The art of outsiders: from the marginal to the «archives of culture»
Anna Suvorova
Ph. D. of Arts, Associate Professor at the Higher School of Economics and Perm State National Research University
"Art outside ...", "art beyond ..." - it seems that art can no longer be "outside" in our post-industrial world, in the era of NFT Art and post-postmodernity, when the forms of artistic messages acquire totality, infiltrating reality. Today we are witnessing a new unprecedented wave of interest in the art of outsiders: large exhibitions and new museums are made, where paintings by eminent artists coexist with drawings by recent outcasts of the art world. In this recognition of outsider artists and the variability of languages, forms, discurses and current practices, there is also a new challenge for "strange" art: how to be strange when strangeness no longer exists, and marginality, liminality, otherworldlyness become positive categories of culture?

Talking about contemporary transformations of outsider art, it is important to define the boundaries and characteristics of this phenomenon. Half a century ago, the British art critic Roger Cardinal, the author of the term Outsider Art, implied sufficient flexibility of its criteria. This term includes not only the work of artists with mental disabilities, but also works created by people who fully cope with their social life, but consciously or unconsciously are distant from art, formed by an institutional activity with generalized standards [1].

Roger Cardinal underlines that an outsider is not only a person with mental or physical disfunctions or profound impairment in social rights; it is not only a person with an unusual biography: "eccentric, misfit, recalcitrant, lunatic, convict, hermit" - although the specificity of the way of life can become the basis for the imagery and language of Outsider Art [2]. Cardinal calls the key criterion the "divergent" nature of outsider art, which is far from both accepted artistic norms and the experience of an ordinary person. In his 2009 article, he writes quite categorically: "Outsider Art is an art of unexpected and often bewildering distinctiveness, and its outstanding exemplars tend to conjure up imagined private worlds, completely satisfying to their creator yet so remote from our normal experience as to appear alien and rebarbative" [2].

Shaping the concept of Outsider Art, Roger Cardinal refers to an essay by Jean Dubuffet, in which the French artist and theorist notes that art brut (Dubuffet's own term) is fundamentally opposite to our cultural expectations about what art should look like [3 ]. Outsider Art, according to Cardinal, is immune to cultural influences, like art brut in Dubuffet's understanding. The most accurate definition of outsider art can be found in Cardinal's 2009 article: "As a mode of independent art making, Outsider Art ignores tradition and academic criteria. Instead, it reflects a strong creative impulse, running free of the communicative conventions to which we are accustomed. At the extreme, such independence can produce styles of expression which may be said to be autistic in the loose, non-clinical sense, i.e. Outsider Art often tends to be secretive, wrapped about, apparently insulated from or indifferent to a potential audience" [2].

Since the 1970s, with the emergence of the term Outsider Art and large projects featuring outsider artists, from Kassel Documenta (1972) to the London exhibition "Outsiders: An Art without Precedent or Tradition" (1979) - the status of Outsider Art is changing, the process of its legitimation, museumification and systemic study is underway, its symbolic capital and commercial value are growing. In a totally changed modern episteme, this art becomes visible, evaluated, described, studied, stored.

The history of the discourse on Outsider Art in the middle of the twentieth century included the legitimization and institutionalization of one of its phenomena - art brut. In 1971 Jean Dubuffet donated his collection to the city of Lausanne. At the time of the opening of the permanent exhibition of the Collection de l'Art Brut in 1976, the museum contained more than 5000 works by 133 artists. Although Dubuffet forbade them to be moved, the interest in this phenomenon went far beyond Switzerland. Michel Thévoz was the curator of the collection and director of the museum for many years and has written several books on art brut.

It was already in Jean Dubuffet's lifetime, when a rethinking of the structure of his collection got started. Art brut was "preserved", receiving the status of a historical phenomenon, and in 1982 the movement of neuve invention ("the new invention") was defined, to which controversial cases could be attributed - that between art brut and art culturel ("cultural art"). Children's drawings and works of naive or folk art, which Dubuffet actively acquired for the collection, fell into this category. At the same time, the term began to be applied to the work of people with disabilities: in fact, they were social outsiders, but their works seemed too similar to objects of contemporary Western visual culture.

