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.

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