Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)

Apartment Houses, Paris - Jean Dubuffet

Apartment Houses, Paris 1946

Coucou Bazar Turin 1978

1. Coucou Bazar Turin 1978

Ce disque a été édité pour accompagner le catalogue de l'exposition Jean Dubuffet, Coucou Bazar au Musée Unterlinden à Colmar du 29 juin au 20 octobre 2002

Madame Mouche - Jean Dubuffet

Madame Mouche 1945

Musique Brut (Time Records 3008, 1961)

1. Side A
2. Side B

Performed and recorded by Jean Dubuffet january to april 1961.

l'Hourloupe - Jean Dubuffet

Hourloupe 1966

Expériences Musicales / Musical Experiments

1. La Fleur de barbe (Voix et instruments divers), 23:46
2. Temps Radieux (Flute, cithare, xylophone et piano) 05:01
3. Humeur Incertaine (Piano, orgue à bouche chinois, violons, flute, cello, viole) 07:57
4. Coq à l'oeil (Piano solo) 06:27
5. L'eau (Cymbalum, balafon, tambour de geisha) 04:19
6. Gai savoir (Piano, trompette, cello, tambour) 03:37
7. Longue Peine (Papier froissé, 2 bassons, cello) 11:09
8. Terre Foissonnante (Instruments divers) 06:37
9. Prospère, prolifère (Instruments divers) 06:28

Restaurant rougeot I - Jean Dubuffet

Restaurant Rougeot 1 1961

Jean DUBUFFET Expériences Musicales / Musical Experiments

Jean DUBUFFET'S "musical experiments" form a set of 20 pieces, 9 of which have been chosen for this disc.
This selection was made with regard to the "historical" interest of certain works (La fleur de barbe, 1st publicly performed piece - Gai savoir, 1st work using 2 tape recorders - Terre foisonnante, and Prospère, prolifère, his last musical works which were mixed in the recording studio) and with the aim of providing the listener with the widest possible range of the various "instruments" used.

The beautiful heavy breasts - Jean Dubuffet

The Beautiful Heavy Breasts

As the different elements which combined to make up these works were recorded using monophonic techniques, they were all produced in mono during DUBUFFET'S lifetime.
We were lucky enough to be able to use the master tapes for Terre foisonnante and Prospère, prolifere, which were mixed in the recording studio; the elements for the final mix were on two distinct tracks and we have decided to keep them separate so that the listener can better appreciate the procedure employed by the composer.

Times and places - Jean Dubuffet

Times and Places 1979

Similarly, we have not tried to artificially "enhance" the sound quality of these recordings (by adding reverberation, for example) as Jean DUBUFFET who was fully aware of his own (and his equipment's) technical shortcomings, considered the imperfect quality as a random but significant aspect of the end product. Admittedly some of the endings, especially, will appear particularly sudden. To conclude these technical considerations we should point out that one of the tracks in Terre foisonnante fades out before the end; it continues in mono and this is not a sign of a defect in your listening system.

The Cow With The Subtle Nose  - Jean Dubuffet

The Cow with the Subtle Nose 1954

Towards the end of 1960, around Christmas time, my friend Asger Jorn, the Danish painter, invited me round to improvise music with him. I bought a Grundig TK35 tape recorder to capture the spirit of our get-togethers and the first recording of our recreations, done on 27th December was entitled Nez cassé (Broken nose). Many more were soon to follow as we were both so enthralled by these musical experiments that our improvisation sessions were very frequent over the succeeding months. Asger Jorn had a fair bit of experience with the violin and the trumpet; I had a singular experience of the piano which I had made much use of in former times.

Arab palm trees - Jean Dubuffet

Arab Palm Trees 1947

 However the sort of music we had in mind hardly required virtuoso technique as we intended to use our instruments to obtain unconventional effects. In addition to a pretty bad piano, we started off with a violin, a cello, a trumpet, a recorder a Saharan flute, a guitar and a tambourine. We gradually added all sorts of other instruments, some of them out-dated (old-fashioned flutes, a hurdy gurdy), some exotic (of Asian, African or Tzigane origin), some more common -such as the oboe, saxophone, bassoon, xylophone, zither - and some of folk origin, such as the cabrette and the bombarde - basically, whatever we discovered as we went along. The musician Alain Vian, who has a shop rue Grégoire-de-Tours in Paris selling strange and rare collector's instruments, was of great assistance; he not only took part once or twice in our little concerts but also managed to find, and sometimes even make, suitable instruments for us.

Jean Dubuffett

At the time, neither Asger Jorn nor myself were au fait with the output of contemporary composers and weren't even familiar with the instigators of serialism, dodecaphony, electronic music and musique concrète. Indeed I only learned these terms recently. My own musical experience was limited to fairly cursory study of classical music on the piano, which I played a lot as a child and teenager and gave up when about 20. Later when I was 35, 1 took up the accordion and its traditional music (with only moderate success) and went back to the piano for a year when I was about 40 to play music by Duke Ellington, interspersed with improvisations on the harmonium. There followed a period when I took a violent dislike to European music and only enjoyed listening to Eastern and Oriental music (I had become fond of the former during my trips to the Sahara).

Autoportrait II 1966

As for the tape recorder, I was a complete novice. It was only later on that I was to realise that my recordings, done on amateur equipment, left a lot to be desired compared to those carried out by professionals. Strangely enough, however I am not convinced that the latter are really superior. Similarly, I often prefer photographs taken by poorly equipped amateurs than those of specialists. In my subsequent dealings with technicians, I felt that the downside to certain benefits of the care they took in setting-up their equipment, was an inhibiting effect; even if the resulting recordings were very clear and free of flaws and hiccups, they weren't necessarily any more evocative. I believe that all spheres of the arts could benefit from using simpler techniques. I also believe in getting down to basics, I am all for rugged and unaffected charms rather than frills and furbelows. There is another more important reason for my attitude.

Grand Maitre of the Outsider 1947

 We consider that a good recording provides precise and distinct sound which seems to be coming from a close source; in our daily lives, however our hearing is submitted to all sorts of other sounds which, more often than not, are unclear muddled, far from pure, distant and only partially audible. To ignore them is to give birth to a specious artform, exclusively concerned with a single category of sounds which, when it comes down to it, are pretty uncommon in everyday life. I was aiming to produce music based not on a selection of sounds but on sounds that can be heard anywhere on any day and especially those that one hears without really being aware of them. My rudimentary equipment was better suited to this than the most sophisticated machines. Having decided to collect and use whatever kinds of sounds I came across, the sometimes unexpected sounds which in I, tape recorder played back to me were at least as interesting (and sometimes more so) than those I had actually intended to record. When the surprises were in my opinion uninteresting, I rubbed them off, but sometimes they were incredibly good.

It flute on the bump - Jean Dubuffet

It Flute in the Bump 1947

 I transformed a room in my house into a music workshop and in the periods between our get-togethers with Asger Jorn I became a one-man band, playing each of my fifty-odd instruments in turn. Thanks to my tape recorder I was able to play each part successively on the same tape and have the machine play everything back simultaneously. I went about it step by step, recording over the bad sections and using scissors and sticky tape to cut, join and put everything together Such a method entails a lot of trial and error: as it was impossible to hear what I had already recorded when playing a new part, it was very tricky to synchronize them and, struggling to get exactly what I wanted, I had to start over and over again. Nevertheless, the fact that it was so difficult to keep things under control and that I had to trust to luck meant that the risks of failure were offset by the possibility of unexpected surprises. I later added a second tape recorder which enabled me to transfer material from one machine to the other, to play whilst listening to what had already been recorded and to make as many changes as I liked without spoiling the initial recording when the new elements proved disappointing.