The very concept of neuve invention appeared during a period of significant shift in the artistic process: this was the time of the expansion of the art market and widening of the limits of understanding of art. Michel Thévoz saw this as a serious challenge for the development of the Lausanne collection. Over time, it has greatly expanded and now has about 60,000 works, moreover, only 700 of them are included in the permanent exhibition of the museum.

The Art Brut Collection in Lausanne was not the only refuge for Outsider Art in the 1970s. Since 1966, the instinctive art triennial INSITA has been held in Bratislava. At first, it showed naive art, and later began to present the work of children and patients of psychiatric hospitals, along with the works of traditional folk artists. This was an important step in institutional support.

In the second half of the 1980s, in the 1990s and 2000s, a powerful institutional body of Outsider Art was formed in Europe. The largest public collections are: Collection de L'Aracine at the The Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art (LaM); the Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection, now part of the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin; the Collectie De Stadshof exhibited at the Dr. Guislain Museum in Gent; the Gugging Museum in Vienna and others.

The processes of institutionalization and museification of Outsider Art are underway in the United States as well. Back in the 1980s, large exhibitions were held there: "Black Folk Art in America: 1930-1980" at the Brooklyn Museum in New York; "Muffled Voices: Folk Artists in Contemporary Art" at Paine Webber Art Gallery in New York; "Baking in the Sun: Visionary Images from the South" at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. These and other exhibitions have changed conceptual boundaries, and contemporary Folk Art in America has become synonymous with Outsider Art.

The museum sector in the United States is undergoing significant changes. For example, since the 1990s, the American Folk Art Museum in New York has given increasing attention to Outsider Art and European art brut exhibitions, which are also added to the museum's collection. In 1991, The Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art appeared in Chicago. Its collection today includes works by such iconic American outsider artists as Henry Darger, Martin Ramirez, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Bill Traylor, Joseph Yoakum and others. In 1995, the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) was opened in Baltimore - one of the largest institutions in the field of Outsider Art.

By the early 1990s, Outsider Art was beginning to be seen in the United States as a phenomenon that was changing the boundaries of 20th century art. The 1992 Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) was hosting an exhibition "Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art" to show the powerful influence of this art on the development of the artistic process. The works of "marginal" authors - Hilma af Klint, Ferdinand Cheval, Henry Darger, Martin Ramirez, Adolf Wölfli, Joseph Yoakum - were compared at the exhibition with the works of contemporary artists who are not alien to the style of outsiders.

The above mentioned institutions and events, as well as the Outsider Art Fair, which has been held in New York since 1993, allow us to speak of the boom in Outsider Art in the 1990s. The increased attention to this phenomenon could be explained by the influence of the hippie subculture and the civil rights movement, which caused the increase of the importance of various minorities. In the nation's vision in the United States the key metaphor of a "melting pot" was replaced by a "magnificent mosaic."

Over the next decades, curators and art dealers played main roles in creating large-scale exhibitions of Outsider Art in important American museums. These exhibitions bring together outsiders and "insiders", which makes the concept of "mainstream-marginality" obsolete. The new 2019 exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) offers a totally different interpretation of the art of outsider, naive and visionary artists. The halls of the museum hosted both recognized masters of modernism and contemporary art and "strange" artists: Andy Warhol and Henry Darger, Umberto Boccioni and Hilma af Klint.


The main project of the 55th Venice Biennale "The Encyclopedic Palace" (2013) became a world triumph of Outsider Art. The project brought together more than 150 artists from 38 countries, including Hilma af Klint, Anna Zemankova and other outsiders and visionaries. The exhibition was based on an anthropological approach to the study of images, focused on the imagination and its functions, and blurred the limits between professional artists and amateurs.

The concept of the exhibition was based on the utopian dream of the Italian-American outsider artist Marino Auriti, who in 1955 in the United States applied for a patent for the "Encyclopedic Palace" - an imaginary museum designed to house all the knowledge of the world. Aurity created a model of the 136-story building to be built in Washington, DC, reaching 700 meters in height and covering 16 blocks. As the curator of the Venice Biennale Project Massimiliano Gioni noted: "The dream of universal integral knowledge has arisen throughout the history of art and humanity, and eccentrics like Auriti share it with other artists, writers, scientists and self-proclaimed prophets who have tried - often in vain - to form an image of the world, reflecting its endless diversity and richness. Today, when we are faced with a constant flow of information, such attempts seem even more necessary and desperate "[4].

