as the abbreviated and vulgar slang variation on “forniquer” (“niquer”). Alongside references to familiar motifs and self-conscious punning,

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‚Up the Garden Path with Jean Dubuffet™Citation for published version:Duffy, J 2015, ‘‚Up the Garden Path with Jean Dubuffet™’, Word and Image , vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 317-35. Object Identifier (DOI):10.1080/02666286.2014.927277Link:Link to publication record in Edinburgh Research ExplorerDocument Version:Peer reviewed versionPublished In:Word and ImagePublisher Rights Statement:© Duffy, J. (2014). ‚Up the Garden Path with Jean Dubuffet™. Word and Image , 30(4), 317-35. / “This is anAccepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Word and Image on 19/01/2015, availableonline: rightsCopyright for the publications made accessible via the Edinburgh Research Explorer is retained by the author(s)and / or other copyright owners and it is a condition of accessing these publications that users recognise andabide by the legal requirements associated with these rights.Take down policyThe University of Edinburgh has made every reasonable effort to ensure that Edinburgh Research Explorercontent complies with UK legislation. If you believe that the public display of this file breaches copyright pleasecontact providing details, and we will remove access to the work immediately andinvestigate your claim.Download date: 08. Jan. 2022

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1 Up the Garden Path with Dubuffet 1 In the decades since the publication of Asphyxiante culture and the first two volumes of Prospectus et tous é crits suivants interest among academic critics as his paintings and sculptures. 2 Not only a prolific writer , Dubuffet was a n exceptionally articulate and informative commentator o n his own work , and the many lucid and analytical auto – commentaries that figure in the es says, prefaces and talks collected in the Prospectus , in the thirty – eight – volume Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet and in his extensive correspondence 3 have revealed a highly reflective and reasoned underpinning to his artistic activity and offered very useful perspectives on both the constants and the variables in his wide – ranging uvre, on the ways in which his successive series were developed and on the technical detail of his methods and handling of materials. S ignificant sections of the writings collected in the four – v olume Prospectus have been translated and anthologised in exhibition catalogues and in free – standing compilations of his writing and , with his published correspondence, have offered scholars a ready – made template for the analysis of his artistic output. Du in particular Asphyxiante Culture , but also related texts such as Positions anticulturelles and Honneur aux valeurs sauvages 4 have become more or less compulsory points of reference in any discussion of Art Brut / Outsider Art in its various guises and they frequently figure also as indicative coordinates in more general surveys of the art, culture and cultural theory of the mid – twentieth century. jargon 5 have received much less attention, most studies simply mentioning them in passing . The reasons for this relative neglect are readily identified . Most of these volumes were published in small print runs and may be consulted almost exclusively in the specia l collections of research libraries. In addition, their inaccessibility is not si mply physical; usually hand – written, mangling the syntax of standard

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2 French, using approximate , idiosyncratic and inconsistent phonetic spelling , and ignoring the spacing conventions of the standard written language, they resist immediate understanding , often yielding their meaning only after they have been dec rypted or read aloud. Moreover, the deciphered text often seems to be a poor reward for effort: ostensibly, the content is banal, repetitive and at times obscene. Of the few critics who have discussed the jargon texts at any length , the work of Michel Thé voz is the most sophisticated and suggestive. Thévoz opts for a biographical and psychoanalytical approach, arguing that what he sees as problematical relationship with language originates in his difficult rel ationship with his authoritarian, bibliophile father who preferred the company of the b ooks in his extensive library to that of his wife and son and who expected from the latter the attainment of the first place in all his school – subjects , 6 Biographie au pas de course , Thévoz antagonism towards instituted language and what Thévoz sees as the uglossic tendencies manifested in the invented langue peau – rouge ( Red Indian l anguage ) that he used in his childhood games , 7 in his fascination with graffiti , with hieroglyphics and various ancient and modern languages, 8 in his championing of poésie brute and in his jargon texts can productively be read in terms of repressed dipal drives : At the origin of Dubuffet’s literary activity there is therefore a utopia, or uglossia as the linguists call it, or in other words the belief in a first language, pre – Babel, phylogenetically a nterior to the law of the Father, and consequently untouched by any sollicitation of power, a primitive language, childish in the etymological sense of the word, a language, if we can risk this paradox, hallucinated at times by paranoiacs or mediums. The l ogophobia manifested toward the languages so improperly called

