Category Archives: outsider

The artist with a super-computing mind

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Sunday’s Crash, 2005

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George Widener, Friday Disasters

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George Widener, Titanic, 2007. Image Henry Boxer Gallery

The Art et Marges museum in Brussels has spent the past 25 years showing the work of “outsider” artists. The ones who are self-taught, or work either in isolation, or in workshops for mentally disabled and psychologically fragile people. Do have a look when you’re in the Belgian capital. It’s a cheerful and friendly place and right now their exhibition is called Save the World. That’s where i rediscovered the work of George Widener.

Like most outsider artists, Widener’s life receives as much scrutiny as his work. He has savant syndrome, a condition in which a person diagnosed as autistic demonstrates prodigious capacities or abilities that surpass by far what is considered normal.

Widener’s super talent is numerical computation. He processes complex arithmetical calculations at great speed and has a prodigious proficiency in calculating dates. He can memorize dates, days and events dating back to 180 A.D. and he can do the same for the upcoming 80.000 years.

His super-calculator power drives him to obsessively compute complex sequences of numbers, extract patterns from dates and scrutinize historical events (he is particularly keen on catastrophes). He turns them into large-scale calendars, mazes and date grids that visualize his idea of how the world is organized.

George Widener. Ricco Maresca Gallery

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George Widener, Doomsday Device, 2013. Image Outsider Art Fair

Out of his analysis of patterns and dates, Widener also attempts to extract informed prophecies about future events. Could patterns of dates of events or phenomena make it possible to predict future plane crashes and other disasters?

This might sound a bit batty but it seems that Widener also applies his arithmetical genius to gambling. I’m going to quote an article from The Guardian: He has learned how to count cards, a system of winning at blackjack by memorising cards and calculating their values. He describes himself as a semi-professional gambler. “I have taken the casinos for thousands of dollars.”

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George Widener, Renewable, 2016. Ricco/Maresca Gallery

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George Widener, King of the World, 2010. Image Outsider Art Fair

Furthermore, Widener’s super computing mind leads him to use his own algorithms to elaborate numerical puzzles and games that only intelligent and independently-thinking machines of the Singularity age will be able to fully enjoy and understand.

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George Widener, Robot Puzzle, 2011

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Untitled (Games for Robots No. 1), 2014

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George Widener, Megalopolis, 2005

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George Widener, No Rain Five Days, 2012

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George Widener, Untitled (Calendrical Geometry 007), 2015. Image artsy

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George Widener, Magic Circle 12-21-2012, 2012

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George Widener, Birthday ma (Weekends), 2012. Image Galerie Zander

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George Widener, I Was Born, 2012. Image Galerie Zander

The exhibition Save the World remains open at Art et Marges in Brussels until 29 January 2017.