These are some of my thoughts that occurred to me after reading a book called “Geen woorden maar beelden”. The book is made by atelier Herenplaats from Rotterdam and presents their artwork as being Outsider art.
First some definitions, as I use them, in order to construct a foundation to build on.
“Perception” is receiving and processing information by a person resulting in an awareness, understanding or insight in something. Human perception is intertwined with our feelings.
“Relation” is a connection that causes influence or interaction. A relation can be a one-way connection or a two-way/multiple-way connection.
“Culture” is a set of agreements, often unspoken agreements, between people in a group. Language is an example of culture.
A “Work of art” is perception that is translated in an expression, then transmitted and received in the perception of someone else where it is clear to the receiver that the expression is not just about reality but about a personal experience of reality. The expression may seem to be realistic or pure fantasy, both being derived from personal perception of reality. Examples of work of arts can be objects or acts, music, a photo, a painting, writing or dancing or speech etc. A work of art contains a mixture of culture and authentic self that makes it unique. A work of art is a hand reaching out that can result in a handshake.
“Art” is the relation the receiver has with a work of art, where the perception of the receiver is impacted by the work of art. The perception of the receiver is dealing with a combination of recognition and of something new, something unknown. Art is a 1-on-1 relation and it does not exist within a group, meaning art is not culture. In addition, the relation has a 1-way direction, going from work of art to receiver and not v.v. The recognition takes place at the receiver’s end; it is the receiver’s relationship with reality that is being recognized by the receiver in the work of art. Art is not made by the artist only but by the receiver as well. The artist generates, creates, makes the work of art. The relationship the artist has with the artwork, while making it, in the process, is art.
“Reality” is all that makes a difference physically, what exists. This, as opposed by what is in our minds, being thoughts and perception, not being reality but an image of reality. Reality exists as a process of cause and effect that is generating time and space. Reality can exist in the now, the past and in the future, here and elsewhere.
“Divine or Godly” is all that is derived from reality and that does not have a human component. The human component is the human thoughts and feelings as they exist in the mind. “God” is the container phrase that can be used as a symbol representing all that is-as-it-is and that we are in relationship with.
The “Soul” houses the combination of feeling and thinking, which are in continuous interaction with each other, it is used as a name for the location of awareness, of consciousness.
“Loneliness” is the intrinsic need of any individual to connect to others. Awareness of this need brings a feeling of loneliness.
To me it is fascinating to see in this book “Geen woorden maar beelden”, the art that is being made by people that are “mentally challenged”. The challenge or ability, to me seems hardly relevant or perhaps even irrelevant whatsoever. Relevant for art are the ingredients: an artist and a receiver, and the fact that both are a barrel of feelings, both of them having a unique perception of their own. Between the two, artist and receiver, there is a part that they have in common and a part in which they differentiate, something of their own, from their self.
As receiver I recognize the combination of the mutual and the self, of the known and the unknown. Without the mutual part there is no recognition and without the unknown, the self, there is no added value. De work of art bridges the two perceptions, of the artists and of me as receiver, building a bridge that is unique and that exists between the artist and me alone. The bridging activity itself is not unique. Bridging can happen with other receivers, resulting in other distinct bridges. All these bridges are manifestations of art. The activity of sharing the distinct experiences of art with others and the common understanding of it, is culture. Art plays a part in the search for balance in the balancing act, which everyone is in. This is the quest for optimization, for balance between the preferences and interests of the stand-alone self on one hand, and of the preferences and the other interests of the social being, being part of humanity, on the other hand.
The phrase “outsider art” implies the existence of “insider art”. What is insider art? Who makes insider art? Insider art I reckon, is art that is part of culture. Insider art is made by receivers that add culture to the art. It makes use of other artwork that has been given a status by a cultural verdict. The insiders are not only concerned with their personal perception but also with how this perception blends in with the group dynamics, the culture. The classification of outsider art is not based on the work of arts involved but on the artists involved. It is properties of the artist that determine the classification. The classification has not much to do with art, it has to do with culture. To the art, the 1-on-1 relation between receiver and work of art, information on the artist is not relevant. The same goes for the position that the work of art has in the history of art, in the development of art. This metadata is not relevant to art itself, only to culture. Yet, both of these can be of influence on my perception as the receiver. I will take the information, as receiver, into consideration in my perception of the work of art but the work of art is not relying on it. If there is a dependency on metadata then this dependency is not art but it is culture. In daily life, my relationship with artwork will always be a mix of art and culture.
