Semiotic Functions of Outsider Art in Counteracting Stigma

  • Ekaterina SukhanovaEmail author


The article introduces a semiotic theory approach to explore the notion of aesthetic norm as applied to the field of outsider art. It establishes the connection between the semiotic mechanisms of art production and perception that underpin the potential of art to counteract stigma. All creative activity is a communicative process relying on a dynamic mediation between autonomy and connectedness. The dialogic potential of art may be seized upon to break the stigmatization cycle by preventing a market to be loaded with negative content as well as by improving the artist’s self-esteem. The use of outsider art thus may be instrumental in changing the context in which mental illness is experienced and promoting reintegration.


Art Semiotics Stigma Identity Body image 


  1. 1.
    Lotman Y. Izbrannye stat’i [Selected articles], vol. 1. Tallinn: Alexandra; 1992.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Lotman Y. Ob iskusstve [On art]. St. Petersburg: Iskusstvo-SPb; 1998.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Brodsky J. On grief and reason. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 1995.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Sartorius N. Breaking the vicious circle. Ment Health Learn Disabil Care. 2000;4:80.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Todorov T. Mikhail Bakhtin: the dialogical principle, trans. Wlad Godzich. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press; 1984.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Marton J, editor. Journey of hope. New York: Bristoll-Myer Squibb Co & Todd Street Productions and Creedmor Psychiatric Center; 2002.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Mukařovský J. Aesthetic function, norm and value as social facts, trans. Mark E. Suino. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press; 1970.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ricoeur P. Soi-même comme un autre. Paris: Editions du Seuil; 1990.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Erikson EH. Identity and the life cycle. New York: Norton and Company, Inc.; 1980.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Bakhtin M. Art and answerability: early philosophical essays by M. M. Bakhtin. M. Holquist and V. Liapunov (eds.), V. Liapunov (trans. and notes), K. Brostrom (suppl. trans.). Austin: University of Texas Press; 1990.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Malraux A. ‘Les voix du silence’ (1951). In: La Monnaie de l'Absolu. Paris: Gallimard; 1951.Google Scholar

Further Reading

  1. Davies B. The concept of agency: a feminist poststructuralist analysis. Soc Anal. 1991;30:42–53.Google Scholar
  2. Erikson EH. Identity: youth and crisis. London: Faber; 1968.Google Scholar
  3. Sukhanova E. Psychiatry in art: a means for healing and fighting stigma. Psychiatr Times. 2013;30:22–4.Google Scholar
  4. Themersma D. Body schema and body image. An interdisciplinary and philosophical study. Amsterdam: Swets & Zeitlinger; 1989.Google Scholar
  5. Thomashoff H-O, editor. Human art project. Stuttgart: Schattauer; 2002.Google Scholar
  6. Thomashoff H-O, Sukhanova E, editors. The person in art: conceptual and pictorial frames on outsider art. New York: Nova Science Publishers; 2008.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Office of Academic AffairsCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations