At the Collection de l’art brut, the impossible ejection of the frame

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Chase away the frame, it will come back in another form… This is the purpose of the exhibition presented at the Collection de l’art brut, in Lausanne, which explores a sample of works drawn from the vast ensemble – approximately 70,000 pieces. – museum reserves. Starting from the wish to “get out of the box”, by changing the point of view on the productions gathered within the collection, Sarah Lombardi, director of the museum, gave carte blanche to Michel Thévoz, who directed the institution from 1976 to 2001.

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The angle chosen by the professor of art history is both theoretical and very concrete. Michel Thévoz has indeed concentrated on the conception of the frame itself, which the authors of brut art, through an involuntary insubordination, foil endlessly and without malice. Because the frame, as the “delimitation” of a work, is a cultural construction, reinforced and nourished by the “bourgeois taste” for this accessory, underlines Michel Thévoz in his essay. Frame pathology, published at Le Seuil in parallel to the exhibition. It is, in his eyes, an instrument which makes it possible to pose a protective border between, on the one hand, artistic creation and its “irreducible internal savagery”, and, on the other, the norms of an ideology and culture. ‘a culture based on “technical performance” and “self-control”.

Device thieves

This culture, precisely, the “DIYers” of art brut often do not have access to it, when they do not reject it outright. The works in this selection all have one thing in common, notes Michel Thévoz: their authors are in a way thieves who seize a device and “misuse” it. However, few productions manage to completely free themselves from this delimitation tool. In fact, this “coercive apparatus” is reflected in each of the pieces presented. Metaphorically, for example, in everyday objects transformed into “cocoons” of wool or threads of the American Judith Scott. Or again, through a practice of one-upmanship, with the Russian Aleksander Lobanov, whose images celebrate Soviet power, as well as in a multiplicity of internal frameworks, with Adolf Wölfli, a key figure in the Collection de l’art but.

To another extent, with Scottie Wilson, framing elements – whether orthogonal or circular – also allow for creative emphasis, being akin to elements of musical grammar and vocabulary. Whether they are interned in psychiatric asylums or simply marginal, the art brut producers of this selection therefore have the same particularity: they exhaust all the ways of appropriating the setting. With one exception: its common use.


“Art brut is framed”, Collection de l’art brut, Lausanne, until May 24.

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