Art can be shared and distributed, published. The intention of art is to relieve a feeling of loneliness. One can relieve a feeling of loneliness through culture as well but there is a difference. Through culture one can be part of the group and have a sense of belonging by connecting to the mutually known. Through art one can connect one’s unique authentic self with the unique authentic self of someone else, since art introduces the unknown authentic part in addition to culture. Looking from the artist’s perspective, the artist makes the artwork with an audience in mind, connecting with the audience by means of the artwork without necessarily sharing the artwork or meeting the audience. The relief of the feeling of loneliness in this case is found in the act of creation of the artwork. The artwork functions as a culmination of authentic self in which the authentic self is captured in order to be presented to others at any given moment in the present and moreover in the future. While creating the artwork, the artist is in the act of presenting its authentic self to the audience that is at that moment not necessarily there. Still the artist is relieving a feeling of loneliness in the act, being on its own perhaps but still connecting the authentic self to the audience; human kind. Every work of art expresses the phrase “Hello world”. Looking from the receiver’s perspective, the receiver may or may not, partly identify with the artwork. The receiver connects to the cultural content that makes the artwork accessible and connects to the authentic part that brings something new. The inclusion of the authentic part enables the receiver to experience the connection with humanity. Humanity consists of a mix of common properties and uniqueness by individuals. A work of art represents the diversity of human kind by its uniqueness. The relationship that is formed between artwork and receiver, connects the receiver to humanity, thus giving ease to a feeling of loneliness. The work of art enables replication of the connection of the authentic self of the artist with any distinct receiver. With further distribution of a work of art, a chain or a network of connections is formed, in which the perception is transferred. At each link of the chain there is a receiver having a unique reception. The only constant is the work of art that bridges the gap between artist and receiver every time, building a unique bridge that has some overlap with the other bridges. In addition there is the metadata, like information on the artist, the circumstances and the history of art. These are factors that influence the perception but that are not part of the work of art.
A work of art is unique and does not change, just as the part of reality that it describes. A key element of artwork is the authenticity derived from the authentic perception of the artist at the moment of creation. In case the work of art does change, it becomes a different work of art. The unchangeable nature of a work of art makes it part of reality, part of “it-is-as-it-is”. A work of art is distilled perception. A work of art is an image of reality. The image represents human perception and is as such not real, as perception only exists in the mind but when transferred to an unchangeable object it becomes part of physical reality; it does not only exists in the mind, it exists as something physical that can make a difference. As part of reality the work of art can be shared with others. That way an artist is able to contribute to the perception that others have. The artist’s perception can become part of the perception of others, playing a part of significance and in that way belong to the others, relieving the feeling of loneliness. The physical work of art, is as it is; a piece of reality that can be interpreted as a piece of human perception of reality. When we take away the work of art, it is gone but the piece of reality it has described, remains. De interpretation of the work of art points to this piece of remaining reality. A work of art is an image of reality; of the universal divine and of the human uniqueness. It is unique because it is derived from the human brain.
A work of art has something divine; de work of art is a clue, a sign of and a track to the reality that surrounds us. Reality is as it is and it has twee components; a fixed component of it-is-as-it-is and an interactive component. The interactive component consists, for us people, of the human element in life. Every individual deals with these two components and every individual is in a relationship with it. In addition every individual is dealing with another two components of reality; oneself and the other. Art is a relation with the work of art, having as ingredients the perception of the receiver itself and the perception of the other, the artist. The work of art is a manifestation of the mentioned components of reality and so art is an indirect relation with reality and with the divine. Art is not divine but human, because art only exists in the mind. The work of art has something divine though, something of reality. In art a relationship is formed with the divine, in a unique human manner. It is a 1-on-1 relationship having effect in 1 direction; from reality to artist and from artist to work of art and from work of art to receiver; a divine manifestation of “it-is-as-it-is”, seen through human eyes.