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3 natural is always the other face of a passionate logophilia, polarized by an intrauterine fantasy of interpersonal fusion, of immediacy, of unity, of totality, of ineffable communion. 9 According to Thévoz phonetic transcription and his defiance of the censorship imposed on the play of meaning by standard spelling not only obstruct intelligibility; by forcing the reader to articulate ph ysically the words, Dubuffet reactivates the libidinal genealogy of verbal expression and the excremental origin of concepts. 10 While Thévoz ultimately a rather speculative piece and offers little direct insight into individual works. Monumental et irrécusable de Dubuffet jargon texts ( Ler dla canpane , 1 948, Anvouaiaje par in ninbesil avec de zimaje , 1948 and Labonfam abeber, par inbo nom , 1950) and highlights . 11 However, citing a letter from Dubuffet from 1962 , he accepts claims that the jargon texts from then onwards are written in complete jargon that is composed of words whose meaning is problematical 12 and does not consider the very important La botte à nique which, as we shall see, is ultimately decipherable . In those critical studies that refer more broadly to the jargon texts , the latter figure largely as instances of a more general tr end in contemporary writing and as adjuncts to – cultural / pro – art brut campaign. Most frequently , critics set these works within the context of the radical disruption of standard French conven tions perpetrated by a number of contemporary writers , many of whom Dubuffet knew well. Suggestive c omparisons are drawn the poetry of Henri Michaux , Francis Ponge and Andr é Martel who served as his secretary for a period , 13

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4 with the theatrical writings of Antonin Artaud , whom Dubuffet helped to support financially towards the end of his li fe , and with the fiction of Ludovic Massé and Henry Poulaille . 14 Raymond Roussel and, in his later years, in that of Robert Pinget and Valère Novarina is also indicative of a shared fascination for the ludic and the neologistic. 15 However, it is , of course , the novels of Louis – Ferdinand Cé line and of Queneau that are generally regarded as offering the most telling parallels with anti – cultural stance and his jargon texts . 16 D isintengling strands of influence is always problematical but , in the case of Dubuffet , t he problem is compounded by his declarations and disavowals of allegiance and by the ever – changing dynamics of his relationships . His communications with Queneau are telli ng : letters from 1950 17 show a slightly deferential Dubuffet at pains to convince the novelist that , when he wrote his first jargon texts , he had been unaware of Ecr it en 1937 , the essay that might be regarded as the first of two manifestos for le néo – français ; 18 twenty years later, in a note to Jacques Berne, he claim s that the novelist had in fact copied him. 19 Moreover, while the affinities noted by critics indicate shared preocc upations and a n intellectual context that fostered linguistic sedition and inventiveness , none of these comparative lines of enquiry has been pursued far enough to offer real purchase on the purpose and compositional principles of individual jargon works . Alongside the biographical and contextual explanations, most critics who refer to the jargon texts read them as , at most secondary , indirect and for some essentially facetious, expressions of a sustained rebellion against instituted Culture . The evidence in Thus, in a 1962 letter to Jacques Berne , 20 Dubuffet insists on his desire to produce works that would be resistant to critical classification and recuperation, that would have no readers and that would be fundamentally unsellable , while elsewhere he predicts the demise of spelling and grammar instruction in schools 21 and does not miss a chance to attack the culture police, the

