So how accurate is Brown’s recreation? “We had a picture researcher in Paris and we spoke to some asylums,” he says. “Patients did decorate their cells and it felt appropriate that you should see someone’s vision. The main room is more of a fiction, though, the idea that they expressed themselves all over the walls.”
While its motivation is apparently commercial, the booth asks complex questions about what it is to be inspired by those who lack equal agency. Would it be more acceptable if Dubuffet, like Artaud, was mentally ill, and felt that an appreciation for “the living whirlwind that devours the darkness” (as Artaud wrote) was a necessary part of life and art? And what does it mean to be spectators to this—especially those who are economically buying into it?