I was attracted to the idea of outsider art since a couple of years ago when I discovered the concept but didn’t quite grasp what it was until this Saturday when we visited the Outsider Art Museum in Lausanne. I had enrolled my son in a sculpture workshop for children on the theme of their newest exhibition dedicated to the human form – Le Corps.
This museum exhibits the collection gathered by french artist Jean Dubuffet, who donated it to the city of Lausanne. He was the first to coin the term “art brut” and to define what it was. Outsider art is different from naive art in the sense that it is not merely a work of an amateur but it is most often made by marginals of society: prisoners, patients of psychiatric hospitals, outcasts, people from the lowest classes as they are deemed so by society and most often people with very tragic personal histories.
I am an empath and a highly senstive person, it was more than unnerving to see this art because I could feel the weight of those stories. I can see beyond the aesthetics of an artwork and connect to the expressive side of it which makes art more meaningful to me. The downside is that some artworks become too much…like HR Giger’s artworks in Gruyeres, where I got sick and had to get out of the museum.
This was much lighter than Giger but still some things were hard to see, like the tattooed pieces of human skin from Geneva’s Forensic Institute or the wooden panel carved by a patient of a psychiatric hospital while in solitary confinement.
These stories are so tragic, yet it’s not the drama of their life that makes them valuable but the idea that art is a means of expression for everyone irrespective of their educational or social background and mental health, and Jean Dubuffet was brilliant enough to see value at the margin of society, beyond the limit of what “normal people” would deem acceptable. And if we remain in the layer of expressiveness of art there’s simply no way to rank its value without discriminating the people who make it and judging them by the labels society assigns to them…I very much like this expressive character of art. The power to make art is human and humanity has many faces. Art is just a way to explore and display the layers and depths of our humanity.
Le Corps is interesting to see because it portrays the way these outsider artists relate to their bodies and how they used the human form to express their own internal battles…it is simply a must see for anyone that wants to keep an open mind to the expressive value of art. My son really loved the sculpture workshop. There were many children attending and the museum was packed with people. There are 2 more workshops for children but make sure to make a reservation if interested.