Publisher : Yoshiaki Kasatani / Rob Walbers
Publisher : Masato Yamashita（Yamanami Kobo）
Design : Mutsumi Suwa（RISSI INC.）
Styling : Koei Kuge
Hair & Make up : Asako Takeda
Translation : Reiko Wong
In the 1940s, a French artist, Jean Dubuffet, presented the idea of “art brut.” This is a term he coined meaning “raw art” and refers to works of people who are not tainted by the established fine art tradition, which are created from pure creative impulses and by the inspiration that stems from the very source of life. Dubuffet emphasized the absolute purity of the motivation of expression seen in people who are not at all influenced by the conventional sense of value and social norms, and sharply criticized the artistic activities of some intellectuals. The idea of art brut was thus conceived as an absolute antithesis to the established tradition and authoritarianism. This term was later translated as “outsider art” by English art historian, Roger Cardinal, and has since gained wider recognition in the English-speaking world. However, many art professionals have raised objections that the two terms are confused despite the difference in their original meanings. In the West, a mature market is in place where art brut works are traded at high prices and magazines specialized in this genre of art are published, while research on art brut is underway in psychiatric, philosophical and various other fields as well.
In Japan, the idea of art brut is thought to be best applied to creations by people with mental disabilities. For this reason, art brut is often recognized as the art of people with mental disabilities, and efforts to educate the public on the idea of art brut and promote the idea are mainly designed to contribute to the welfare of these people. It should be noted, however, that art brut in its essence is a term for discussion about art: it is an idea that centers on the attributes of the creations themselves and that sees a special value in the “pure power of expression that is possible only through freedom from tradition and mainstream fashion.” In other words, the “attributes of the creator” is not a focus of the idea of art brut: this idea has nothing to do with the welfare of creators.
There have always been controversies over the appropriateness of categorizing the works by people with mental disabilities into art brut and also over the meaning of the term “outsider art.” Probably, this is because the idea of art brut and the term “outsider art” can take on entirely different meanings when seen from different perspectives or placed in different contexts, and can even turn right into wrong, and good into bad and vice versa. In fact, creators in this genre of art do not recognize themselves as outsiders, nor do they claim their works to be art brut. The above controversies, which are always debated among people other than the creators themselves, mainly address topics such as standards for art critics to categorize creative works and ethical issues raised by welfare personnel. In addition, various intricately woven commercial and political strategies are behind these controversies.
Against this backdrop, it is questionable whether creators can get the recognition they truly deserve for their respective artistic talents. When we see a great work of art that instantly touches our heart, we are simply impressed by the splendor of the work itself: a sense of prejudice or discrimination against or mercy to the creator can in no way interfere with such appreciation, and neither can any opinions of scholars and experts however authoritative they may be. In light of this, let me stress the importance of creating a venue where anyone can casually drop in to appreciate art brut works in a setting that is free from any professional theories of art or welfare, and, more importantly, that is not affected by any political consideration.
Many works created by people with mental disabilities are characterized by their free, innovative expression, not bound by stereotype. However, it is almost impossible for these creators to present their works widely to the public on their own. Art brut was established as a new genre of art through strategic promotion by Dubuffet, an intellectual with deep understanding of art who was captivated by creations unaffected by established fine art traditions. Likewise, specialists active in various fields of society today can contribute to expanding the scope of the creative activities of people with mental disabilities by taking a positive interest in their creations and working in collaboration with them, which, in turn, will lead to the emergence of new values.
Problems that negatively affect people with mental disabilities are not attributable to their impairment, but represent the distortion of society stemming from the situations surrounding them.Through interactions with people with mental disabilities, we are made to realize those Yoshiaki Kasatani (RISSI INC.)