Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Kitsch Architecture (D. Guimaraens & L. Cavalcanti)

"The survey of Kitsch architecture has been a matter of our interest since 1973, when we started studying at the school of architecture. In juxtaposition to academic teaching, which focused only in official architectural production - and among that, only in maximum examples such as the MEC building and Brasilia -, confronting our own previous experiences as occasional dwellers of the carioca suburbia. Here we had detected a sort of architectural manifestation quite rich and original, which, besides its potential to throw at us new sources of discussion on the parameters of contemporary Brazilian architecture, remained unknown at a more systemic level of research, being disregarded as a cultural phenomena without importance. We confirm that the main relevance of this work states in an attempt of a deep analysis of those manifestations, in order to establish a base for the study of architecture without architects in Brazil.

As we started said analysis, we found that a basic mistake would be to classify as bad taste the cultural productions inherent to other social classes. In this train of thought, one of the main issues was about the general denominations that we should adopt for these architectural manifestations. We chose to call them Kitsch architecture taking into account two aspects. Firstly, the fact that the analysed constructions represented special and aesthetic characteristics that could perfectly be framed between the general definition of Kitsch. Secondly, because of the verification that the concept was already reasonable known and clarified, so we could use it as a starting point for the discussion of basic elements which we intended to approach, such as taste, for example.

Until then, Kitsch had been established in relation to a rampant consumption of objects, which never occurs in the examples that we will focus on, where the inhabitant creates his or hers space of residence working as a creator of architectural signs. It was necessary thus to establish a basic division between passive Kitsch and creative Kitsch. We classify Kitsch architecture of the ascending lower classes as creative, because we understand that those manifestations differ from the ones found in the new-money groups, where the consumer lacks of interference in the elaboration of his or hers surrounding objects.

[...] we organised the subdivision of Kitsch architecture into some representative items of the various found types: Kitsch as a vision of the world (houses that aim to "talk" about the vision of their owners through their spacial structure); Kitsch as a poetic vision (which has as a dominant element the poetic aspect expressed in the architectonic space); visionary Kitsch (included in this subdivision those houses which extrapolate any rational interpretation, covering also another classifications); religious Kitsch (considering housing in which iconic references to protective Saints are given in their façades, to those constructions made under the protection of certain entities, in which all the structure gains a symbolic sense); Kitsch with influence of modern architecture (including a considerable group of Kitsch architecture, which takes from Brazilian modern architecture a variety of constructive-spatial elements, adapting them to its constructors and inhabitants own repertoire)".

Guimaraens, D. & Cavalcanti, L. (1979) Arquitetura Kitsch suburbana e rural. Mec/Funarte: Rio de Janeiro. pp 5-6.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Kitsch (T. Kulka)

"There is no consensus among scholars as to the etymology of the word 'kitsch'. Some believe that it derives from the English 'sketch', while others link it to the German: 'etwas verkitschen' (to knock off cheaply). The experts do, however, agree that ever since the word was coined in the second half of the nineteenth century, it has borne distinctly negative connotations. The epithet 'kitsch' has been used as a synonym for worthless art, artistic rubbish, or simply bad art. [...] Kitsch isn't simply an artistic failure-a work which has somehow gone wrong. There is something special about kitsch which sets it apart from the rest of bad' art. Kitsch has a definite appeal. People like it, at least many do. Commercially, kitsch successfully competes with serious art. The mass-appeal of kitsch is being exploited by advertising agencies. to promote commodities, as well as by political parties to promote their ideologies. (The official art in Hitler's Germany or Soviet Russia may illustrate this point.) But what is it about kitsch that creates this appeal? Can we deny that the appeal is of an aesthetic nature? seems that we are in no position to do so: judging by all the obvious indications, people who like kitsch derive from it the same kind of pleasure we typically derive from works of art. But if we concede that kitsch has an aesthetic appeal and cling to a rather plausible assumption that art is appreciated for its aesthetic qualities, we will have to face the following problem: if the appeal of kitsch is of an aesthetic nature, and if aesthetic qualities serve as a measure of artistic excellence, why is kitsch considered worthless?"

British Journal of Aesthetics, Vol. 28, No. 1, Winter 1988.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The intoxication of modernity (C. Olalquiaga)

"19th century witnessed the multiplication of visual reproduction techniques which transformed western cultures's optical unconscious. Mechanical reproduction not only altered the possibilities for proliferation and affordability of images, but made it possible the apparition of a specific sensibility, a modern one, based in the supremacy of sight and accumulation. Although remainders of this kind of sensibility can be found in previous centuries, what emerges in this particular moment is the unprecedented democratisation of the act of looking and collect. This is widely shown with the proliferation of photography and the reorganisation of the street as a place for mercantile and spectacular exchange for the mid class. [...]

Instead of being rejected, the serial and mechanical aspects of the industrial culture were valued as signs of a modern and cosmopolitan spirit which traded antiquity and authenticity for novelty and quantity. [...]

Yearned by many and despised by few, abundant for some and unattainable for others, new one day for everybody and for nobody the next day, mass consume articles rode on the opulence and the comfort of the emerging mid class and of the apparition of places such as passages, which rapidly flowed the culture of tradition and maintenance. The new soon became dated of itself - "the intoxication of modernity" -, identified with a notion of progress for which the consume speed was an equivalent to the progress in time. Thrusting on novelty the main charge of modernity - leaving behind a dark past and moving towards and luminous future - consumer's goods assured themselves a place in the temple of fetishism. Consumer's goods were "dream images" or "desire images": more than objects, they represented utopic desires."

Olalquiaga, C. (2007) El reino artificial. Sobre la experiencia kitsch. Barcelona: Gustavo Gili. (pp 15-21)

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