‘Art Brut’ and ‘Outsider Art’ – Consisting ‘Heterotopia’ of the Art World?

  • Abstract:

    Artists who are creating in places which you can, following one of Michel Foucault´s theses from 1967, define as ‘Heterotopia’, are still unequally dependent regarding the reception and distribution of their artworks. Foucault thinks within his ‘Heterotopology’ about the margins of society and refers directly to social and spatial zones as sanatoria, psychiatric hospitals or prisons (Foucault, Michel: Die Heterotopien / Der utopische Körper. Zwei Radiovorträge, Frankfurt a. M., 2005, p. 12.). Categories as ‘Art Brut’ or ‘Outsider art’ are common in the contemporary art world as well as in art historiography. They aim at the work of artists whose personal backgrounds can be located in such ‘heterotopian’ places. These theoretical terms seem to mirror directly social hierarchic structures and refer to the construction of social identities and identifications. Regarding the example of Art / Brut Center Gugging, Maria Gugging, Austria, consisting of museum gugging, gallery gugging, open studio gugging and the house of artists, an assisted living community for artists with psychiatric background or living with disabilities, all of them located on the grounds and within the buildings of a former psychiatric hospital, identifications based on a social construction of an ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ can be discussed specificly. Artistic positions from Gugging look back on a history since the early 1950ies: Johann Hauser, August Walla and Oswald Tschirtner are three artists to be exemplary named because of their international recognition within the art world. On the one hand those three artists are authors of three unique artistic oeuvres. On the other hand the reception of their artworks seems to be limited by the borders of the identification of their creators through their psychiatric background. This discrepancy raises the question which impact the use of categories as ‘Art Brut’ and ‘Outsider art’ has got on artists` identities and the reception of their artworks in general. Furthermore universal issues are raised reaching from phenomena of social marginalization and repression.