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5 , the bourgeois caste , or s over ideas 22 Further support for this anti – cultural interpretation is found in various communications relating to the s a body of writings that seem to us to relate to the norms of conventional literature in the same w ays as Art Brut works relate to works belonging to the cultural arts. 23 However , this approach remains very broad – brush , treats the jargon texts as a homogeneous corpus and seriously underestimate s the complexity of at least some of these volumes . The present study aims to take discussion beyond these, usually summary, generalisations. Focusing on La botte à nique , the article will through a detailed analysis of its principal lexical, syntactical and metaphorical patterns and an examination of the interaction between the verbal and visual elements demonstrate linguistic, formal and thematic richness and will make the case for a reflexive interpretation that reads La botte à nique as a metaphorical restatement of some of most dearly held aesthetic principles and as a summative commentary on his artistic production up to that point. Following an initial consideration of the circums tances of its publication, its ostensible content and its formal composition, the article wil l show that in La botte à nique Dubuffet is engaged in a prolong ed defamiliarising meditation on the everyday and on language itself that presents clear parallels with his painting and sculpture, before proceding in the final section to an analysis of the reflexive dimension of the volume and its status as a kind of stocktaking résumé of his artistic career. La botte à nique : publication, content and form Of his works in jargon , La botte à nique , the volume that Dubuffet contributed to the prestigious Skira series Les S entiers de la cré ation ( The P aths of C reation ) is the most

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7 institution that is welcoming him in ; 30 thus, to their eyes , reprise and reworking of the path metaphor on which the series title is based is marked by a rather heavy – handed irony: No doubt the creative process is happiest at the stage when i ts paths have not yet been cleared. As soon as they have been , observe itself in action and Close behind the paths come the boulevards and these lead directly to distortion s and to retardant conservatism. What suits creation best, as I see it, are th i ckets and no paths at all, or else well – hidden paths that only the creative process itself can sense or has even forgotten , and, above all, no boulevards and , above that , no espl anades. e on esplanades and yet (thinking that they are giving it a better view), p eople insist on taking it there. 31 However, t that indicates a desire t o cock a snook at Skira or the series. On the contrary, the terms in which he expresses himself are much more conciliatory and tentative , and he seem s to have undergone a change of heart in the period since the initial correspondence on the topic . This is essentially an exploratory comm unication in which he offers to submit his work to Picon to be considered for inclusion in the series. He appears to be offering a piece of work that is at an advance d stage of development and declare s that, if Picon does not consider it appropriate, he wi ll do something else with it : in short, in giving a clear signal that he has not composed to commission and that he has other options for the project, Dubuffet reaffirms his independence. However, even as as editor , and his reference to the likelihood that what he is offering will not be considered suitable suggest s advance face – saving rather than the sort of combative attitude attribute d to him by Dieudonné and Jakobi . Moreover, while the priè é rer with its repetition of the word sentier , might be construed as an ironic and rather perverse comment on the title and

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8 conception of the series that effectively dissociates him from it , this is not the only possible reading and, indeed, this document is ost restrained and analytical aesthetic statements regarding the defamiliarising function of art and , in particular , his determination to forcefully hawl the mind out of the r uts in which it normally travel s 32 That La botte à nique and , indeed, many of the other jargon texts are to be seen as rather more than periodic anti – cultural gestures of defiance is also suggested by the care that Dubuffet took in their creation. 33 Technically, La botte à nique is a complex work and, although the final version was produced by a flourishing art publish ing – house with world – ranking expertise , the creation of the maquette was an intricate and essentially artisanal process. 34 P rinted in hel i ogravure, the published volume comprises 10 6 pages in which the text , written in long – hand, and the Hourloupe images are interwoven in varied ways across the work. S ometimes text and image fac e each other on opposite pages; sometimes the text is interrupted by images (consisting of single or multiple Hourloupe forms) that run across a double spread; 35 sometimes the image is integrated always in a different positio n within the body of the text. T he image may run the length or breadth of the page acting as a vertical or horizontal border; it may form a horizontal ban d within the text , as on page [7] , or , indeed, curve around the text , as on page [44]; elsewhere, images occupy opposing corners of the page , with the text occupying the other two corners. The relationships between the image and the original paper support are equally varied: the background s vary from plain white, to light blue , to grey, to solid black, to the fine stripes of brown wrapping paper , to the print of a page from Le Monde ; and , in some instances, the Hourloupe shapes incorporate gaps or apertures that make the fond an integral part of the forme . Finally, while some of the Hourloupe forms appear to have been drawn directly on the page, others have been created as elaborately constructed collages (sometimes using newspaper) , the internal and external