The history of perception and recognition of Outsider Art in Russia is not similar to that in the West. After the 1917 revolution, the restructuring of all spheres of life of the new Soviet state led to a radical rethinking of art. In 1921, the State Academy of Artistic Sciences (ГАХН/GAKhN) was created, its physical and psychological department was focused on studying, among other things, the creativity of the psychiatric patients. Psychiatrist Pavel Karpov became one of the active theorists of GAKhN. His studies are close to the works of the German scientist Hans Prinzhorn, who had a significant influence on the formation of the discourse of Outsider Art in Europe, but Karpov was more moved by the concepts of Sigmund Freud on the one hand, and, on the other, with the idea of the intuitive nature of creativity. Karpov did not appeal to the discourse of contemporary art as Prinzhorn often did. In Karpov's later work, devoted to the art of prisoners, it is obvious that the scientific approach is "absorbed" by the ideological paradigm.

The next important phase was the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s. Collections of drawings of the patients that existed in psychiatric hospitals and at the departments of psychiatry of medical universities, which were previously used only for the diagnosis of mental illness, began to be interpreted as a manifestation of creativity. The transformation of discourse is also facilitated by changing the boundaries of art and by the new possibilities for psychiatrists and private art collectors to become acquainted with the art of the avant-garde and modernism, the activities of foreign art institutions.

At the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, political change freed psychiatrists and art historians from the pressure of official ideology. The discourses of psychiatry and Outsider Art turn out to be connected by the concept of "otherness", which becomes an important positive category of the culture of this era. The expansion of the discourse of Outsider Art was also facilitated by the growth of private cultural initiatives.

In 1990, a Center for the Creative Rehabilitation of the Mentally Ill was opened in Moscow, started by the people of creative professions. In the same year a series of exhibitions of the art of psychiatric patients were held with the support of the non-profit organization Humanitarian Center. A radical change in discourse could be clearly seen in the style and categories used to describe the work of such authors: "Watercolors exude warmth, there is a lot of light in them. The simple realism of the landscape, which can be found only in the drawings of children, is touching. The creativity of these people knows no barriers and taboos. It is open to the world and giving us back its images and contours, bypassed by traditional art "[5]. At this time, the modality of the statement actually changed: from understanding the creativity of the mentally ill as a phenomenon caused by the course of the disease, to the perception of psychiatric patients as discoverers of a new art.

This change in discourse can also be seen in the feedback of the visitors of the exhibition "We Also Create" at the Sklifosovsky Institute of Emergency Medicine: "Are they sick ?! Apparently, yes, qualified and honest doctors know better. But one can also feel that they think, feel, experience - perhaps better and more truthfully than many of us, unified "healthy" people ... " Or, in another note:" ... How such exhibitions are needed right now, in this difficult time for us, the Russian people, the time when mercy awakens ... "; " If a person is talented and the talent of an individual vision of the world is added to the talent of an artist, then it does not matter for creativity whether he is healthy or sick "[5].

The exhibition "We Also Create" was followed by others organized by the Humanitarian Center: "Rock Musicians in Support of the Creativity of the Mentally Ill" (Moscow), "Pictures of the Soul" (Almaty, Narva, Tallinn), "Overcoming" (Moscow). Exhibitions were also held abroad: in Germany, USA, Switzerland, South Africa.

Active international contacts became a symbol of perestroika times. In 1990, the first foreign art exhibition of the psychiatric patients from the USSR was held in Munich. It was organized by the Humanitarian Center and the Center for Creative Rehabilitation. The text of the catalog contains hints of punitive psychiatry: "In the Soviet Union for a long time the problem of people with mental disabilities was disregarded. The state and largely ideologized psychiatry vigilantly stood guard over their unsightly secrets, and the creativity of people marked by the stigma of insanity, of course, could not be the subject of serious research by all interested parties "[6]. Somewhat later, in 1997, the exhibition "Yaroslavl Collection" (from the collection of Vladimir Gavrilov) was held in Kassel within the framework of the parallel program of Documenta X. This project indicated the world-wide recognition of Russian Outsider Art.

