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Outsider Art (Art Brut): Symbolism of Body Adornments

General Programming

dateFebruary 18, 2021 timeThursday, 1:00pm EST locationVirtual Event
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
  • The Department of History
  • Columbia Maison Française
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
Headshot of Lucienne Peiry and Manto do Apresentação by Arthur Bispo do Rosário, an ornate mantle

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Self-taught Outsider artists ("Art Brut") develop personal systems of expression to produce paintings, sculptures, drawings or textile works outside of official artistic circles. Sometimes unaware of social conventions, often resistant to cultural rules, they transgress (sometimes involuntarily) established codes and invent highly personal symbolic universes. In their works, Outsider artists invent subjects, modes of representation, systems of perspective, and technical means, often resorting to used, humble, or discarded materials.

In this conversation with Camille Robcis, Lucienne Peiry explores artists who use their own bodies as medium of expression in the isolation and exclusion of psychiatric hospitals. These artists create real or dreamlike clothes and bodily chimeras: a wedding dress created from threads pulled from used bed sheets, asylum outfits transformed and adorned with embroidered writings, costumes woven with frayed rags; the adornments are part of an extravagant ingenuity. Marguerite Sirvins, Agnes Richter, Anghus McPhee, and Arthur Bispo do Rosario create clothes that they feel are endowed with magical and healing virtues. Seeing their works triggers in the spectator a strong bodily reaction.

Lucienne Peiry is an art historian, specialist of Art Brut, curator of exhibitions in Europe and Japan, especially “Intextricabilia, enchevêtrements magiques” at la Maison rouge, Paris, 2017, and “Ecrits d’Art Brut”, at the Tinguely Museum, in Basel, in 2021. From 2001 to 2011, she was the Director of the Collection de l'Art Brut in Lausanne. Lecturer at the EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) since 2015, she has written extensively on Art Brut, particularly L'Art Brut (translated into English, German and Chinese), and in 2020 Écrits d’Art Brut: Graphomanes extravagants. Lucienne Peiry also hosts a website called Notes d'Art Brut.

Camille Robcis is Associate Professor of History and French at Columbia University. In 2020-2021, she is also a Heyman Center Fellow. Her second book, Disalienation: Politics, Philosophy, and Radical Psychiatry in Postwar France, is forthcoming in 2021 with the University of Chicago Press.

Photos Credits: Arthur Bispo do Rosário, Manto do Apresentação, Museu Bispo do Rosário, Rio de Janeiro.
Lucienne Peiry Photo © Philippe Couette, Paris