Is it possible to achieve total sincerity in art? Is it possible that a person able to create has been hiding this ability for many years? Are we always capable to seeing and accepting this ability? Who can be called a real artist? These questions are raised while meeting the works of people whose right to be accepted is highly disputable, whose works were doomed to be ignored. Their abnormal psycho-physical condition, lack of any cast privileges, isolation from the society by their way of life and mental illness have created pre-conditions for personal self-expression, that seems to be the most intuitive and intriguing, the most free and sincere, at the same being "beyond"...
Their art, the art of "strangers" (outsiders), was constantly segregated because of lack of any interest. For centuries European culture has been slowly moving from pure looking at everyday life of society's apostates, inhabitants of asylums and hospitals to the cognition of their creative activity, from pure medical interest towards their attempts to express something to the acceptance of aesthetic advantages of their works. First, the society started to become interested in the "strangers" themselves and not in their works. Mental states, defined as "pathological" can be discovered in the Greek-Roman art in the images depicting ecstasy, typical for Dionys ritual. In Europe of Middle Ages the interest was focused on the inhabitants of lep-rosariums, which were numerous and achieved nineteen thousand. Thus, in Breigel's work, people follow Christ mounting the Calvary and lepers stand aside: their place for ages. In spite of the fact that in the XVII century leper disappeared, "the habit to exclude from the community could be met even after two or three centuries... The role, usually played by the lepers, was obtained by the poor, tramps, criminal and "lunatics". "The loony ship" (Narrturmer) is one of the most vivid images of mental disease, this topic is widespread in the late Middle Ages and well known in Hieronymus Bosch. In the Renaissance culture the elements of madness are mostly seen in the disintegration of Gothic symbolic; according to M. Foucault, in XVI-XVII centuries art accepts the necessity of madness, its own madness, ...encircles it and finally conquers it. The radical turn towards taking interest in the inhabitants of asylums houses happened in XVIII century. Romanticism prevailing at that time gave a birth to the idea of closeness between a genius and a mad and proclaimed the art to be closer to craziness than to normality. Some works by Francisco Goya (1746-1828) demonstrated that the artist considered madness as a reality important for him. Although in the middle of XIX century Romanticism lost its former positions, the genius in some cases was diagnosed by doctors as some kind of a mental disturbance. A border between artistic and medical approaches to abnormal psy-chophysical conditions appeared along with the development of medicine. Medicine and Art took parallel ways to discover the art of the insane until this ways intersected at the beginning of the XX century. One could never argue that at the end of the XIX century - the beginning of the XX century there was a turning point in the understanding and "acceptance" of the art that had been rejected before. Germany was the first country to construct pre-conditions for the change in the perception of mentally ill people and their art. In 1912 a great international exhibition was held in Germany. It demonstrated movement later called expressionism. There were several self-portraits by expressionists that reminded portraits of crazy people (later that fact was used by the Nazy propaganda as a proof of their insufficiency). Expressionism was so close to the art of the insane that in many cases its only difference was an ability of the artists-expressionists to formulate common goals in art.
That idea became vital for the artists of the so-called "artistic revolution" - Pablo Picasso, Paul Goghen, etc., as they thought that self-expression of people who were not touched by civilization was real ("raw" in the sense of it being "uncooked" by culture). Being charmed by the art of Africa, Oceania and Polynesia, a lot of artistic people turned to the previously unknown art of mentally disturbed that was widely represented in big collections of doctors-psychiatrists (W. Morgenthaller, G. Prinzhorn, etc.). The top of this triangle - "an artist - a patient - a psychiatrist" started to define an approach to such art. Most psychiatrists preferred to work and systematize the artistic material that they already had at their disposal. Artists, trying to find maximal expression consciously identified themselves with crazy ones who. according to their opinion, had achieved an ideal freedom. However, critics trying to connect rational and irrational approaches were constantly dashing among psychiatrists, artists and the most intellectual part of spectators (unprepared public could not understand adequately the art of mentally diseased). Consequently, the book "Bildnerei der Geisteskranken" by G. Prinzhorn, written in 1922, gave deep analysis of his collection and became a certain witness in the case of aesthetic acceptance of such works. The Russian Art Academy gave this art production "Verdict of "Not Guilty" after the investigation undertaken in 1924 on psychotechnics of the creative process (in accordance with the plan, made by V. Kandinsky). The results were quite obvious: "... people who seem to be pathological represent real creative work"... The materials published by G. Prinzhorn made a French artist Jean Dubuffet create a concept of anti-cultural art or Art Brut. According to Dubuffet, Art Brut is represented by "any art works: drawings. paintings, embroideries, sculptures that are spontaneous and that have nothing in common with traditional art or cultural norms". Jean Dubuffet was the first who made the biggest collection of all works created by outsiders of the society whom he recognized as rebels against rules and traditions of the official culture. From the beginning of 1940-s this collection is known as Art Brut.
R. Cardinal suggested the notion Outsider Art in 1972 as an English equivalent to the French name Art Brut. The term Outsider Art is not an equivalent to the art of the insane; we use this term while speaking about spontaneous art of non-professional artists who do not follow any cultural (academic) traditions, who do not recognize themselves as artists and who are mostly moved by their inner need to create. Their works are very inventive and extraordinary; often they are not based on reality but on depicting the internal alternative world of the author. They are similar to a monologue, as they are not turned to the audience but only to the creator. Only in 1971 the first collection of Art Brut obtained a museum status. The statistics of the latest years witnesses the enormous interest towards Outsider Art. One can notice that a lot of galleries and museums, magazines and albums are dedicated to the problem of "authentic" artistic self-expression that introduces creative activity existing beyond the borders of so-called "accepted art."
The opening of the Museum of Outsider Art in Moscow has become the first step on the way to the acceptance of primarily unknown works in Russia, to the recognition of freshness (the work of any artist is individual and unique as he is not stipulated by cultural or social traditions), to their importance and right to exist.
However, we would like to mention that interest gives rise to fashion. Thus, it is necessary to avoid superficial approach towards collecting and analysis of such spontaneous works. There were a lot of attempts to social culture by collecting and popularizing "wild" works has led to the formation of art collections that are appropriate for the assimilation by the main art institutions. Being unable to change the existing order of things, the collectors had to accept it; the process of "socialization" of Outsider Art developed in the beaten way assuming all known forms of working with art material. The inclusion of "raw" art into the values of the official culture became a final point of the attempt to oppose these polar phenomena. The works primarily recognized as "strangers" in the realm of the Traditional Beauty were put in a museum frame and attributed as the heritage of the XX century. The desire to win turned to be the defeat?! One should not make such conclusions. In spite of the fact that all the information on Outsider Art can be got by official channels, this art still exists, making us wonder by internal harmony. If you have a chance to meet their strange and astonishing universe without troubling it, try to do it - and it will become one of the brightest impressions in your life!
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