On marginality

Have you seen “marginal” art? Did you even qualify it as art at first? How did it make you feel? What is essentially marginality? Do we need to question it, and why?

Modern branches of art can be perplexing. Sometimes you get them, mostly you don’t. But often, they just make you ask questions and use your attention and imagination in a different way. Our brain just needs to be poked here and there, even if it never manages to discover the intended profoundness of some contemporary artists. 

And just like that, just as you are finishing this kind of brain-poking, regrettfully-leading-to-nothing exercise, you stumble upon something like this.

Wait, what? Is this art?
You start feeling shocked, slightly uncomfortable for an unclear reason, then a little embarrassed from the fact that you truly don’t get it. You desperately look for the subtitles, before anyone figures that you actually have no clue what is this image doing in front of you at a modern art exhibition.

Ooooh ok. This is marginal art. Yes, of course, duh.
In fact, you still don’t get it.

Maybe because you (a.k.a. I) never questioned what marginality is. You have perhaps heard here and there about “people with marginal behavior”, which means to say perhaps “uneducated, unwell behaved, maybe simple, most likely poor”. Then you might have heard of “marginal groups of society” on the news, but Lord – those must be just a bunch of weirdos.

According to social science, the “marginal personality” is one, which is at the intersection (at the margins, a ha!) of two cultures and two societies, which have not completely merged. Society has defined many groups, which differ from the dominant culture as marginal. In other cases, however, marginality is by choice, for religious or artistic reasons, for example, where people choose to stay at the margins.

Then there, in between sociology, social discrimination and self-discrimination, marginal art has emerged. It is not always obvious why a naked malnourished woman, laying in a rusty bathtub embracing a goose, is considered art. Neither is it obvious why a deformed face in front of a deformed house is.

Perhaps it is in order to evoke shock, to make us see those who we have comfortably decided to keep unseen. To question, why have we designated them as marginal, or why have they chosen to lead this kind of lifestyle. Sometimes, marginality is all they know, it is their normal. They neither know they are marginal, nor do they care about it.

Questioning marginality can be as productive as questioning a pot of mussels, which is a central piece of art in the modern art exhibition. Yet, there is a danger in not questioning it at all. Because there is a reason for the pot of mussels to be there.

Take a few more tiny doses of life here.

Some related content:
On how to recognize a soul
On showing up with no mission

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