Elougy to Outsider Art, II

English version of “Elogio al Arte Outsider II”: http://giovannavolpe.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/elogio-al-arte-outsider-ii/

Madge Gil, No title.
Madge Gil, No title.

In the previous post I started praising the Outsider Art by explaining the debt that official Art History owes to those creative manifestations of individuals socially segregated. But I think that debt is mutual.

It is true that such creations were vindicated as artistic models by the first Avantgarde movement in the 20th century. That artistic reform spirit was nurtured, voluntarily, by marginal art and at the same time, they opened the door (without realizing it) through the one it made its ​​way. It is, therefore, about two mutual and necessary processes. But it’s true that the Outsider Art owes its name to the insider Art, and that it would not exist if artists such as Kandinsky, Klee, Breton, Ernst and Jean Dubuffet hadn’t paid him no attention. This, in my opinion, is an important point, as it makes it paradoxical; and to me there is nothing more interesting than a paradox.

Remember what that graffiti that I talked about in the previous post expressed, the one that tops my blog? So, in this second part, again …

Fuck off your intellectual bullshit

Fragile and private, disinterested and paradoxical, the Outsider Art is not Art at its source, it neither respond to a style or a historical movement. It only acquires value as “art” when the “integrated” look or gaze transforms these objects into something aesthetic; in something completely different from what they really are. The conception of these artistic manifestations as something “artistic” arises when two different worlds collide; when the inner world of the marginalized, embodied in his creations, is exposed to the light of the external gaze of those integrated in society that provide it with a new value. When this happens by chance and we stumbled upon a work of this nature, we are, the “insiders”, the ones who find ourselves out of those kind of works and strangely seduced penetrate them and tried to understand them.

Its existence as an artistic category is, therefore, due to the recognition that the culture from it distinguished gives it; is not a term that is born from his own peripheral position. Its appearance is the result of an act of assimilation. As I advance, this art is known from processes that have allowed naming it. Without the proposals or claims of the Avantgarde movement or Jean Dubuffet, and without the subsequent studies from theorists like Colin Rhodes or Roger Cardinal, there would be no “Outsider Art” label for this kind of expressions.

So, what is defined as “Outsider Art” is not essentially Art because its original and innate qualities do not change after naming them as such. These works are considered as a symptom of their creators experience, externalized by uncontrolled impulses free from any conventional art-historical contextualization. We see these pieces as outsourcing of the internal psychology of its creators, totally alien to ours. Trying to enter in them therefore requires much respect.

Because of its conditions (mental or physical disabilities), it often happens that few outsiders can’t demonstrate how they perform their works and what they experience during their creation. For this reason we, the insiders, find ourselves removing or adding additional anecdotal information just to have a repertoire of data about the social behaviour or psychological condition of the authors.

Traditionally, the production of marginal artists has been described as a response to an unusual and powerful inner urge manifested spontaneously and without any unscheduled artistic pretention. Such an impulse is equal to the need to articulate an idea, a feeling or a body of experience that might be a big pressure in them. The typical outsider is someone who rejects deliberately or instinctively realism and mimesis, generating images clearly simpler judged as “deformed” far from the naturalistic idea of proportion, perspective or symmetry, or outside any reference to cultural academic and technical structures. They are essentially self-taught.

But are these works really so disconnected from the dominant culture? Although Jean Dubuffet claimed that the crude and pure aesthetics of these works was due to its immunity to culture, the fact is that, according to the British critic Roger Cardinal, these works may be composed of elements designed by cultural contact; and it is a fact that all marginalized individual is part of a society.

Gregory L. Blackstock, 60 Years of the Artist Model Petosa Accordions, 2011
Gregory L. Blackstock, 60 Years of the Artist Model Petosa Accordions, 2011

Anyway, there is a kind of marginal works itself that express a lack of dialogue with the integrated culture, these are the works executed by autistic patients, which in turn, despite the exclusive and intimate way in which they are created, also document an element of “self-exposure”. Paradoxically no work is entirely private, because they occupy a place in the world and therefore is available to public scrutiny. This is what Cardinal called the “autistic air” of Outsider Art.

The outsider aesthetic reveals no particular style, but the presence of a constant own features, such as the “horror vacui”, compulsive repetitive patterns, metamorphic accumulations, an instinctive symmetrical appearance, or settings that vacillate between an representation and  enigmatic calligraphy or combine imagination and reality. These formal features, then, are those who make these works remain closed.

These works maintain a close relationship with its creators, as they are a symptom of his mental state. We cannot read them only as creative expression in terms of ecstasy, joy, delirium, possession or frenzy. By doing this, we are looking for, to some extent, some expressed feelings that we see and here, in the relationship between expression and understanding, we find the fragility of Outsider Art.

Scottie Wilson, Crystal Gazers, between 1950 and 1951.
Scottie Wilson, Crystal Gazers, between 1950 and 1951.

Yes, outsider art is weak by nature, flawed. It is expressed, but not able to be understood. It is worth, therefore, to be marginalized. But that’s what makes him strong and, in my opinion, worthy of admiration and respect.

When we distinguish that vulnerability, it’s becomes familiar. When you are in front of a marginal work you will experience the thrill of a feeling of seizure recognition, as if you had seen these images before. And when this happens, we also vulnerable, echoes the weakness of those who we consider “others”, discovering in this reciprocity, the equality stormy human condition. Similarly, we will feel an interesting aesthetic experience.

By this I mean that the Outsider Art is also attributable the aesthetic category of “beauty.” A mysterious beauty that is born from the tension between our intellect and from a nostalgia feeling for something strangely “remembered” in the depths of our soul.

Definitely, I don’t admire the Outsider Art for being different, but for the opposite; because it approximates the most heartbreaking and sincerely expressive creative impulse of human nature. Furthermore, I see it as a deferent proposal to define general “Art”. Viewed from the opposite, we can also ask about questions such as what is “art”?, which defines an “artist”?, what is the meaning of the “work of art” and what is its function?, and finally, where does the “creativity” come from? . So let us praise the Outsider Art and as Jean Dubuffet proclaimed, “let’s give way to incivility.”

– Volpe, Giovanna, Arte Outsider: Aproximación a la construcción artística de las manifestaciones creativas al margen del sistema del Arte. Facultad de Humanidades, Universidad Pompeu Fabra, 2013

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