Mire G21 - Jean Dubuffet

Mire G21 1983

The first tape produced in these circumstances is rather unusual as it is a poem, La fleur de barbe, which is declaimed, chanted and vaguely sung by several voices mixed together (which are all in fact mine) with occasional instrumental accompaniment. The subsequent recordings are the result of two diverging approaches which I hesitated between and which are probably both apparent in at least some pieces. The first was an attempt to produce music with, a very human touch, in other words, which expressed people's moods and their drives as well as the sounds, the general hubbub and the sonorous backdrop of our everyday lives, the noises to which we are so closely connected and, although we don't realize it, have probably endeared themselves to us and which we would be hard put to do without. There is an osmosis between this permanent music which carries us along and the music we ourselves express; they go together to form the specific music which can be considered as a human beings. Deep down I like to think of this music as music we make, in contrast to another very different music, which greatly stimulates my thoughts and which I call music we listen to. The latter is completely foreign to us and our natural tendencies; it is not human at all and could lead us to hear (or imagine) sounds which would be produced by the elements themselves, independent of human intervention.

Activation XLVII - Jean Dubuffet

Activation XLVII 1985

 They would be as strange as what we might hear if we were to put our ear to some opening leading to a world other than our own or if we were to suddenly develop a new form of hearing with which we would become aware of a strange tumult that our senses had been unable to pick up and which might come from elements which were supposedly involved in silent action, such as humus decomposing, grass growing or minerals undergoing transformation. I should point out that in both these categories of music and even when I blend them into one and the same (never mind if this seems illogical), there is a clear preference for very composite sounds which appear to be formed by a great number of voices calling to mind distant murmurs, communities, hustle and bustle and hives of activity. I also have a preference for music without variations, not structured according to a particular system but unchanging, almost formless, as though the pieces had no beginning and no end but were simply extracts taken haphazardly from a ceaseless and ever-flowing score. I must admit that I find this idea very pleasing.

Nu bedecked - Jean Dubuffet

Nu Bedecked 1943

I am, however well aware of the gap between my intentions and the actual results. The experiments which are available in the small collection of records should be considered as outlines for a programme which, if it were to be finalized, would require a lot of improvements such as enhanced recording techniques and better use of each of the instruments. It might also be necessary to modify the instruments or make better adapted ones.
In the meantime, there is still a lot of room for experiment with what is already available. With any instrument one comes across one can get such a great variety of sound effects that it may not be worth looking for others. Instrumental technique and a thorough knowledge of how to get the most from the instruments are clearly sorely lacking; I am very aware that they would be of great use to me.

Site visited - Jean Dubuffet

Site Visited 1981

It might be, however that this would lead to the loss of the benefit of certain unexpected windfalls which can come of improvising on an instrument one doesn't really know how to use. Having said this, the tracks included on this record were not intended as finished works but as the initial experiments of someone venturing into what is for him, largely unfamiliar territory. I would very much hope that musicians accept to treat them as such.

Jean DUBUFFET, April 1961 

Translation by Matthew Daillie

  • It was around 1935 or 1936 that I first had the idea of compiling a history of art – not in the usual way, but considering only the fads that have succeeded one another down through the ages. For example, the infatuation in Roman times with broken pleats and heads turned in profile.. ..or during the epoch of Pérugin and Rahael, a certain blue that appears everywhere. I wanted to draw up an inventory of these vogues. To this end I visited museums, took notes in little notebooks, and made demonstrative sketches of paintings. For this purpose I preferred bad paintings, by which I mean those held to be mediocre by aesthetes, but in which these fads that interested me were clearly in evidence.
    • Batons rompus, Jean Dubuffet, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris 1986, pp. 17, 18

  • I have always been haunted by the feeling that the painter has much to gain from making use of the forces that tend to work against his action
    • as quoted in Jean Dubuffet, Works, writings Interviews, edited by Valerie da Costa and Fabrice Hergott, Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona 2006, p. 9

  • In all my works.. .. I have always had recourse to one never-varying method. It consists in making the delineation of the objects represented heavily dependent on a system of necessities which itself looks strange. These necessities are sometimes due to the inappropriate and awkward character of the material used, sometimes to some strange obsessive notion (frequently changed for another). In a word, it is always a matter of giving the person who is looking at the picture a startling impression that a weird logic has directed the painting of it, a logic to which the delineation of every object is subjected, is even sacrificed, in such a peremptory way that, curiously enough, it forces the most unexpected solutions, and, in spite of the obstacles it creates, brings out the desired figuration.
    • Peter Selz and Jean Dubuffet: The work of Jean Dubuffet, The Museum of Modern art, New York, 1962

