on the horizon
“The trace is the manifestation of a proximity, however far that which left it may be. The aura is the manifestation of a distance, however close that which gives rise to it may be. With the trace, we can grasp the object; with the aura, the object dominates us.”
In a few lines, Walter Benjamin points us to our relationship with art – from its production to the experience of it – but also to its creation. Here, the notions of aura and distance echo the concept of “disturbing strangeness” that was dear to Freud. How indeed do we qualify the secret and intimate mechanisms that push Man to try to resolve his metaphysical wanderings through the fabrication of transitional sacred objects? By theorizing outsider art (art brut) by measuring its supposed territory, Dubuffet had, without realizing it or without saying so, come close to the same terrain.
But while he seems to want to isolate the artist or the creator in his practice by insisting on his autonomy with respect to “cultural” production – referring to works born “of their own foundation” – Benjamin re-establishes the artist in his own nature, the human-condition confronted with its mysteriousness.
Nevertheless, the great achievement of Dubuffet is still that he knew to highlight – by naming them – the productions that, even nowadays, refer to this originary process: a process that goes beyond traditions, beyond collective norms, but is ontologically inseparable.
The creators of outsider art that we have gathered here strikingly illustrate this distance, which is yet so close. What they all have in common is that they wanted to make their world more “inhabitable” by at times invoking other worlds. And by wanting to flesh out their distance, they open the doors to our own.
Foreword : Christian Berst
Catalog published to mark the exhibition On the horizon, from january 28th to march 1st, 2014.