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)

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