Outsider Art: On the Importance of Repetition in the Artist’s Work and on the Traces of Matter in his Mastersignifier

In the context of the debate on the art value of outsider art (in the two following senses: valuable art versus devalued art, and the value of outsider art for art history) the author investigates the central place of repetition for the artist in the creative process. Firstly, the surplus-aesthetic-value of an outsider-work-of-art is partly assigned to the manifest repetition that is found in this work. Support for a connection between aesthetics and repetition is found, on the one hand, in the work of established artists like Andy Warhol and, on the other, in Lacan’s seminar L’ éthique de la psychanalyse (1959-1960). Secondly, repetition, as it manifests itself in art, is interpreted as being the frame of the fantasy that protects the subject but that also simultaneously compels him or her. This compulsive repetition is often related to the signifier of the Name-of-the-Father as anchoring point for the fantasy in the work of outsider art artists. Different forms of the repetitive and compulsive appearance of the Name-of-the-Father are illustrated using short vignettes about outsider art artists. Thirdly, the fundamental importance stressed of the material that is repeatedly and compulsively incorporated as object a is established. It is proposed that this material, via association, can be transformed into an independent thinking language from which, via repetition, the master signifier and the signature of the artist develop.