  • I had given up ( around 1950, fh) any ambition of making a career as an artist… ..I had lost all interest in the art shown in galleries and museums, and I no longer aspired to fit in that world. I loved the paintings done by children, and my only desire was to do the same for my own pleasure.
    • Batons rompus, Jean Dubuffet, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris 1986, pp. 7-8

  • A work of art is only of interest, in my opinion, when it is an immediate and direct projection of what is happening in the depth of a person’s being.. ..It is my belief that only in this Art Brut can we find the natural and normal processes of artistic creation in their pure and elementary state.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, pp. 203-204

  • Our culture is like a garment that does not fit us, or in any case no longer fits us. This culture is like a dead language that no longer has anything in common with the language of the street. It is increasingly alien to our lives.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 94

  • There is no such thing as abstract art, or else all art is abstract, which amounts tot the same thing. Abstract art no more exists than does curved art yellow art or green art.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 206

  • Man’s need for art is absolutely primordial, as strong as, and perhaps stronger than, our need for bread. Without bread, we die of hunger, but without art we die of boredom.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. I, as quoted in Jean Dubuffet, Works, writings Interviews, edited by Valerie da Costa and Fabrice Hergott, Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona 2006, p. 14

  • (Jean) Fautrier’s exhibition (in Paris 1945,fh) made an extremely strong impression on me. Art had never before appeared so fully realised in its pure state. The word 'art' had never before been so loaded with meaning for me.
    • letter to Jean Paulhan (letter 108), as quoted in Jean Dubuffet, Works, writings Interviews, edited by Valerie da Costa and Fabrice Hergott, Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona 2006, pp. 23,28

  • The technique used heavy, spiky pastes made of nothing other than ordinary oil paint, used thick and mixed with sand and gravel. I some cases – but these were the exception – a few miscellaneous objects were stuck into the wet paint, such as bits of string or little pieces of glass or mirror. (remark on his technique Dubuffet used in his series Hautes Pâtes, exhibited in 1946, fh)
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 428

  • I have always directed my attempts at the figurative representation of objects by way of summary and not very descriptive brushstrokes, diverging greatly from the real objective measurements of things, and this has led many people to talk about childish drawing.. ..this position of seeing them (the objects, fh) without looking at them too much, without focussing more attention on them than any ordinary man would in normal everyday life..
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 105

  • What seems interesting to me is to reproduce in the figurative representation of an object the whole complex system of impressions we receive in the normal course of everyday life, the way this affects our feelings and the shape it takes in our memory; and it is to this that I have always applied myself.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 103

  • I do not see in what way the face of a man should be a less interesting landscape than any other. A man, the physical person of a man, is a little world, like any other a country, with its towns, and suburbs.. ..As a rule what is needed in a portrait is a great deal of the general, and very little of the particular.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 63-73
  • I have observed that very often I gain access to a little secret that I have sought for a long time by way of a fortuitous encounter quite unrelated to the matter: for example six months I try to draw a camel in a way that satisfies me, and I make a thousand attempts without ever managing to do it. Then one day it is a drawing of a plump on the label of a pot of jam or the shadow thrown by an ink pot, or something or other equally unrelated to the matter that provides me with the solution. This kind of thing has happened so often that I have acquired the habit of always being on the outlook, and when I want to draw a camel I no longer limit myself, as I once did, to looking (only, fh) at camels…
    • letter to Jean Paulhan (letter 123), as quoted in Jean Dubuffet, Works, writings Interviews, edited by Valerie da Costa and Fabrice Hergott, Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona 2006, p. 44

  • I have tried to draw the human effigy (and all the other subjects dealt with in my paintings) in an immediate and effective way without any reference to the aesthetic.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 430

  • With respect to the use of this sparkling coloured material (butterfly wings around 1955, fh) – the constituent parts of which remain indistinguishable – with the aim of producing a very vivid effect of scintillation, I realised that, for me, this responds to needs of the same order as those that formerly led me, in many drawings and paintings, to organize my lines and patches of colour so that the objects represented would meld into everything around them, so that the result would be a sort of continuous, universal soup with an intensive flavour of life.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 116

