From another angle by Laymert dos Santos
Published in the exhibition catalog, the texts written by Laymert Garcia dos Santos and Sally Price are cross-disciplinary and complementary, casting a critical eye on the exhibition.
Laymert dos Santos
From another angle
If yet another exhibition of naïve art is possible, this is surely because the traditional criteria of the art world have been upset, thus making a new space in which we can dare to look differently, no longer following the rules of the dominant visual codes. We need to gaze at difference differently. In other words, to paraphrase Elias Canetti we must make room for the Different that is pouring in on us from every corner in this world of ‘increasing reality’, taking its place alongside both the old (the cultures of the past, now being disinterred and rediscovered) and the new (technologies, including those that have invaded the production of art works). And so we need to rediscover, or discover for the first time, a gaze that seeks to find once more that which has been ‘forgotten’, or at best bracketed, by the Western art system ever since it decided to dismiss as ‘out of place’ anything that did not belong in the Western canon. It is true that in our culture this gaze cannot be learned all at once and without outside help.
To acquire it, and to train ourselves to discard our existing visual habits and stereotypes, we must first direct it at the objects and rituals of traditional peoples and learn to recognize the power of their beauty and the beauty of their power. Secondly, we must direct this gaze at the objects, creatures, and milieus of our lives as if they formed part of an ethnological register that is as strange and surprising to us as the lives of ‘primitive peoples’. In short, we must immerse our gaze in the geographical and historical margins of civilized society. In this sense, naïve art is somewhat similar to Art Brut, in that both are driven by dynamics we call irrational or unreflective, although Art Brut is supposedly the ‘superior’ of the two because it possesses an aesthetic dimension not present in naïve art: we recognize ‘art’ more readily in the creative violence produced by the unconscious of a mad person than in the wondering gaze of the naïve artist.
Naïve art is the art of deep feeling, a cry from the heart. But why would a heart cry out, except because it has been touched or battered, affected, gripped by some event that overwhelms it? We leap immediately from perception to emotion, from that which enters us from without to that which rises up from within. This magical effect comes to pass in the gaze, as it crystallizes the image; yet in saturating the gaze, this magic elicits a response that, while purporting to be external, is really in the heart and affects the entire body. Naïve art is a cry from the heart because, just for an instant, the body is possessed by the image that enters it.
Excerpt from the exhibition catalog.
Photo: Olivier Ouadah