The underworld: outsider artists and the reformulation of Australian art
“Outsider artists”—including artists experiencing incarceration, disability, mental illness and other forms of marginalisation—have been almost completely excluded from histories of Australian art. However, contemporary art is not separate from its “underworld”, from the numerous artists, communities and institutions that are integral to and yet considered beyond the margins of mainstream professional art and art museums. If this underworld has
also, and always, included outsider artists of great but unrecognised artistic significance, would this radically (and not marginally) transform the history of Australian art in the same way that the belated recognition of Indigenous artists has completely altered the history of Australian art?
The project will produce an understanding of outsider artists, their lives, their histories, and the socio-historic context in which they made their work. Integration of these works will lead to a deeper understanding of mainstream art in this country and paint a richer, more complex picture of the history of Australian art. Its results will alter the perspective of arts policy and agencies, and of Australian artists themselves.
Chief Investigators: Dr Anthony White, University of Melbourne, Professor Charles Green, University of Melbourne, Dr Grace McQuilten, RMIT University
Research Assistant: Dr Anna Parlane
RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nations on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.
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