Outsider Art

In Scream at the Sky the Galaxy Zephyr fails to defeat the Enemy Hurricane. Readers of Akayama DanJay might remember that Dan collapsed into a tooth-ball when he smoked centipede. Now the pilots of the Galaxy Zephyr meet a similar fate. I wanted Dan’s struggle as a tooth-ball to be like a horrible drug-trip, emblematic of his mental-state at the time. Now I want the fate of the Galaxy Zephyr to symbolize an even more oppressive mental-state.

Consciousness is weird, no one can explain it, and we’re stuck with it until it’s over. We make art to cope. Art from most people is allowed to be called… “art.” Art from people who aren’t allowed to produce “real” art—people with no formal training, probably struggling with psychiatric disorder—that art gets to be called “outsider art.” Outsider art is often associated with mental-illness and extreme, unconventional fantasy.

The most famous example of outsider art might be Henry Darger. His story of thousands of pages about the “Vivian Girls” in the “realms of the unreal” was only discovered after his death. In it, the Vivian Girls are sweet and perfect and engaged in a constant war against evil adults who kill and torture them, which I can only interpret as repetition and resolution of Darger’s childhood of institutionalization. At the end of the story “Crazy House,” the Vivian Girls fail to exorcise a haunted house, but manage to rescue Darger himself from that house. In his autobiography, Darger details his frustrations in early life before segueing into a fiction about a tornado. All these stories are accompanied by illustrations made partly out of magazine clippings, combining pop-culture and personal struggles in an unforgettable way.

Henry Darger. a) The Vivian girls nuded like child slaves b ...

I don’t think making this connection between art and mental-state belittles Darger or his breathtaking work; rather, I think that connection is empowering and indispensable. I’d argue all art is secretly about the mental-state of the artist (whether the artist intends it or not!), and outsider art in particular can present unfamiliar mental-states front-and-center in a way I want to imitate in the Akayama DanJay series. Outsider art presents new mental-states in ways we didn’t know were allowed.

In the next chapter of Blind Faith, we’ll see that this first chapter has actually been a dream-sequence. (I’m not a fan of dream-sequence openings, but anyone who’s read the first book probably intuits it’s not just a dream.) Lucille, who was only 19 when she became Commander of the Galaxy Zephyr, is haunted by visions of torment after fighting the Enemy Hurricane. While she struggles in the “real world,” her visions of this hell-scape will become worse. When she overcomes in the “real world,” her visions of this hell-scape will become more optimistic. Eventually she’ll use her visions of this hell-scape as a real awesome sword. Akayama DanJay should present a pipeline from trauma to art to empowerment as a method for accepting the existence of suffering. Lucille’s “art” is just gonna be a sick-ass melee-weapon for a giant anime space-robot.

I don’t have Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder from a fight against a giant, evil anime space-robot, but as a kid, I occasionally found myself worrying about unspeakable supernatural torment as punishment for minor failures or for no reason. (My family isn’t religious, just obsessive-compulsive.) In a way, Akayama DanJay and this sequel are my attempt to process those experiences into cool stories anyone can use to better understand themselves and escape their own mental gulag. I want to provoke the aesthetic of outsider art to build a Jungian ordeal which is unbearable, liberating, and rad.

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