Unreal Nature

February 23, 2016

Beyond a Certain Point

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:34 am

… with them, it is the cogito that is mere hyperbole.

Final post from Art Brut by Michel Thévoz (1995):

… The origin of such works, if may be freely admitted, lies in a certain madness, but madness in a positive and not a diseased sense, as it is understood by Dubuffet, whose views tie in with those of Laing:

Art creation is something that one expects, that everyone expects, to be strongly marked by the influx of an unusual personal secretion. Such a characteristic obviously implies in the maker a mental standpoint different from that of other people; it presupposes that questioning of norms and usages, that spirit of non-alignment, that withdrawal into oneself which — to continue to use the term in its moderate sense — are on the way to alienation.

[line break added] To what extent, whether greater or lesser, matters little. Should art creations be expected — and, if we look closely, most people do expect them — to be personal, unusual and novel only slightly, and in such a way that, if they go beyond a certain point (what point exactly would have to be marked), they are too much of a good thing and thereby cease to pertain to art, taking their place among prohibited aberrations? Such a view is indefensible.

I am convinced that art creation, wherever it comes forth, calls for the aptitudes stated above, and that it is of value only where there occurs a breaking away from the common way of looking at things, from accepted opinions, from custom in every domain; where there occurs, then, to repeat the word, an alienation of the eye and the psychic movements. In this matter I fully subscribe to the opinion that art creation always and in every case has an asocial and therefore, in the eyes of the public health officer, a pathological character.

[line break added] Where that character is lacking, one may be entitled to speak of art (it is a matter of agreeing on the sense of words), but certainly not of art creation. Creation implies that one is not satisfied with what already is and what others are satisfied with; it calls for a position of rebellion and conflict. The work, it seems to me, will be all the more creative as that position grows worse.

… The idea of normal art is evidently contradictory. Creativity in this sphere can be understood only as deviance, as a transgression of norms.

… The psychoanalyst Ernst Kris gives a lucid account of the orthopedic purpose of cultural art in his book Psychoanalytic Explorations in Art. For he presents artistic creation as a “controlled madness,” a momentary delirium which is finally resolved by a recentering and reinforcement of the ego. … The artist is sent out to reconnoitre the “inner distance,” rather as a CIA agent is dispatched into the outer distance, for the ultimate purpose of gaining control over it.

[line break added] While normal individuals react to madness by resistance and segregation, the cultural artist proceeds by homeopathy, so to speak. He inoculates himself with the disease the better to neutralize it. His ventures outside the conscious sphere, however bold, are in the end profitable to mental hygiene and social integration. This view is quite adequate to cultural art, but it tells us nothing about Art Brut except by contrast.

… Generally speaking, one may say that the makers of Art Brut reverse the findings of Descartes: with them, it is the cogito that is mere hyperbole. They provisionally invoke the hypothesis of an aggressive, sarcastic, ludic or psychotic self in order to excuse and finally sanction the power of the creative demon lurking within them.

Madge Gill, Architectural Fantasy, 1951

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




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