Outside In at the Manchester Art Fair
The rain cored every inch of air, the red brick first floors and upward as gloomy as ever. The ground floors illuminated the streets, often providing a soundtrack, a price tag and lamp lighted new ways of thinking that rejected clichéd rainy Manchester grimness. Amongst my own whirling mentalised memories and futures was the desire to get to an Art Fair that sold itself as one interested in outsider creation.
That was good. Once inside I recognised my own feeling of being outsider and wandered around with the sense of bolting for the door located as a thread from head to lower spine.
Familiar spaces of booths and names on frames belied the creativity that was slotted on walls and behind curtains. Price tags abounded, but personal exploration was there too. Bolting instincts remained but then I came across Outside In.
Funny how I became animalised, I circled, wandered in, quickly wandered out, wandered away, wandered back. Like animal wanderings, the wander was not aimless but territorialising. First deterritorialising, finding in this little booth a sense of familiar – first time as stranger, second time, a returner. Only sixty seconds between these visits but a minute that came with recognition, an opening conversation, a chance to ask questions and spark those electrical connections.
‘Outsider Art or Art Brut referred to works untouched or uncooked by mainstream culture’
Here the familiar price tags that place you outside but also conversation that brought me inside. Outside In offers people without connection to the art world a connection to similar artists in a world that begins with the commonality of art. Is this the art work or not? This seemed irrelevant because the potential was a connective space that recognised that art was not necessarily from the inside. I had recently been chastised for using the term outsider artist, instructed that the term was meaningless as artists were all outsiders, illuminating the world, creating critical space with brush, clay, oil, wood, whatever was most powerful. I’d never felt more outside as those I considered inside pointed out I could not know the outside because I was not – it seemed to me – inside enough to know where outside might be.
I also agreed, the point of art had to be outsiderliness. There was love in these exchanges not dismissive rejection. What is it to feel outside then if we cannot locate either in or out?
Perhaps ironically, our exchanges followed a film on being outside, of feeling beyond the spaces and places of art at least partially defined by access. Playfulness here can be misconstrued as piss-taking mockery. Playfulness does confer a sense of being involved and recognising breathable air as intoxication, not silly but giddy, delirium not cynicism. Finding others can generate euphoria, heads swirled with rich (new) oxygenated AIR.
Reflecting on this, outside is the space without any recognition – almost always unburdened by the need to be recognised. But recognition differs from connection. Solitary creation can become stifling, free of air, unblown flames that wither, fuelled but not aired.
Outside In becomes a breath that was welcomed and excited the desire to breath deeper. It seems to offer similar freshness to Deleuze’s discussion of Art Brut. This philosophical approach indicates how we might be closer to egalitarian models of existence through art. Not as spectacle or even as artefact but as process of becoming. For Outside In, the outsider comes from clear delineation of the world of art and artists. Its form, its communicative processes, its people and its products coalesce and offers a new atmosphere. As if oxygen itself, the atomised micro spaces of life, had multiple dimensions and only through partnership with others could a new space in which to breath become possible. Outside this, the action of creation offers space to breath but isolated bubbles that can be exhausted and lead to choking, blue-lipped asphyxiation. From inside, claims to uniqueness provoke familiar responses, of insider out-creating insider, of new formations that have served the requisite time, proven their credentials. Who are we to claim outsider in the process of finding outsider, easy claims that miss the very purpose of art as linking those microbes of breathable atmosphere. What distinguishes those who claim involvement in such atmospheric creation while indistinguishable from the choking mass of non-creation?
I think Outside In here is not making claims of outsider, not interested in new establishment of uniqueness. The cries are for linking, the necessity of breath, the desire to have the fuel also aired and fired through dialogue and reflection. These are not new spaces, but existing spaces that come from alternate directions. Oxygen that comes from other pipes, farted and burped out without the necessary processing. But oxygen all the same.
Writing this, I am surrounded by discussion about price, deals, budgets, reputation, profit, potential. All necessary elements of how creativity can lead to bread and milk, bed and silk. What outsider excitement I keep within, ignited by chats with artists here, is that becoming allows for breathable air and this is at least a by-product if not the main purpose. This relates to how we might develop future spaces, made tangible by product perhaps, but generating new oxygen, breathing space that is invisible but alters the atmosphere in which we walk, talk, express.
We will create a collaboration between outside in and those others I do not yet know but from whom I want to find breath and give breath. This might be an exhibition, it might become tangible, familiar, purposeful – it might be barely visible alliances and exchange. It will be a space in which those that want to breath new air and create with the opportunity to talk and stare, think, inspire, criticise, praise, wonder, wander or ponder with each other. I think COOCs might offer a space, but really it needn’t be any space at all. It is the connectivity that generates the oxygen, how to make those connections is what Outside In makes some promise for us to consider.