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9 outlines of which have been hand – traced in marker pen and which have been affixed to the background . P erhaps most surprisingly, the text is equally intricate. Dubuff jargon is far from being an amateurish and approximative attempt to mimic orthographically the pronunciation and mistakes of popular spoken French . Indeed, notwithstanding his sweeping predictions regarding the demise of standard written French, Dubuffet also acknowledge d the effort required to disengage from conventional forms not only in his painting , but also in his writing . 36 Close examination of the text of La botte à nique shows not only a highly developed awareness of the differences between standard French spelling and the sounds and forms of colloquial French, but also a detailed and sophisticated understanding of the structural differences between written and spoken language . O nce one starts to penetrate what initially looks like a solid wall of unfamiliar and often bizarre morphological units, one begins to realise that , in La botte à nique , the jargon implements in a sustained and systematic manner a high proportion of the linguistic patterns and practices identified by academic research er s as typifying features of spoken French. Thus , the text of La botte à nique includes examples of the following procedures, which have all been discussed extensively in the French – language research literature : 37 use of que as a universal conjunction and as a universal relative pronoun replacing the other relative forms ( passim ) , addition of que to adverbs and prepositions to form conjunctions, 38 doubling of subject/ object, dislocation, and presentative forms, 39 generalised use of ça to replace other pronouns, 40 contraction of subject – pronoun s so that il becomes l before a vowel, 41 use of ethic dative, 42 simplification of consonantal clusters, 43 gemination (doubling of consonants), 44 truncation of unaccentuate d vowels/ elision of middle vowels, 45 adverbial use of prepositions , 46 elision of r in parce que ( passim ) , schwa – epenthesis , 47 p arataxis ( passim ) , use of familiar expressions, 48 omission of ne, 49 nominalisation, 50 and i nstability in spelling

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10 (to be discussed below) . Notwithstanding, then, claim in a letter to Jacques Berne 51 that he had never studied linguistics, detailed analysis of the language of La botte à nique offers unambiguous evidence of understanding of the morphological and syntactical deviations that distinguish colloquial French from standard French and , above all, highlights the li nguistic intricacy of that text . Y et, despite the formal complexity and linguistic attentiveness of La botte à nique , its content appears to be of the most humdrum nature , consisting principally of what seems to be a disjointed series of, at best commonsensical, but frequently very obvious and circular statements about gardening, tools, plants, trees, crops, weather and the uses of different natural products. Open ing with the repetitive and circular First off you need to hoe with a [ 3 ] , 52 the text piles on self – evidence after self – evidence, pleonasm after pleonasm, only occasionally interrupting the flow of ban alities by the inclusion of a disorienting whimsical comment, before ultimately giving way to what appear s to be complete nonsense in the final few pages. In short, it would seem that Dubuffet imposes upon his hapless reader the task of solving his linguistic conundrums, only to deliver a content that appears to be n o more than Monsieur – Tout – le – monde or the wild imaginings of a senile gardener . 53 However, as is often true in Dubuffet , initial appearances are highly deceptive. Not only do the more fanciful passages suggest that there may be rather more here than a semi – literate parodic variation on the gardene but examination of the linguistic procedures deployed and of the motifs that punctuate the text reveal s parallels both with inting that suggest that La botte à nique is to be read both as sustained exercise in defamiliarisation and an indirect and metaphorical summary of some of his most fundamental, long – held aesthetic principles . It is to the development of this argument that the article now turns.

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