Sunday, 27 June 2010

Kitsch (M. Calinescu)

"[...] It is not difficult to realize that kitsch technologically as well as aesthetically, is one of the most typical products of modernity. The link between kitsch (whose dependence on fads and rapid obsolescence makes it the major form of expendable "art") and economic development is indeed so close that one may take the presence of kitsch in countries od the "Second or "Third" world as an unmistakable sign of "modernization".

[...] many social and cultural critics, conservatives and revolutionaries alike, agreed that artistic standards were rapidly deteriorating and attributed the main cause of the widespread corruption of taste to status-seeking and display. First the plutocrats and the nouveaux riches, then the petty bourgeois and certain segments of the populace were seen as trying to imitate the old aristocracy and its patters of consumption, including the consumption of beauty.


Surely art and even modern commercialized pseudoart cannot be explained merely by status seeking. Although true aesthetic experience may be rare to the point of being statistically irrelevant, and although it may be aided or impeded by various social factors, the need for art and the desire for prestige are different psychological entities. [...] Lovers of kitsch may look for prestige - or the enjoyable illusion of prestige - but their pleasure does not stop there. What constitutes the essence of kitsch is probably its open-ended indeterminacy, its vague "hallucinatory" power, its spurious dreaminess, its promise on an easy "catharsis".


Kitsch may be conveniently defined as a specifically aesthetic form of lying. As such, it obviously has a lot to do with the modern illusion that beauty may be bought and sold. Kitsch, then, is a recent phenomenon. It appears at the moment in history when beauty in its various forms is socially distributed like any other commodity subject to the essential market law of supply and demand."

Calinescu, Matei (1995). Five Faces of Modernity. Modernism, Avant-Garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism. Durham: Duke University Press. (pp 225-229)

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Popular Culture (B. Munari)

"Popular Culture is a continuous manifestation of fantasy, creativity and inventive. The objective values of these activities are joined together in tradition, technical or artistic, or whichever. And, usually, these values are verified by other acts or fantasy and creativity and, therefore, those are substituted whenever they become surpassed. This way, tradition is the continuous mutable addition of objective values, useful to people. To predictable repeat a value, without fantasy, means not to continue with tradition but to stop it, to make it die. Tradition is the sum of the collectivity's objective values and collectivity must continuously renew if it doesn't wish to die."

MUNARI, B. (2007). Fantasia. Bari: Laterza. pp. 37.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Kitsch and Tendentious Art (H. Broch)

"The essence of kitsch is the confusion of ethical and esthetic categories; kitsch wants to produce not the "good" but the "beautiful". And if this means that the kitsch novel, even while often using quite naturalistic language, i.e., the vocabulary of reality, describes the world not as it really is but as it is hoped and feared to be, and if quite analogous tendencies turn up in the fine arts as well, if kitsch in music depends exclusively on effect - one need only think of the so-called bourgeois salon music, remembering that in many respects the music industry of today is its overbred offspring - still one must concede that no art can work without some effect, without a smattering of kitsch. In the dramatic arts, kitsch becomes a structural bourgeois one, namely, opera, in which effect is the principal structuring element; and one should not forget that opera by its very nature is distinctly "historical", and that that relationship between artwork and public where the "effect" is actually revealed is a matter of the empirical, the earthbound. The means employed for effect are always "proven", and they can hardly be increased any more that the number of possible dramatic situations could be increased: that which is past and proven appears over and over again in kitsch; in other words (a troll through any art exhibit will confirm this), kitsch is always subject to the dogmatic influence of the past - it will never take its vocabulary of reality from the world directly but will apply pre-used vocabularies, which in its hands rigidify into cliché, and here is the nolitio, the rejecting of goodwill, the turning away from the divine cosmic creation of values." (pp 32,33)

Broch, Hermann. "Kitsch and Tendentious Art (1955). In: Geist and Zeitgeist. The Spirit in an Unspiritual Age, Hermann Broch, 31-39. New York: Counterpoint, 2002.

Vehicles (I)

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Kitsch (A. Moles)

"Universal concept, familiar, important [the word Kitsch] corresponds, firstly, to the epoch of the aesthetic genesis, to a style of absence of style, to a function of comfort, superposed to the traditional functions, to a "nothing is too much" of progress.

The word Kitsch appears, in its modern conception, in Munich circa 1869; it is a well-known word from southern German: kitschen, to make new furniture out of old one; it is a familiar expression; verkitschen means to sell something in the place of that one specifically asked for: it implies aesthetic thought, and a denial of the authentic. Kitsch is trash, is an artistic secretion conceived by prizing the products of a society inside its department stores, which, just like the stations, turn into the real temples. Kitsch is linked with art in a dissoluble way, just as non-authentic is linked to authentic. "There is a Kitsch taste in every art", says Broch, since in every art there is a minimum of convention, of acceptance of giving pleasure to the costumer, from which no Master is exempt.

Even though Kitsch is eternal, it has periods of prosperity linked, among other things, to a social situation, to the access to wealth: bad taste is the previous step towards good taste, since it is [...] a desire of aesthetic promotion that does not reach its goal.

The spectrum of aesthetic values is no longer dichotomised between "beauty" and "ugly": between art and conformism extents the vast plague of Kitsch. Kitsch reveals itself with strength during the promotion of bourgeois civilisation, when it gets the possibility of access to wealth, of excess of means in relation with its needs, [...] and from a certain moment in which this bourgeois class imposes its rules to an artistic production.

Kitsch is then a universal social phenomenon, permanent, grand, but also a latent phenomenon to the concious of Latin tongues, at a loss of an accurate word to define it.

It is not a semantic and explicit phenomenon, it is an intuitive and subtle phenomenon; it is a type of relationship between being and things, a way of being more than an object or even a style. Even though we will frequently talk about "Kitsch style", it will be referring to a supportive idea of Kitsch attitude, and we will see that this style will formalise inside an artistic epoch. It will become a category that will allow it to access anthologies and even art collections. However, Kitsch precedes and surpasses its supports, it is a state of the spirit that, eventually, crystallises in objects."

Moles, Abraham A.: Le Kitsch. L’art du bonheur (pp 5 -7). Paris, Maison Mame. 1971.

Signs (I)

Kitsch Architecture

Kitsch is a generally used word whose complex meaning tends to be linked with "bad taste", "cheap", "popular culture" or "mass culture". It is funny how there is no exact translation of this word but, at the same time, there are several local equivalents: in Spain one might talk about hortera, cutre or cursi; in english-spoken regions, corny o trash.

In Peru, the local version of kitsch is huachafo. And, as with every other equivalent to the word, it does not mean quite the same.

I will not struggle with establishing differences between huachafo and kitsch, for I have another virtual space to dwell on that subject ( However, just as I do in that brother-blog, I will try to define some concepts that will help to establish a link between kitsch - popular taste, everydayness, non-academic art - and architecture. And I intend to take the spontaneous architecture in Lima as a case study, even though examples from other locations will be as well used.

This is what this blog is about.
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