At the Humanitarian Center, a collection grew, which eventually formed the basis of the Museum of Outsider Art, opened to the public in 2000 in Moscow. Active professional communication at the international level was part of the strategy of the head and founder of the museum, Vladimir Abakumov: during the formation of the collection, he studied the collections of art brut and the work of the people with mental disorders in Europe and America, communicated with curators, and created a series of documentaries about the art of outsiders.

In the mid-1990s, the discourse of Outsider Art in Russia became more scientifically oriented. As before in Europe, philosophers got involved in comprehending and interpretation this phenomenon and setting its limits. In 1995, scientific conferences on artistic primitiveness and marginal art began to be held with the participation of the Department of Aesthetics of Faculty of Philosophy of the Moscow State University, under the leadership of Alexander Migunov,.In 1997, a conference dedicated to "spiritual, artistic and art-therapeutic approaches to creativity" was held in Yaroslavl under the guidance of psychiatrist and collector Vladimir Gavrilov. The State Institute of Art Studies in Moscow became another important academic center for the study of Outsider Art. Ksenia Bohemskaya and Nadezhda Musyankova stand out among the researchers of the institute.

***

From the late 1990s to the mid-2010s, the Museum of Naive Art (Moscow) also had been conducting research, preservation and popularization of Outsider Art in Russia. In 2015, it was transformed into the Museum of Russian Lubok and Naive Art as a result of its merger with the Moscow Museum of Folk Graphics. The museum regularly hosts the Naivfest festival (in triennial mode).

In the 2010s and early 2020s, large Russian museums began to organize exhibitions of Outsider Art. Among them were the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, the State Russian Museum, the Tsaritsyno Museum. The branch of the State Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam opened the Museum of Outsider Art in 2016 and has since been organizing exhibitions dedicated to this phenomenon on a regular basis. An important role is also played by private collectors and private institutions focused on identifying new names and supporting outsider artists: Alexei Turchin (Turchin-Bohemskaya Collection), Vladimir Gavrilov (Inye Collection), Art-Naiv gallery (Moscow), Outsiderville Public Organization (St. Petersburg), etc.

How can we explain this turn of museums and researchers towards the art of outsider artists - the recent outcasts? The breaks of cultural layers, the time of radical denial and total "disobedience" cause such a bifurcation leap of interest in art "outside". As the Russian art critic Alexander Yakimovich writes, "That source, that had previously worked in European artistic culture: anthropological distrust of cultured humanity – proceeded in the avant-garde with renewed vigour" [7]. The turn from the person of Culture to the concepts of the Other has serious grounds: technological, mental, anthropic. The avant-guard establishes the power of the insane, the marginal, the Great Other.

In the era of paradigmatic changing of the attitudes of art, the key criterion for the value of a work is its relationship to the cultural tradition. According to Boris Groys, innovation is an act of negative adherence to cultural tradition, the creation of a work of art contrary to traditional patterns. In the understanding of the avant-garde or postmodernist, the classical episteme is a "mechanized area of the identical", while "latent, extra-cultural reality is that area of differences that automatically guarantees novelty" [8].

Reflecting on the postmodern situation, Groys draws our attention to the fact that culture continues to turn to the Other, and this is not something hidden, but the external situation on the market, and the safety of a cultural work can only be guaranteed by cultural archives. At the same time, originality is no longer an indispensable condition for getting into cultural archives: "Protecting oneself from the future by constantly emphasizing one's own originality has led, in particular, to the fact that today, although there is no talk about the new, but a lot is being said about the Other" [8] ... The category of originality or novelty is replaced by an appeal to the idea of the Other. In the postmodern era, the transition from the modernist discourse of authenticity to the discourse of otherness is being reinforced. But this Otherness must have value: it needs to be preserved, researched, commented on, and taken critically.

In the last decade, thanks to museum exhibitions and scientific research, the art of outsiders has won an honorable place in the "archives of culture". In connection with the transition from the discourse of authenticity to the discourse of otherness, it found itself on the frontier of contemporary artistic practices - and became part of the "big" history of art.

