We are curious creatures, by nature and habit. We feed our curiosity by manipulating the boundaries of the material world surrounding us. As we push back on those boundaries the environment within ourselves remains largely enigmatic. Of all the curiosities of the human condition few stimulate deeper pause than our reflections on normalcy. In light of the clinical and theistic discourses we’ve architected through our efforts to interrogate normalcy, we are often paused by events that shift the signposts delineating insiders from outsiders, the markers that separate us from them.
It’s through these discourses that we come to accept what it means to be normal, and it’s through the artist that we are offered a glimpse into the world of the abnormal. The artist’s conventional utility is that of a window through which we can safely peer into worlds we dare not explore ourselves. Satisfying both our voyeuristic impulses and our need to cast derision, shame or praise.
The artist excavates madness through artistic discourse. Unlike theism and science, the arts provide a lens through which the experience of madness can be expressed commonly. The artist functions as both an outsider and an insider. The artist assumes the role of the contemporary, an observer of convention, allowing audiences to peer into the underpinning darkness. The artist’s work has allowed us to observe madness with sympathy and awe. Through the clumsy exploits of would be knights, or as a manifest of arcane knowledge and power. The artist’s work reflects madness through the prisms of gender, race, sexuality and civilization.
Madness and normalcy; the perspectives of outsiders and observers, converge through artistic expression in challenging and relevant discourse. A discourse that has broad implications for individuals and communities alike and can help us interrogate the madness taboo through a multiplicity of lenses beyond the immediacy of our own experiences. This is the vital role of the artist.