Unreal Nature

January 5, 2016

It Lurches

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… it lurches away from the established language of communication and by doing so suddenly brings to light what that language was designed to conceal.

Continuing through Art Brut by Michel Thévoz (1995):

… It is as if, at this level of [the four-year-old child’s] development, the human being gave glimpses of a dazzling wealth of possibilities which, by some fatality, remains beyond his grasp and can only be looked back upon as so many lost opportunities.

Thereafter the child soon enters what psychoanalysts have called the “latency period,” when the superego takes form under the impact of social and parental action and its interiorization. … From that moment, the pictorial rules peculiar to their cultural milieu prevail over the spontaneous expression …

Maisonneuve_Untitled
Pascal-Désir Maisonneuve, Untitled, 1927-28

… One may assume, however, that the makers of Art Brut have to some extent escaped this repression, for reasons I will try to elucidate. They have had the power, given to few, of developing and fulfilling some of these buried potentialities, and of doing so with the forcefulness and purposefulness of adults.

[line break added] It is precisely this that distinguishes them from children: the purposeful, almost obsessive obstinacy with which they follow up a line of thought, and the technical mastery they acquire in their unremitting persistence. Into that obstinacy and persistence also enters a spirit of dissent, which drives them on to the furthest limits of a line of research which, in the eyes of other people, appears misguided and abnormal.

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Pascal-Désir Maisonneuve, Faithless Woman, 1927-28

[ … ]

… Today we know that these [Primitive (as opposed to Art Brut)] artists, for all their apparent spontaneity, were subject to institutional restraints; they had to obey religious and ideological injunctions and kept largely to traditional models. The fact that these injunctions and taboos formed in their culture a different pattern from our own made it seem at first as if they enjoyed a greater creative freedom.

[line break added] But when it became clear how binding were the cultural restraints imposed on these artists, their inspiration was seen to be no more exotic or instinctive than our own. They had appeared at first as savages to us, and we to them. Once this mutual misreading of the facts was cleared up, it was realized that both are equally subject to the dictates of their own culture.

Let this fact put us on our guard against assimilating “primitive” art to Art Brut. The latter is an art in open conflict with culture (understood as a collective system of values, myths, styles, etc.). It would be equally mistaken to interpret Art Brut as a recourse or aspiration to some other culture. Art Brut has no allotted place in Lévi Strauss’s table of anthropological patterns, not even in some still empty subdivision of that table. In relation to his milieu and cultural context, the maker of Art Brut remains fundamentally asocial.

… His work in fact is a misfit in the world of art, and a highly expressive one; it lurches away from the established language of communication and by doing so suddenly brings to light what that language was designed to conceal.

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Pascal-Désir Maisonneuve, Head with Long Ears, 1927-28

My most recent previous post from Thévoz’s book is here.

-Julie

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