Works of art contain culture, in one way or another, they contain elements of the interactive component of reality. I reckon that it is to be expected for insider art to contain more culture then outsider art.
The artistic value of a work of art is in the emotional value of the relationship that the receiver has with the work of art. This value exists of the influence, the development that the receiver can have by connecting with the work of art. The monetary value is expressed in money and can be related to the emotional value but in practice it is mostly the market value that determines the monetary value that is related to the cultural value. A painting that is priced millions does not have that value as a piece of art but as a cultural object. Pricy paintings by, for instance, Rembrandt van Rijn, Vincent van Gogh or Pablo Picasso are pricy because of their cultural value. It is a value that is built up afterwards, not by the artist but by the audience. It is expressed in the market value. Do the works of these painters have an artistic value for me that is comparable with the level of the market value? I don’t think so, I know other works that to me are of similar artistic value, that just as well touch me, stir something in me but are priced only a fraction comparably. If I wasn’t aware that these works of famous artist are highly praised, would I reckon these works to be the top, by myself? Probably not in such way.
The artistic value of a work of art exists in the mind of the receiver (in the eye of the beholder), and exists there only. I can appreciate works of art and see them as art, intuitively, that is to say, without having knowledge of their cultural value. In that I have my preference and when it comes to work of famous artists, I share this preference with many others. What about the divine element of the famous works, in other words what about its relation with the fixed component of reality? Does well known work from famous painters differentiate significantly from the work of others? What is different is the vast amount of recognition of the works, concerning quality and popularity. It means that apparently these works have something that is mutually appealing to people; a relationship (art) that is widely shared amongst the people and that points in the direction of the divine. It is not just a pointer, it is a clear sign. It is a vast audience that is able to have a relationship with the works of art of these famous painters while every relationship is unique having a part of personal recognition and a part of personal unknown new perception. Partly these are formed by culture, in other words formed interactively. The experience that the audience has, consists of two components; the intuitive and the cultural, or in other words, the fixed and the interactive component, or the outsider-component and the insider-component.
The effect of art as soother of loneliness I believe, lies with the intuitive component. Loneliness is being relieved by the relation with the divine; by the feeling of being part of the whole and therefor the feeling of belonging. This is not the same as being part of a culture or group. I can get the feeling for example by looking at the valuable famous paintings mentioned but not because of the price, the price has nothing to do with it. Perhaps one could say that the higher the price of a painting, the higher the chance the painting can give me a feeling of belonging. I can feel lonely surrounded by a group of people that I feel I don’t belong to. When I leave the group of people, I can feel less lonely because now, in this situation, it is easier for me to realize that I am, in any case, part of humanity, regardless of what others say. It is not the relationship with the people that relieves my loneliness but it is the relationship with reality, with the divine. Interaction with people is a key part of the divine, still I am also able to have the relationship with the divine without interaction with people. I can ease loneliness because I can think the people around me being beautiful. Beautiful, through the recognition of their body language for instance. I make use of the people around me to establish the relationship with reality, to be part of what I belong to; humanity. I need that because that is how people are designed. It is as it is; people need one another. I can relieve my loneliness by the feeling of being part of things, of being part of the whole. That exceeds being part of a group. As connection with people can help me, so can art. It is the recognition of the self, of one’s own, in combination with the unknown, the other, that lets me, as the receiver, take part of something coming from outside myself. As receiver I experience that I’m not alone but part of something more. The fact that, in the case of e.g. Rembrandt, this is true for many more receivers, confirms this. The cultural value is a measure for the capability of the work of art to diminish loneliness for people but the cultural value itself does not contribute to that. It is derived from the artistic value. The monetary value of the work of art is an indication of the cultural value but is relevant to the arts market only. The cultural value is relevant for me when I am part of the particular culture. In that case I am an insider. It is in the role of outsider however, that I experience the divine. It is not that I “belong to” because I fit in with the culture, I belong because I am an outsider just like everybody else; unique and just like everybody else in contact with reality in a comparable manner; having the same set of feelings. The recognition that I have with outsiders via art, eases the loneliness because it lets me be aware of the fact that I am part of the divine. The recognition that I have with insiders via art does not ease my loneliness. Because it does not contribute to my awareness of being part of the divine, instead it makes me aware of being part of a group’s culture. Then I am part of a group of people with inside information. People that are lonely, as long as they do not have contact with and belong to the world outside the group, as long as they do not have contact with and belong to the real world that exists outside the group. Outsider art introduces me to individual perception and so allows me to share in the perception of humanity. Outsider art intentionally lets me be part of humanity, instead of a group. Insider art can only do so if it has the same quality property that outsider art intrinsically has; not culture but intuition, an intuitive connection with the fixed component of the reality that we humans share.