  • Art should be born from the materials.
    • Notes pour les finslettrés, as quoted in Jean Dubuffet, Works, writings Interviews, edited by Valerie da Costa and Fabrice Hergott, Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona 2006, p. 68

  • I want my street to be crazy, I want my avenues, shops and buildings, to enter into a crazy dance, and this is why I deform and distort their outlines and colours. However I always come up against the same difficulty, that if all the elements were one by one deformed and distorted excessively, if in the end nothing remained of their real outlines, I would have totally effaced the location that I intended to suggest, that I wished to transform.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 483

  • ..I have never managed to grasp what exactly 'pataphysics' consisted of; but in short what I have always seen in it is a desire to disconnect philosophy from the discipline of logic, and to admit incoherence as a legitimate component of it. (comment on visiting frequently the Collège de 'Pataphysique', fh)
    • Batons rompus, Jean Dubuffet, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris 1986, p. 19

  • I associated it (the word 'Hourloupe', as title of his longest series of work he made exclusively from 1962 to 1974, fh) by assonance with ‘hurler’ (to shout), hululer (to howl), loup, (wolf), ‘Riquet à la Houppe’ and the title of Maupassant’s book ‘Le Horla’, inspired by mental distraction.
    • Biographie au pas de course, in Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. IV, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1995, p. 510

  • I took a great deal of pleasure in it, and I still feel nostalgic about it. However, I felt that it had led me to live in a parallel world of pure invention, shut inside my solitude. Naturally, it was precisely for that purpose that it was made and that was why I took pleasure in it, but I wanted to regain body and roots.
    • Batons rompus, Jean Dubuffet, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris 1986, pp. 34-35

  • It pleased me (and I think this predilection is more or less constant in all my paintings) to juxtapose brutally, in these feminine bodies, the extremely general and the extremely particular, the metaphysical and the grotesque trivial. In my view, the one is considerably reinforced by the presence of the other. (on his series 'Corps de Dame')
    • Prospectus et tous ecits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Paris, Gallimard, 1967

  • What interests me about thoughts is not the moment when it crystallises into formal ideas but its earlier stages.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. I, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 97

  • Art does not lie down on the bed that is made for it; it runs away as soon as one says its name; it loves to go incognito. Its best moments are when it forgets what it is called.
    • "Alan Magee: Paintings, Sculpture, Graphics." Forum Gallery, New York, 2004

  • At present (around 1960-1970, fh) I make objects (whether a type-writer, wheelbarrow, bed or fishingboat..) very ‘hourloupés’. What I mean is that I am swimming upstream against the ‘l’Hourloupe’ current. I am approaching it from the opposite direction: instead of starting out with indeterminate lines that eventually give me a wheelbarrow, I start out with the idea of making a wheelbarrow and then add my indeterminate lines. In effect what I am doing is making the current run simultaneously in both directions at the same time.
    • comment on the occasion of his 1984 exhibition at the Venice Biennale, as quoted in Jean Dubuffet, Works, writings Interviews, edited by Valerie da Costa and Fabrice Hergott, Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona 2006, p. 81.

  • Starting from a drawing, a pure creation of the mind, I expand it in space by giving it three dimensions, by giving it a material body (in polystyrene, fh) and then enlarge it to the proportions of a site where it can evolve. In this way, instead of having only the drawing before you while remaining anchored in the everyday world, you can finally leave the world and penetrate into drawing, and thus inhabit the creation of the mind instead of merely looking at it prudently in a frame on the wall. The experience consists, therefore, in abstracting yourself totally from the natural everyday world in order to feed your eyes solely on your own mental elaborations.
    • note of 7 mai 1968, quoted in the catalogue of the exhibition La Fiast invita all’incontro con Jean Dubuffet, Turin 1978

  • ... to challenge the objective nature of being. The notion of being is presented here as relative rather than irrefutable: it is merely a projection of our minds, a whim of our thinking. The mind has the right to establish being wherever it cares to and for as long as it likes. There is no intrinsic difference between being and fantasy.