Clay artworks under glass at the Collection de L'Art Brut Lausanne, Switzerland, 2007. Photo: L. Moriarity.
Exhibition Poster at Collection de L'Art Brut Lausanne. Switzerland, 2007. Photo: L.Moriarity.
Today the historical Art Brut connection to Modern Art leaves out 'Art Brut' and/or 'Visionary Arts' and artists from the official art narrative. Art Brut has its own culture, its own world of Art, its own history. In this way important commonalities are lost for today's art student. This is the area that interests me, how and when and why does Art Brut meet with official art. How and when and why has the mental health field, art therapy, and contemporary artists, art and art world, converge with Museums and Collections and Schools of Art?
Making, creating, drawing, painting, and assembling is a necessity for all artists. The Modern artist Jean Dubuffet, invented the term Art Brut in the 1940s. Some later terms invented for similar art works include: Naïve Art, Raw Art, Primitive Art, and Outsider Art. The contemporary term Art Singulier was again created to describe works by contemporary artists.
Dubuffet was one of the more successful Artists to define Art Brut as creations of art that were 'outside' of the culture of art; that did not reference in anyway official, and historical, art works. The creators of Art Brut were self-trained artists who lived in isolated ways, and mostly happened to be patients of psychiatric institutions. Before this, doctors noticed and allowed the creativity of patients, made case studies from them, and later exhibitions to show the art works.
Dubuffet was influenced aesthetically by patient's art works. In this way, he challenged the official art academy with Art making and through his many writings. This was the trend of Modern Artists, at the time, who wished and proposed alternative ways to see and understand art materials, within and without side the system of the art world, and an imperialist thinking society as a whole. Why did this happen? He demanded a change of view from the public and artists to review art practices and art materials, the role of the artist, and art institutions of historical art: the official art, to include the psychic reflex of art making. In doing so, Dubuffet also asserted the hierarchical barriers indeed existed, and constructed by history, were maintained by the official culture of art itself.
If Art Brut was put at the centre of fine art culture, rather than the margins what would happen?
Since the 1940s the definition of Art Brut has expanded; to include people who create objects obsessively, sometimes where they work: dishwashers, cashiers, etc.
Today many artists agree it is accurate to describe the culture of fine art in Canada, and perhaps globally, as Artist, Academic, and institutionally driven. The essential in any piece of art embodies theory, education, and sanity. Some
teachers criticize Conceptual Art as ‘clever’ Art (from personal anecdote). The contemporary artists who speak of their rejection of theory are proof of another aesthetic, activity, and credibility, and another in-crowd is simply born in the global world of art.
Different dynamics of 'the outsider' exist in classrooms in schools in Ontario today. Some secondary students attend class to learn/teach about the visual arts and have no training in art. Some students have some training, and adopt the curriculum taught with little challenge. Some students challenge the system, or find the system the challenge and skip classes, and/or reject the curriculum. Art class is seen as a chance to gain an easy pass by some students, and a place to 'dump' students for some school administrators.
The Art Brut Education Kit is an attempt to aid teaching/learning in the visual arts. It provides information about Art Brut, and inclusion practices. The kit is intended for students/teachers, and provides an Art Brut story, vocabulary, techniques & materials, significant people, and suggested activities. It also provides links to further resources.
As a teacher candidate in the Artist in Community Education program at the Faculty of Education, Queen's University, I developed the Art Brut Education Kit during my alternate practicum in Paris, France, 2007. I received the Elliott/Upitis/Bamji Travel Fellowship, which allowed me to travel to Paris and Lausanne, 2007. At the Musée Max Fourny (Halle Saint Pierre), Paris, I had conversations with museum staff and attended an education lecture. I also talked with staff and spent time with the current exhibition at the Jean Dubuffet Fondation, Paris, and traveled to the (Dubuffet) Collection de L'Art Brut, Lausanne, Switzerland. I thank the members of staff for their welcome, generous and helpful conversations.
While in Paris, I wanted to know how the gallery or museum had provided, if at all, Art Brut educational programs for kids. I planned to develop a kit for the secondary school setting in Ontario. I found out there are few, if any, Art Brut education activities developed for secondary schools in Paris, but for elementary schools more existed. One perspective argues Art Brut is a manifestation that cannot be taught, e.g. Art Brut Collection abcd web site, 'Impossible Education' by Jean-Louis Lanoux, Vice president.
To teach/learn Art Brut to secondary students there are a few reasons, and perhaps ways to teach that I suggest:
One, introduce to students the significant, unique, and diverse forms of Art Brut and how they are intertwined with Modern Art practices, society/history, and contemporary art.
Two, a lesson on Art Brut, and/or examples included, just might break down barriers for students who are trained in the visual arts in grade 9 and/or 10, for those students who have never been in an art class before, and those who feel they are ‘outsiders’. Teach students towards finding their individual qualities. Have a class discussion about what an outsider is in our society, who is an outsider, how it feels to be an outsider, and how a person is made an outsider.
Three, creators, and patients, of Art Brut search for peace in unique ways, work through feelings and thoughts, i.e. protect items etc. These gestures remind us that we are human, which is relevant for students to learn in visual art classes in our Schools today.
As a visual arts educator and artist, this is why I value Art Brut, Raw Art, Outsider Art, and Art Singulier. I hope teachers/students will find the Art Brut Education Kit to be helpful, exciting, and an interesting journey. Feedback on the kit is welcome.
Please contact me.
Lesa Moriarity, B.F.A., M.A. B.Ed.
When 1st published. Artist in Community Education Program, Teacher Candidate, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, 2007.
Contact e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Musée Max Fourny (Halle Saint Pierre), Paris, 2007. Photo: L.Moriarity.
© 2007, L.Moriarity, For education purposes only. This page updated June 2008.