Lesson Plan: Modern Art: Outside Art & Jean Dubuffet

Reading 2 - Jean Dubuffet and the Deculturation of Art.

© Samantha Krukowski. Jean Dubuffet and the Deculturation of Art, M.A. Thesis, Department of Art History, Washington University in St. Louis, 1992.


“Dubuffet's location of an Other did help to define his own artistic position. In Orientalism Edward Said argued that "European culture gained in strength and identity by setting itself off against the Orient as a sort of surrogate and even underground self."105 Art brut should also be seen as Dubuffet's surrogate or underground self, rather than merely the productions of those who are marginalized in society. Said reiterated that "at most, the 'real' Orient provoked a writer to his vision; it very rarely guided it."106 With this argument in mind, it seems ridiculous to deny that art brut had no influence on Dubuffet's own artwork. Art brut was as much a guide for Dubuffet and a central locus for his anti-cultural position as it was an idealized art form.

It must be emphasized that when Dubuffet spoke of art brut, or primitivism, or madness, he did so as a member of the art world which was societally external to the people he discussed. We do not hear the voices of the people who made the work, we do not see the work; in short, we are not provided with any other interpretation except that of Dubuffet. Dubuffet's discourse about art brut puts him in a dominant position
to it--as the describer, he assumes the power of its definition. He might extol the virtues of art brut, it might have been the seat of originality or authenticity for him, but at the same time, it is something that he is discussing, explaining, defining. That art brut needs to be described, that Dubuffet was compelled to speak about it, reflects its inferiority— it needs a voice, his voice, and has none of its own. Art brut's exteriority to the cultural art establishment is overcome through Dubuffet's narrative which positions and explains it.”