I am currently writing a chapter for an upcoming book edited by Ian Buchanan and Lorna Collins: Schizoanalysis and Visual Art.
What’s Cooking? : Toward a Pragmatics of Raw Art
This chapter engages with the art brut/art culturel distinction using the conceptual tools
of Deleuze and Guattari’s schizoanalysis. Deleuze and Guattari allow us to conceive
of raw art as a field of transcendence that only emerges relatively to an assemblage.
Though the insider artist may desire an outside in order to escape conventions and
clichés, the outsider artist will not tend to desire an inside, already busy strategizing
to escape his/her own operative assemblages. We argue that the difference between
raw and “cooked” art may be better understood through the specific modes of capture
(“cooking”) that define the strata from which each artist undertakes the production of
the body without organs, that is, the unfolding of the ecumenon into the planomenon.
We will focus on the case of rebel artist Jean Dubuffet, who coined the term “art brut”
(raw art), relating his deep admiration of the outsider artists’ authentic relations to
their work (in particular his regard for the work of Adolf Wölfli). We will also relate
Dubuffet’s relation to surrealism, primarily through his affiliation with André Masson
(who used drugs and sleep depravation to reach more “authentic”, presubjective modes
of inspiration), as well as his friendship with Antonin Artaud.
We believe schizoanalysis allows critical thought to move away from the
conventional dichotomy that categorizes an artist as “inside” or “outside” an
artistic culture. But it does more than merely blur the boundary between interior
and exterior: it allows for an understanding of the underlying processes that
give way to such binaries. The inside/outside distinction will thus be seen as the
effect of an assemblage that orders and distributes contents and expressions on
specific strata, constituted by the abstract machines that describe the processes of
deterritorialization and reterritorialization this assemblage results from.
The problem will be approached along four major lines of enquiry:
We begin with what Deleuze and Guattari call the “generative component”
constitutive of the given artistic milieu (for example: the avant-garde movement, the
museum, the royal court, the church). These outline the concrete semiotics operative
in the generation of molar aggregates we identify with artistic institutions,
traditions, or conventions.
Secondly, we enumerate examples of the transformational potentials of these
cultural conventions and institutions, which constitute the pure semiotics underlying
the production of such “insides”. We ask, what is their plasticity, their potential for
change and translation, their “pre-indiviual field” (drawing from Simondon) ?
We then turn to the underlying assemblages involved in the orderings of such
milieus of cultural convention. This requires necessary abstraction in order to
describe the multiplicity of interrelations between the various strata involved (state
organizations, bodily orderings, semiotic regimes, technical processes). Here we
draw a rhizome connecting the symbiotic alliances between levels of organization
or between genetic series, describing in each case how the assemblage divides
contents and expressions, as well as corresponding subjectivities, bodies, territories
and modes of deterritorialization.
Finally comes the study of the abstract machines that order and guide these
assemblages. This requires diagramming the limits and attractors describing the
potentials and actualizations of the effective assemblages composing the given
artistic institution, tradition or convention from which a relative “outside” is
conceived. A particular goal will be to understand the institutional rebellion of
artists like Dubuffet, and the “horror vacui” that characterizes the work of Wölfli and
many other raw artists, as strategies for escaping the capture of abstract machines
operating on various strata.