Voices of the Troubled and the Amateur | Sunday Observer
Outsider Art:

Voices of the Troubled and the Amateur

14 February, 2021

When speaking of music and even art in general, due to its many changes and genres, it is pretty much impossible to pin down an exact definition or a set of rules. But one assumption that was accepted for longer than others was that “good” music came from talent, and that the goal for any prospective musician was to become better at his or her craft. However, with time, just like every other assumption of art, this too has been consistently challenged over the years. One of the most recognized forms of this fresh, unconventional and novel style is Outsider Art.

Though the term itself was coined in 1972, this recognition was decades in the making, the French having already called it Art Brut or Raw Art long before the western equivalent. The term refers to any form of art in any medium created by self-taught artists who have had little to no contact with mainstream art or any formal training.

Usually this means art by the mentally ill, prisoners, children or any individual who existed completely untouched by general culture or society. While the concept is rarer now, culture being as globalized as it is, Outsider Art is very much still a thing, especially in less modernized cultures.

However, it is important to note that despite being labelled Outsider Art, no two works of this style have anything in common, by definition, as these works are always intrinsically personal and unique to its creator.


Unfortunately, due to the lack of training and refinement of skill, the most common reaction to Outsider Art, especially by the public, is that of rejection. Outsider Music is especially jarring to hear as it is generally not made by an artiste with the intent to please audiences nor to sell any records. And while this may invoke a sense of purity surrounding the works, this does not mean the final product is something most people would listen to. Usually, it would be an incomprehensible seemingly random set of lyrics, backed by an equally incoherent and haphazardly put together music track.

As this kind of music is generally made by outsiders from the societal mainstream, it is also usually enjoyed by them too and by people who identify and resonate with the artist’s struggles and their feelings. Background is vital to outsider music and not just any song that is terrible or outside of the mainstream counts as such.

Despite lacking any mainstream appeal, the style has had many big-name fans over the years, such as Matt Groening and the late Kurt Cobain as well as David Bowie. Celebrities are well known for creating their own style and having a vision distinct from the norm.

Of course, when the only thing most fans celebrate about the style is its purity and being unpopular, there are the usually legitimate criticisms that people are just being pretentious. While this can be true, it is not right to dismiss the value that outsider music has. Bringing attention to works such as works e by outcasts of society and mainstream culture, it can lend an important and unique look into their lives and thoughts.