From the late 1990s to the mid-2010s, the Museum of Naive Art (Moscow) also had been conducting research, preservation and popularization of Outsider Art in Russia. In 2015, it was transformed into the Museum of Russian Lubok and Naive Art as a result of its merger with the Moscow Museum of Folk Graphics. The museum regularly hosts the Naivfest festival (in triennial mode).

In the 2010s and early 2020s, large Russian museums began to organize exhibitions of Outsider Art. Among them were the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, the State Russian Museum, the Tsaritsyno Museum. The branch of the State Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam opened the Museum of Outsider Art in 2016 and has since been organizing exhibitions dedicated to this phenomenon on a regular basis. An important role is also played by private collectors and private institutions focused on identifying new names and supporting outsider artists: Alexei Turchin (Turchin-Bohemskaya Collection), Vladimir Gavrilov (Inye Collection), Art-Naiv gallery (Moscow), Outsiderville Public Organization (St. Petersburg), etc.

How can we explain this turn of museums and researchers towards the art of outsider artists - the recent outcasts? The breaks of cultural layers, the time of radical denial and total "disobedience" cause such a bifurcation leap of interest in art "outside". As the Russian art critic Alexander Yakimovich writes, "That source, that had previously worked in European artistic culture: anthropological distrust of cultured humanity – proceeded in the avant-garde with renewed vigour" [7]. The turn from the person of Culture to the concepts of the Other has serious grounds: technological, mental, anthropic. The avant-guard establishes the power of the insane, the marginal, the Great Other.

In the era of paradigmatic changing of the attitudes of art, the key criterion for the value of a work is its relationship to the cultural tradition. According to Boris Groys, innovation is an act of negative adherence to cultural tradition, the creation of a work of art contrary to traditional patterns. In the understanding of the avant-garde or postmodernist, the classical episteme is a "mechanized area of the identical", while "latent, extra-cultural reality is that area of differences that automatically guarantees novelty" [8].

Reflecting on the postmodern situation, Groys draws our attention to the fact that culture continues to turn to the Other, and this is not something hidden, but the external situation on the market, and the safety of a cultural work can only be guaranteed by cultural archives. At the same time, originality is no longer an indispensable condition for getting into cultural archives: "Protecting oneself from the future by constantly emphasizing one's own originality has led, in particular, to the fact that today, although there is no talk about the new, but a lot is being said about the Other" [8] ... The category of originality or novelty is replaced by an appeal to the idea of the Other. In the postmodern era, the transition from the modernist discourse of authenticity to the discourse of otherness is being reinforced. But this Otherness must have value: it needs to be preserved, researched, commented on, and taken critically.

In the last decade, thanks to museum exhibitions and scientific research, the art of outsiders has won an honorable place in the "archives of culture". In connection with the transition from the discourse of authenticity to the discourse of otherness, it found itself on the frontier of contemporary artistic practices - and became part of the "big" history of art.
~
1. Cardinal R. Outsider Art. London, UK: Studio Vista; New York, NY: Praeger, 1972.
2. Cardinal R. Outsider Art and the autistic creator // Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 2009. № 364. P. 1460–1461. URL: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.842.9368&rep=rep1&type=pdf (date of access: 21.09.2021).
3. Dubuffet J. L'Homme du commun à l'ouvrage [The Common Man at Work]. Paris, France: Gallimard, 1973.
4. The 55th International Art Exhibition / Il Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace). URL: https://www.labiennale.org/en/il-palazzo-enciclopedico (date of access: 21.09.2021).
5. Ivanov A. Lechenie tvorchestvom [Healing by Creativity] // Sinaps [Synapse]. 1991. October. P. 65.
6. Seelen-Bilder. Abgründe psychischer Verletztheit [Soul Pictures. Abysses of Psychological Hurt]. München: Galerie «MIR», 1990.
7. Yakimovich A. K. Vershiny dvadtsatogo veka. Besedy o problemakh iskusstva I kultury [The Peaks of the Twentieth Century. Conversations about the Problems of Art and Culture]. Book 2.M .: BuksMart, 2020.S. 9.
8. Groys B. O novom. Opyt Economiki Kultury [About the New. The Experience of the Economy of Culture]. Moscow: Ad Marginem Press, 2017. URL: https://reader.bookmate.com/l0hk5JhC (date of access: 21.09.2021).



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