We are still Romantics. For all the irony, cynicism, and calculation that govern the making and selling of art today, there is still great fascination with “outsider art” or “art brut,” especially that made by the autistic and mentally ill. We are drawn irresistibly to artists whose work seems to come from somewhere else, from “beyond.” We still want to discover the mantis, the human vessel through whom the uncanny passes. The roots of this need lie in deep anthropological soil, in primitive religion, in ancient philosophy, in Saint Paul. We are still entranced by the charm of innocence.
Mark Lilla is Professor of Humanities at the Columbia University (New York); currently he is Guest at the IWM.
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