What is the relevancy of art? Art says: “You belong to me. Together we belong to humanity”. Culture says: “You belong to us. Together we belong to the group, or not, it depends.” It is the art’s character of being unconditional, that relieves loneliness. The only condition art needs, is to have a personal relationship of recognition and something new. Art is a celebration of diversity, of the combination of the known and the unknown. A work of art is unique. The receiver will recognize it partly as something he or she knows and partly as something he or she doesn’t know. This combination is the added value of art. Diversity contributes to development and possibilities. Art unlocks diversity. The potential for development is unprecedented as each human being is unique. Because of the diversity within humanity there is an enormous potential for development, strength and ability through cooperation. The awareness of my own relative value, my added value, combined with the value of the other, forms the basis for my respect for the other and for the enormous potential of it all.
Art can be shared by others than the maker and in that way easily become of different character; it becomes culture or communication. This is not so much because it is shared by someone other than the artist, it is because there are more than one person involved, more perceptions. Art exists as a 1-on-1 relation. When more perceptions are involved or when interaction exists between the artist and the receiver, then the element of culture is introduced. That means that agreements that exist between people, like language for example, start to play a role. The personal relationship someone has with the work of art, is art. Distribution of the work of art, is a way of communication and the relationship that a group has with the work of art, is culture. Art is being created. Art is being received. Art is being shared. This is done respectively by artists, audience and publishers. It is communication with the purpose of relieving a feeling of loneliness.
Art is considered to be beautiful when there is recognition of experience, recognition of preferences; “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This happens in a view, an image of reality of which it is clear that it is not reality itself but that it relates to reality. Perception is part of the relationship with reality. Perception can develop within a relationship. Art exists as a one sided relation, resulting in influence but not in interaction. Interaction results in culture.
Art exists of reality in combination with feeling; it is experience. Why is a “distorted” image of the reality often so powerful in the communication for the receiver? Because it is about human reality; reality that is humanized; it houses emotion. When viewing, experiencing, art by the receiver, association takes part with the receiver, identification perhaps and recognition. The emotional life that is part of every human being, is visible in the distortion of the reality, by means of association.
History of arts is intertwined with the history of the human perception, with the development of the perception of humanity. Perception develops in the context of relationships. The perception of an individual is in a relationship with others in many ways, with the contemporaries as well as with previous generations. In this way development of perception takes place in all kinds of areas that are in a dependency with each other and that interact with each other by events from the past and the present. The development of science, philosophy and arts happens in a close relationship. It is all perception. The perception of a baby is of a generic character; it didn’t built up an extensive relationship with others and with the past yet. In a baby’s live relatively little development has taken place yet and the perception still holds little culture. In a comparable way art can contain less culture or more culture and can be less based on history or more based on history. Trends, movements and styles in art history are examples of culture. They are derived from a group. For example, I can admire Mondriaan’s painting Victory Boogie Woogie, without knowing much about its background and how it came about. After I have heard about the background of the painting, I look at it differently. The first encounter with the painting is unbiased and afterwards the experience changes under the influence of the cultural component in my perception. I cherish that first encounter with the painting that holds my original perception. It holds an intuitive understanding of the work of art. Apparently I am able to look through the painting intuitively to the artworks that are behind it and in which it holds a relationship, to the underlying perceptions of previous artworks and of other artists. No real surprise I believe, since I share a piece of perception that all artists involved are sharing and that is transferred through all the works of art that are involved. It is universal human perception. I do not need an explanation of the artwork or knowledge of the background, in order to have the intuitive experience.
