qualities of effect and relations of effect play a role. The images have something to do with bonds and destructions, they have something to do with loyalty and betrayal, with the closure of fixed figures and the attempt to constantly go beyond everything that is fixed. Only then do we speak of lived images and only then can we also understand how art now grows out of them.

3. art

Art does not exist separately from this. It is not a special area, it is not something pure and its own, but art grows out of these qualities of effect. It has to do first of all with attachment, destruction, betrayal, closure, fidelity. Only in this does art come into its own. But then we can also understand that art is not something formal, but that it is something that seeks to come to terms with this reality that we want to grasp and that grips us.

In our diploma theses, which are currently in progress, we have established a whole series of transitions between this spiritual reality, which we have just discussed in the paintings, and the reality of art. And we also have to keep this in mind. When we have horoscopes, for example, then these are forms of expression in order to grasp something, in order to come to terms with the double meaning of the soul, in order to find a place that we ourselves cannot find. It's the same with sayings or the psycho tests in magazines. The psycho tests are the literature with the help of which we try to determine how I exist at all under the gaze of others. That's a cultivation process, and at the same time it's always a transition to literature, because we notice that literature is also something that gives us lessons. Literature gives psychological lessons. Literature is something that tries to make us grasp how we can take hold of reality. Literature makes life digestible, you might say. These are the questions we are dealing with.

Even when we speak of art as a developmental thing, even then we refer first of all to lived reality, to cigarettes, furniture, soap, cakes, these are production things, these are preliminary works, so to speak, in which we take up certain qualities of effect. In furniture we learn something about the quality of continuity. We learn what drags on through our life story, we also learn something about the in-between and we dwell in the in-between for a very long time until we throw it in the garbage. That's where we make things tangible, and I believe that it's only when we see these production things that we understand to what extent the work of art is a thing that seeks to make development tangible for us.

I wanted to say something about the vampire film now, because it's so beautiful, but I don't think I'll get there otherwise. So I'll leave the vampire film alone and just say something about the visual arts. In the visual arts, we notice how very specific thing structures are carried on. We talked in class about the fact that metabolism can be reduced to a prototype corresponding to an eight, an infinite loop (∞). Now if we look at paintings by Goya, we notice that the basic structure of his paintings is often built like this loop, but he's not talking about metabolism, he's talking about the relationship between men and women. That's what Goya called a universal idiom or language. Art actually tries to bring out those things that we understand in a universal language.

To return to the morphology:

Picasso shows us reality, where back and front, above and below are brought into a picture, independent of the camera, and this corresponds, after all, to the attempt of morphology to develop such multidimensional things. These cubist matters are things, and they are in a certain sense developmental things in which we try to make the soul tangible; and I also believe that today's lecture is again such an image for soul cubism, where you have to see all kinds of things from behind and from the front at the same time in order to get the connection.

That, I think, is the beauty of our investigations, that we can actually show how already in the concept of thing that we have in everyday life, something arises that then achieves a very special breadth in art.

Art does indeed emerge from the images of reality, takes them further, but at the same time it attempts to reach its own level of dealing with reality. Art becomes a primordial phenomenon for what we psychologically understand by gestalt or images. What an image is, we can make particularly clear to ourselves from the images that art brings out.

We also notice that art is still doing something; something that is immensely difficult for us. When we live an image, we pursue a view, we have a direction, we try to hold out a perspective. There's no other way, otherwise we can't exist at all. For the agent always follows an image and is conscienceless with regard to other images, as Nietzsche already said. In art, however, we try to see a perspective in this developmental thing and at the same time to change perspectives. Picasso paints Velasquez and at the same time, as one could still paint Velasquez, namely as Picasso. He paints Manet and at the same time he paints how this Manet could also be seen differently. For me the increase is, he paints Picasso and then he paints a Picasso of this Picasso, how one could see this one differently. Here we can also see that there are increases and that art is not only a continuation, but also an increase in its developmental things.

4. culture

This brings me to the transition between art and culture. Morphology tries to develop a concrete psychology of culture. Everything it says about images and art must somehow show up in everyday images. What we can't describe in everyday life, what we don't find in our dealings with art, is not. That's why we always have something against art per se.

What is culture in contrast to this? Culture is an attempt to work out a lived direction, one that is decidedly more, one that brings a unity into the multiplicity of these units of effect and images. Culture is the attempt to present a unified viable sphere of action, to assert a direction of action, and to do so through all the individual images, through all the individual units of action and connections that can form.

Art dances ahead of culture. Art tries to bring out unified images that fascinate us, and art tries to initiate the progress of culture. It tries to make it clear to culture that this is the direction in which you must go. This creates a competition between culture and art.

Conversely, culture can of course always say to art, you won't get that far, there's so much in there. What you deliver in the way of distinctive figures can only ever be grasped by one of them.

I believe that from there we can understand what a culture means in relation to images, in relation to art and to reality. Culture enters into a process of confrontation. What we have said about the relationship between works and transformation, what we have said about the different conditions to each other in the units of effect, we can also say all this about the relationship between art and culture, between art and image. On the one hand, art and culture appear like a text, and the other thing that we have in this circle of rotation then appears like the opera to this text. And that can change. Sometimes culture sets art in motion, sometimes art sets culture and images in motion. So it's the same basic relationship, how several conditions drive each other forward.

5. morphology

I thought it wouldn't be bad at all if, as in all my lectures, I let the whole thing end somewhat fragmentarily. Because we never come to an end. And it's enough to see that we always get into new circumstances and problems and then something new comes out.

This, I think, is the most important thing in this whole presentation of a morphology of units of action. We must see that the peculiar world with which psychology is concerned is an effective world. Without the media of this world of effects, nothing at all works in the soul.

The soul is not separated from culture, images, literature, from the works we set up. The soul is only in this world of effects, and this world of effects is at the same time the justification of psychology, because we cannot place it anywhere, not in physics, not in medicine. This world of action is something specific to which we psychologists refer.

Morphology is an attempt to get at this reality. The reality we deal with may seem fantastic, because we think that this is a reality in which everything actually becomes only in transformation. But I think the crucial thing about morphology is not just that it has a different view of this reality, but that it also does it with some stubbornness in terms of system and method. Without method, without proceeding step by step in the way we made clear in our turning figures, without this method you cannot deal with fantastic reality.