Skip to main content

mental health mondays :: the art of madness

there is an ongoing debate as to the interaction between mental disorders and artistic creativity. while it's difficult to document the subject, there does seem to be a cultural fascination with the idea of the artist having an eccentric mentality. likewise, so-called "outsider art" or "art brut" has a sort of cult following, as if we believe that such art unwittingly reveals something of the workings of the disordered mind.


the terms "outsider art" and "art brut" are somewhat confusing, as they are used interchangeably to refer to professional and/ or trained artists and "naive art" created by amateurs, without artistic education, many of whom have been discovered only late in life or posthumously.

french artist jean dubuffet, who coined the term "art brut" and, along with andre breton, was responsible for drawing attention to it and building a permanent collection, described it as art that existed outside the pressures of culture and therefore as something which could never be assimilated by the mainstream [since the artists did not operate within the confines of the mainstream]. this differentiates it from art which challenges cultural norms, since such artists are aware of [and responding to] their predominant culture.

the difference between genuine appreciators of outsider art and a freakshow audience seeking a spectacle is a fine one and chances are that such artists tend to attract both, because what they do piques both our curiosity and our fears, showing us at once imaginative potential and the fragility the mind.

here are a few examples of art by the mentally disordered, from various backgrounds and times. i've focused on visual arts, since they're a little easier to include here...

louis wain, professional illustrator, later diagnosed with schizophrenia
 


adolf wolfli, the original outsider artist, a mental patient who inspired dubuffet
 

MORE AFTER THE BREAK...




paul gosch, german artist associated with the expressionist movement, later consigned to an asylum and executed by the nazis



helen martins, a south african woman who spent years obsessively decorating her house and property, which is now preserved as "the owl house museum"



martin ramirez, originally from mexico, he spent much of his life institutionalised in california for paranoid schizophrenia



willem von genk, supposedly both autistic and schizophrenic whose art seemed to serve as a kind of therapy



 feel free to share any stories or experiences of outsider art, or any theories on art and madness...

Comments

as long as you're here, why not read more?

dj kali & mr. dna @ casa del popolo post-punk night

last night was a blast! a big thank you to dj tyg for letting us guest star on her monthly night, because we had a great time. my set was a little more reminiscent of the sets that i used to do at katacombes [i.e., less prone to strange meanderings than what you normally hear at the caustic lounge]. i actually invited someone to the night with the promise "don't worry, it'll be normal". which also gives you an idea of what to expect at the caustic lounge. behold my marketing genius.

mr. dna started off putting the "punk" into the night [which i think technically means i was responsible for the post, which doesn't sound quite so exciting]. i'd say that he definitely had the edge in the bouncy energy department.

many thanks to those who stopped in throughout the night to share in the tunes, the booze and the remarkably tasty nachos and a special thank you to the ska boss who stuck it out until the end of the night and gave our weary bones a ride home…

friday favourites 20.07.12

i was almost going to skip it this week. not out of any disinterest, but i always feel weird posting something flip and cheeky on days when the news is choked with stories of some location filled with people going about their lives suddenly getting shot up by a lone maniac with some sort of personal gripe or agenda.

awful things happen every single day. people who lead otherwise normal lives are suddenly transformed through violence every single day. by the harsh standards of the world, what happened last night in aurora, colorado isn't even close to the worst. i'm sure families in syria would consider a day where ten people died to be better than average. but there is something about these completely random mass shootings in otherwise fairly peaceful places that haunts us all here in the western world. it happened today with aurora. it happened a year ago sunday in norway. it happened in another colorado town, now synonymous with the terror of such a massacre in 1999.

what h…

exactly how far do you want to take this, zuckerberg?

as many of you may have heard, facebook is clamping down on people who aren't using their real, or rather legal names on the social network. much of the attention has been directed towards drag queens, who want a personal profile under their performance name rather than their legal name, but the fact is that facebook's terms of service require everyone to use their legal name for their personal profiles. drag queens are just a very obvious example and also the main group who have spoken up.

drag queens, of course, might want to connect with friends and fans in the scene, apart from establishing a fan page [to say nothing of the fact that it's easier for privacy-minded users to hide their friends than it is to hide the fan pages they like] and the best way for them to do that is to use the name by which they would be recognised. being forced to use their legal name risks exposing them to ridicule or worse from close-minded employers, family or community members. but, of c…