Another aspect of Mondriaan’s Victory Boogie Woogie is that the painting was not finished yet by the artist but for me, as the receiver, it is. It is like a half spoken sentence of which I believe I do understand the meaning because I can see it in the body language. Through body language I have a fair idea of what someone is trying to say, even if I can’t hear it. Body language is universal within humanity, it is as phenomenon a piece of reality, just like humanity itself, in other words it is divine. And it is human as well, in the unique experience that it operates in, in the minds of people. Through body language, by looking at the other, I have contact with the divine and with the human. I see the combination of recognition and something unknown, that the other is to me. The known and the unknown are merged into the body language of the other. I see this in the awareness that I myself am just such a combination. By looking at the other, I can see the divine within myself. I see the added value in the other, a supplement that I can welcome as a potential for my development and for the relief of my loneliness. I can rejoice in it and I can get faith from it. A work of art is like body language. Both are based on the universal set of feelings, a piece of mutuality that results in recognition and both are samples of unique perception. Because of the universal character of our set of feelings it is possible to have connection between people, between receiver and transmitter. We are capable to communicate through language because we are equipped with a mutual set of feelings.
A work of art is like body language. It makes use of intrinsic resemblance between people; I can look at it and recognize it, even when it is peculiar to me. Music has as its source the voice and is in that way connected with body language. Dance is body language. Graphical art is in its origin an image of man. A work of art is a view on the human soul, just as the soul is visible in body language. The language of art can be understood by the human universal nature of it. In the work of art some deformation of perception occurs and this deformation is often made deliberately into an image of distortion; it is abstract. The deformation is originated by feelings of the artist and by what is going on in the mind of the artist. It is a game of association, of interaction between feeling and thought, taking place in the soul. That way the abstraction is of a personal and human character. In abstract artworks there is perhaps relatively less to recognize for the receiver and it contains relatively more of the unknown. That is because of the associating, in which the work of art distance itself of the source and because of the personal nature of association. Still abstraction has a connection with body language through the source; the human soul. The title “Victory Boogie Woogie” speaks of body language, of music and dance. Without this connection with the soul, with body language, “abstract art” would only be culture.
“Outsider art” is not based on the cultural chain that is having all kinds of intellectual heritage. The recognition concerns something authentic, from authentic human being to authentic human being, something that exists from child to child, in a way. My recognition concerns universal experience from all times, that I get from the same pool of human perception, as the artist gets it from. Art exists of two perceptions, the one from the artist and the one from the receiver, both drawn from the same pool of experiences, and each having a reception and processing of their own.
Body language is at the source of all human communication. It starts with the crying of a baby pointing out that it wants to drink for example. By means of repetition, agreements and association, language arises; an abstract form of body language. The purpose of language is the satisfaction of needs, like the feeding of the baby. In the same way, languages as Morse code or CC# or maths, are derived from the same source as the body language of a baby. The bottom-line of all we do, is satisfying our needs, looking for a better feeling. We do this by working together and by communicating with the help of body language. The process starts with a signal of body language and ends, via all kinds of side tracks of abstraction, again at a sign of body language, of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Without body language we are not able to recognize our feelings amongst each other and therefore not capable to communicate the feelings by language. Language is like a bird’s couple that flies out for food to give to their baby birds; it starts at the source, it flies off looking for food and it returns at the source in order to provide satisfaction. Art makes use of language and is part of the human quest for satisfaction. Art gives us wings.
(Disclaimer: What I think, is built of personal perception and association and only shows a glimpse of what is behind the veil that separates me from reality. What I think, is subject of progressive insights. What I think, is not what others thinks and I do not know what the others think, at least not for sure.)