Art Brut versus Outsider Art / abcd

The choice of the Art Brut or Outsider Art label reveals the difficulty of giving a simple definition of this complex field of art with often paradoxical expressions. 

For abcd the Outsider Art label is particularly unfortunate, it evokes horse racing with its favorites and outsiders, the social body with its winners and losers. But this expression is not a simple awkward translation of the word Art Brut, it covers a different, much wider field. Outsider Art brings together plastic expressions created more or less spontaneously on the fringes of official culture. A sort of inventory of marginal arts. You can find there everything: folk, naive, visionary and spiritualist art, the works of the mentally ill, prisoners, the production of homeless people, the singulier, the artists of the New Invention, the self-taught …

The field defined in such way results in mostly sociological research, with questions mainly around the margin and culture. By overlooking the existential, ontological, metaphysical dimensions, the history of spiritualism, of the unconscious, that of these tormented souls, the concept of Outsider Art is reductive. But it is also confusing; indeed nothing connects, for example, a naive work of art and a fabulous creation of a schizophrenic.

Art Brut is to be situated in another territory, its scope is more limited; it needs to be explored with other theoretical tools which better reflect its richness. In fact, these works emanate a certain inner spirituality; they are works of silence, nourished by a “mystical” dimension. Most of them are not addressed to us, but to an Other, a “higher” body, a matrix God, one might say. They include an infinity of signs and all kinds of evocations without ever revealing their definitive signification. The multitude of points of view abolishes the borders of normative knowledge; it testifies to another way of seeing the world, writing other stories. The complex, enigmatic constructions of these works challenge us and often cause us a state of bewilderment – “unsettling strangeness” or “uncanniness”. Art Brut invites us on a mental journey, to lose our bearings. Here we are in the presence of scores played on another stage, in another time, which we could call mythological. An endlessly rich art, writing exceptionally fabulous stories, nourished by extraordinary mental constructions: that is Art Brut.