Unreal Nature

December 1, 2015

Keys of Transcription

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… If he introduces an apparent incoherence, it means that he wants it to be that way.

This is from the Foreword written by Jean Dubuffet, to Art Brut by Michel Thévoz (1995):

The consideration given to the work of professional artists has had the effect of conditioning the public, of creating a state of mind which makes it responsive only to the art displayed in museums and galleries or to art that depends on the same frame of reference, the same means of expression.

[line break added to make this easier to read online]  Any works which, out of ignorance or obstinacy, depart from the accepted codes are given no more than a passing or condescending glance; or, at best, they are granted the status of a marginal art. Yet it may be that this is a misguided view. It may be that artistic creation, with all that it calls for in the way of free inventiveness, takes place at a higher pitch of tension in the nameless crowd of ordinary people than in the circles that think they have the monopoly of it.

[line break added] It may even be that art thrives in its healthiest form among these ordinary people, because practised without applause or profit, for the maker’s own delight; and that the over-publicized activity of professionals produces merely a specious form of art, all too often watered down and doctored. If this were so, it is rather cultural art that should be described as marginal.

[ … ]

Tripier_embroidery1935
Jean Tripier, large rectangular embroidery, 1935-39, green cotton, blue wool and string

… no common definition will fit these works, for they answer to endlessly different mental positions and keys of transcription, each of these being invented by the maker for his own purposes of the moment, so that the only common feature of such works is that they run on different lines from those of museum art. They do not meet us half-way, as the latter do. The standards and the references of cultural art fail to apply.

… It is a mistake to suppose that the works presented in this book were wrought out blindly by men and women who meant to produce something approaching cultural art. On the contrary, these works took shape in all lucidity: those who made them were well aware of their newness and peculiarity.

[line break added] Anyone who has practised art or even dabbled in it knows what steady and watchful purposefulness is required to see a work through in the same key and to fit every detail into that key. Knowing that, it is rash indeed to suppose that its maker has lost control of his brain-child. If he introduces an apparent incoherence, it means that he wants it to be that way.

-Julie

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