Outsider art is not included in the general category of aesthetics because society has adopted a single minded approach to beauty and taste. Some theorists have put this down to an adaptive unconscious, [i] or to put it differently our conscious mind is only the tip of the iceberg almost all of our feelings, decisions and behaviourisms are the product of information stored in the unconscious which constantly adapts our perspectives of the world. Indeed, most people still view art as an accessory to their home furnishings and have tastes that are influenced by comfort and liveability; hence they often prefer the soft tones and lines of the classical product. Historically, classical taste has been a way for the middle classes to demonstrate their entrepreneurial values against those of the upper classes, principally the aristocracy. The middle classes have always aspired to be like the upper classes and have expressed this by replicating their tastes. The social class systems have a lot to answer for when it comes to the divisions in art. Outsider Art, for instance was considered to be beyond normality a view that supposedly matched the people who created it. Taste, then is not a neutral phenomena.
Taste is said to be an individual’s personal and cultural patterns of choice and preference.[ii] Most of us subscribe to some form of taste that allows us to make distinctions between things we like and those we do not like or find inappropriate and distasteful. Taste relates to most of our choices in life and it usually governs our actions, but taste is not just targeted towards ‘styles, manners, consumer goods and works of art’ [iii] taste is also about social protocol and rules. We are taught from a very early age to obey the rules of taste so as not to offend anyone. Social and cultural phenomena, or taste, are closely associated with the acquisition of power and social relations as well as the way in which we have all been conditioned to live within the prescribed normality. This in turn can be linked to status, education and social origin. Taste also relates to our mental status. People with different abilities are likely to have different tastes as are people from different socio-economic levels. In other words aesthetic preferences are governed by what we have been taught and believe, which in turn guides many of our life-world experiences.
The Outsider artist does not fall into the mainstream levels of taste because s/he abides by a different level of consciousness. It is not the case that the artist has chosen to be Outside the mainstream of society and its prescribed structuring; it is just the way it is. If one takes the adaptive unconsciousness to be a reality then all logical conscious decisions are subject to adaptation by an unknowing pre-conditioning. This makes understanding and accepting Outsider art very difficult for very many people. We cannot simply offer a quick pill fix to alternative behaviour; albeit many have tried. People often fear the unknown and the misunderstood qualities of the Outsider artist. It is true also, that the Outsider artist might not be an easy person to deal with. Temperament plays a crucial part in all creativity. What is not familiar and comfortable to the individual can impact on the senses in a negative way because it plays havoc with the established feelings and emotions – patterns that have been set in place since early infancy – or what the sociologist Pierre Bourdeau has called the habitus. [iv] When the subject is so fixed into the habitus any change sends a warning to the brain that something is wrong whereby the fight or flight mode of operating will cause reaction and recoil.