Unreal Nature

January 26, 2016

The Outcome of a Gamble

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:40 am

… They are … unedible variants of his pastry …

Continuing through Art Brut by Michel Thévoz (1995):

… The reader will no doubt have noticed my reluctance to infer from the works analyzed any psychic condition or private secret which could be regarded as explaining them. It is my intention in any case to refrain from slanting my comments in this regressive direction, which would mean shifting the focus from the work to the person of its maker.

[line break added] The work should be envisaged in its productive effects rather than its causes, as a breaking of new ground rather than a probing of the unconscious mind. As I see it, an art work deserves its name only to the extent that it is psychologically and culturally, an orphaned work; only to the extent that it stands on its own and cannot be reduced to the motivations that fathered it.

… Against this primacy accorded to the meaning or the origin, I maintain that the value of Art Brut lies in the fact that it gives us nothing to exhume. It has no hidden compartments, nor even any depths or arcana. It evades that relation of cultural complicity between artist and art lover which always ends up by effacing the significans (the productive movement, the body, the gesture, the material) and raising up the phantasm of a hidden truth that has to be decoded.

… True, the effects produced by these works reverberate on mental or philosophical levels, and always in a subversive sense. But while they may yield certain revelations, these never carry us back to an antecedent reality or a psychic prehistory. Those revelations, such as they are, proceed from pure fabrication.

[line break added] They come as the byproducts of a “seeing experiment” (Claude Bernard), or the incidents of an adventure, or the outcome of a gamble. What is happening here is essentially a generative and centrifugal process, in which the maker of it takes as much delight as we do, and which, mentally, involves us as much as it does him.

[ … ]

… The son of a pastry cook, [Francis Palanc] learned the same trade after leaving school early. … He took it into his head to invent a new kind of writing, made up from a private alphabet of letters of his own devising. But he never worked it out once and for all, being continually impelled to review the results, adapting and perfecting them and also complicating them.

Palanc has made the most of his talents as a pastry-cook, even exploiting some of the materials and techniques of his trade. Spreading a gum mixture over his hardboard panel, he applies to it a preparation of crushed eggshells, pressing them down with a rolling-pin or sprinkling them with a sifter. To his way of thinking, these are not works of art. They are, so to speak, unedible variants of his pastry, designed to set off his inscribed shapes and words in an unusual way — which, after all, is not unlike the written words on a birthday cake.

Palanc_CetteFoire
Francis Palanc, Cette foire – des bruits – des cris – des mots, 1955, crushed eggshell and shellac on canvas

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

-Julie

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