Towards a Farthing Party con report: Mad Art

Mad Art. So this panel was somewhat about outsider art, somewhat about art by the literally mentally ill, and somewhat about the cool things we would not expect from art but get anyway because we live in a very weird future. (Example of the last: Balinese bluegrass. Really.) There was a lot of discussion about obsessive art, the people who build and build without particular permission or reinforcement from external factors, often with tiny fractal details. Henry Darger, Leaf By Niggle, Mary Lamb, Elizabeth Hand’s Mortal Love, The Fairy Feller’s Masterstroke, and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain all came up on this panel. One panelist talked about Burning Man experiences, another about photography and another about pottery.

There was significant annoyance from the panel at the fact that children are mostly taught that they don’t know how to draw, that we’re taught a left brain/right brain dichotomy that actual neuropsychological research has more or less completely overturned, and that there is cultural support for the idea of an art vs. technology gulf which doesn’t exist. One panelist proposed that art is a normal property of being human, including horrible situations like the Haitian kids since the earthquake. This position was particularly opposed to the idea that art was entirely inborn/magical as opposed to substantially the result of work and practice.

I was a little uncomfortable with the discussion of autistic artists as though they were a separate category from persons present in the room, a “them” rather than part of an “us,” but the person doing so did not in any way seem to think that “they” were a bad, wrong, or inexplicable “them.” Also at least one autistic artist present was comfortable adding to this part of the discussion, relating to autism, hyperfocus, and art, noting that not all hyperfocus is monofocus, so the us/them was not maintained; good.

I didn’t go to the Cordwainer Smith panel due to having some time to help entertain a certain really great baby. So that’s up through Sunday morning.

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