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Eternity Has No Door of Escape:  Encounters With Outsider Art    cover photo

Eternity Has No Door of Escape: Encounters With Outsider Art 2017

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Icarus Films, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Produced by Les Films d’un Jour
Directed by Arthur Borgnis
DVD, color, 88 min.



College - General Adult
Art, Art History, Artists, Mental Health, Mental Health Services, Museums, Mysticism, Psychiatrists, Psychotherapy, Surrealism

Date Entered: 10/26/2018

Reviewed by Jeanette Aprile, University at Buffalo

There is an expansive wonder to this aptly titled film, Eternity Has No Door of Escape. Much is covered, and the film’s images serve as a study in the “poetics of the unconscious,” and as an exploration of the ever-elusive question, “What is art?”

The film’s core topic is art brut (or as it is now known in English, “outsider art”). The term was originally coined by artist and collector Jean Dubuffet, and dates to the mid-1940s when Dubuffet became interested in artworks outside the mainstream in France and Switzerland. Works previously considered marginal (if they were considered at all,) came to be celebrated by Dubuffet as wellsprings of unconscious creativity uncontaminated by society’s influences.

“The artistry of the mentally ill,” as articulated by psychiatrist-collector Dr. Hans Prinzhorn is featured here, with primal images that reflect the merging of psychiatry and the culture expressed by post-structuralists such as Maurice Blanchot, Michel Foucault, and Gilles Deleuze.

The boundaries of art and mental illness, while emphasized, are not the only subjects of Dubuffet’s art brut. Movements related to spiritualism and its objective of transcendence, self-hypnosis, and automatism are also represented along with the simultaneously emerging universe of the surrealist. Director Arthur Borgnis gives thorough examination to art brut’s founding artists and works, but also to the setting and cultural contexts in which art brut found its original meaning.

The transition of Dubuffet’s post-war conception of art brut to the explosion of “outsider art” in the 1970’s and 80’s is at the heart of this film. How are artistic movements born and how do they come to be recognized? How are they promoted and established? An irony is introduced - the out is now in, and art brut also en vogue.

This film features art collectors as its protagonists (as opposed to artists,) and gives insight into the appraisal of artistic work. The viewer observes the collector’s crucial role in developing a movement as the museum ensure its growth. Meanwhile, practical problems are not overlooked. Housing the collection, displaying it, moving it - all are addressed in the film. Art brut poses startling problems for the sleek and crisp museum world (“gassing” some of the works is a matter of serious consideration).

Eternity Has No Door of Escape: Encounters with Outsider Art is highly recommended due to its absorbing subject-matter and multi-faceted perspective. Patrons of academic and public libraries from a variety of disciplines will enjoy this film.