May 24 ‚Äď 25, 2013
The Prinzhorn Collection is the venue for this year‚Äôs meeting of the European Association of Outsider Art. Its symposium Ethical Questions around Outsider Art aims to clarify what constitutes an ethically responsible approach to dealing with works and artists from the outsider art field, with presentations by academics and experts from all over Europe.
Ethical Questions about Outsider Art
May 24 ‚Äď 25, 2013
Prinzhorn Collection, Heidelberg, Germany
With contributions from different perspectives, the symposium aims to clarify what constitutes an ethically responsible approach to dealing with works and artists from the outsider art field. This question is more important than ever due to the present position of outsider art within the art market, but nevertheless until now it hasn‚Äôt been addressed in a focused way. Presentations by academics and experts from all over Europe will give an overview of different aspects of the issue and will enable participants to end the symposium by critically discussing the corresponding recommendations of the European Outsider Art Association.‚Ä®‚Ä®
Since the early 1970s Outsider Art has been a growing sector in the art world and the art market. The term, which was originally introduced in 1972 as an English ‚Äėtranslation‚Äô of the term Art brut, coined by Jean Dubuffet in 1945, embraces artistic works by self-taught individuals which cannot be categorised into any contemporary art movement and which impress with the originality of its form and content. For the most part, outsider art is created by people with intellectual disabilities or psychiatric experience, who often use art and artistic activity as an existential vehicle to compensate for the shortcomings they have undergone.‚Ä®‚Ä® Meanwhile, there are not only galleries and private collectors that specialize in Outsider Art, but also specialist auctions, fairs and museums (the Prinzhorn Collection Museum, which opened in 2001, is one of them).
A recent development has been the integration of Outsider Art into collections and Museums of contemporary art, which have been for some time invigorated by works on the borders of professional European art, but which have rarely exhibited them alongside it.‚Ä®‚Ä®Ethical problems begin when talking about outsider art and its makers, because their alienation from mainstream art practice and artists can often result in negative as well as positive discrimination. Especially questionable is the utilisation of the specific experience of people diagnosed with psychiatric issues, as the content and intended function of their artworks are often closely related to, but should not be reduced to, their exceptional experience.‚Ä®‚Ä®Additionally, many outsider artists are not able to represent themselves in the art world or on the art market, since they are not familiar with mainstream aesthetic positions or economically motivated thinking. If the artist has no intermediary, the curator, dealer or buyer should act in a responsible way. Occasionally carers or therapists mediate, however today this task is usually carried out by the directors of art workshops, now often called ‚ÄėOpen Studios‚Äô. This term encompasses studios in which lay people with intellectual disabilities and/or psychiatric experience, who are interested in art, are offered basic facilities for artistic creativity. However, the studios can be organized in very different ways.‚Ä®‚Ä®With people and institutions as mediators, the question may emerge of who actually owns the respective works.
Today, a decision supporting the mediator is much less usual than in earlier times, when psychiatrists unquestioningly claimed the works of their patients for themselves. But there are still situations in which the issue of ownership is not easy to establish, such as in illegally built, spacious environments.‚Ä®‚Ä®The conference is constituted by the interaction between speakers, panel guests and presenters. We envisage a time slot of an hour for each lecture/panel plus moderation. The presentations should last no longer than 20 minutes; the moderators will not only mediate between the lectures/presenters and the audience, but will also in some cases take on the critical role of cross-referencing, thereby putting the content of the presentations in a wider context. It is therefore important that the moderators are also acknowledged professionals in the issues under discussion. The audience should be seriously considered as a discussion partner as well, so it is important that plenty of time for discussion is available.‚Ä®‚Ä®The conference language is English; only in one case (di Stefano) will it be necessary to simultaneously translate during the lecture.
The papers will later be presented in a reader. The speakers will have the task of incorporating the results of exchanges with respective moderators and audiences into their contributions.‚Ä®‚Ä®The conference is deliberately internationally oriented. It is also important to us that central ethical issues around outsider art are discussed in dialogue with experienced and new representatives in the field. The speakers Carine Fol (currently completing her dissertation), Axel Kl√∂ss-Fleischmann (who only recently started to teach as a lecturer), Katrin Luchsinger (who has just submitted her PhD thesis) and Viola Luz (who has just published her thesis) are upcoming academics.