MAD MARGINAL / Archives,
Dora García, 2011

The Mad Marginal archive project is an open-ended amassment of archival documents. The piece shown at Rosascape presents a selection of these documents, but new elements are constantly being added to the collection: interviews, encounters, documents the artist has recently come across, or notes from her latest readings, etc... These documents all tell stories, and in particular one story, around which all the others gravitate, be it closely or remotely: the birth of antipsychiatry.

We are thus led to gage the discrepancy between the proper function of an archival document and the purpose Dora García confers on it. You might expect an archival document to provide an objective representation of a past event, but Dora García tends, rather, to use such elements to encourage thoughts to emerge. She uses the documents like a base for a theoretical form of enquiry, but also for participation in a shared experience. Although the object of the archival file might appear off-putting, affect is never relegated to the sidelines. Indeed, there is also an element of pleasure at work. And surely the pleasure of wandering along these paths of thought and scattered fragments of stories is one of the guiding threads of the artist's research. Working their way through the collection of documents, the reader experiences a similar kind of pleasure, and this very principle then guides their reading.

During our interview Dora García constantly foiled my attempts to present the artistic value of her work. Indeed, she wishes to disrupt the boundary which delimits and encapsulates certain objects or actions as 'artworks'. But she lets slip a word which is absolutely central. "Beauty". "The beauty of ideas", she goes on to add. But how do you define this beauty and how do you recognize it? How does it relate to the element of pleasure just mentioned? Is beauty, for an object, text or image, the act of showing us something new and experiencing pleasure through this very discovery? This conception doubtlessly has little to do with retinian beauty as (damningly) conceived by Duchamp. It is a beauty which both accepts and goes beyond the intractable positions of the modern period, for it is conceived otherwise.

Dora García's desire to depart from the art world is crucially a desire to break with the world of institutional art — although it might also be interpreted as a return to the essential. Marginality only exists in relation to a norm; the two go hand in hand. In this way, dismissing the idea of beauty might yesterday have branded you as marginal, while marginality might today consist precisely in bringing this notion to the fore. What was previously considered marginal becomes the norm and vice versa. What remains unquestionable, however, is that Dora García's reference to beauty effectively inscribes her within an artistic tradition.

Thus, from a reflection on the discrepancy between the image and reality which I had taken as my premise for orienting the interview, I then embraced the concept of metaphor. With Dora García, it seemed some kind of 'metaphorical' use of the document was at work, definitively distancing her approach from that of any social science researcher. This observation led me to reaquaint myself with a book by Paul Ricoeur, La métaphore vive, in which he discusses the dual function of the metaphor in Aristotelian theory — the rhetorical and the poetic. This reference is all the more interesting given that, to discuss poetic metaphor, Ricoeur revives Aristotle's definition of art as "imitation of nature". Just like "beauty", "imitation" suggests a conception of art which might seem absolutely antiquated and irrelevant now. However, Ricoeur gives the notion of imitation a new and suggestive turn, and I found in this text elements which paved the way for an alternative approach to the Mad Marginal project.

The archival documents mobilised in this project are, intrinsically, documents which imitate and copy events. When Ricoeur reclaims the Aristotelian conception of art as "imitation of nature" he is wary of misinterpretation and is therefore careful to remind us that Aristotle drew a distinction between poetics and history. Both mimic nature, but in radically different ways. History is a study of specific facts. It delivers a faithful description, thus yielding to the reality it observes. Poetics is a creation. Whether based on real, specific events or not, it goes beyond the limits of the given fact. Dora García's project enacts a transfer from one order to another: she extracts the elements from the reality of their historical contexts, thus displacing them.

What distinguishes the artist's work from a sociological or historical project is I
ts absence of specific purpose and her lack of concern for precision or objectivity. DG handles the documents freely, making them an expression of her own singularity and conveying a wide scope of ideas and affects. The documents and the matricial theme itself, antipsychiatry, undergo a similar process of displacement — a shift which gives way to a fundamental reflection on art and the figure of the artist.

Indeed, each time we consider the figure of the insane person — a marginal subject, located outside society, a producer of mental images who lives in a world of their own and is identified as 'insane' by an institution — the figure of the artist is immediately brought into sharp relief. That is to say: the artist, located outside of society, a producer of images and the creator of a specific world, recognised as 'artist' by an institution. However, the project does not instrumentalise antipsychiatry as a pretext for rising from the realm of the real towards the abstract, ideal register of art. What occurs is a shift towards another order of reality: towards a reality which is not factual or confined to the past, but dynamic and oriented towards the present and the future. No longer the world of hospital wards but the world of galleries.

With the artist's metaphorical and poetic use of the archival document, imitation of nature becomes a reconstruction of events and human actions but also, and crucially, a displacement.

Positing such a close connection between the figure of the artist and the figure of the mental patient or the "insane" person is not a novel proposition in itself, nor is it even a specifically artistic proposition — it is DG's insistence on the ties and the particular style of her approach which give it an original dimension. In its inception, antipsychiatry was a far-ranging revolutionary movement which thus went beyond the medical sphere to put into play important social issues. But the manner in which DG highlights this perfect parallel between madness and artistic creation remains no less original and singular.

At the request of the artist, Rosascape organised a public encounter between Dora García and Esther Ferrer, an artist who, in contrast to DG, played an active part in the antipsychiatry movement. Esther Ferrer's direct experience has given her a very different and more factual perspective on the phenomenon, while DG positions herself on an altogether different level, using antipsychiatry as a metaphor which brings to light a fundamental truth about the situation of the artist — whatever the era or the struggles.

This is why, to be consistent with the artist's position, I will not use the concept of artwork to qualify Dora García's project. But may I then be permitted to speak of poetry... Claiming neither objectivity nor working with the methodological rigour of scientific research, the artist distances herself from the event as such to reflect on its implications, its consequences, and the truth it delivers. A truth about art and the artistic practice which makes itself felt or manifests itself via the documents — these instruments of a singular testimony, opening up a reflection of an existential, and therefore universal order.

Theodora Domenech
(Translated from the French by Anna Preger)

Listen the interview with Dora García

Data sheet