Monday, 30 May 2011

Garden Gnomes (E. Londos)

"The very first object to be mentioned, when asked what is considered the most disgusting and unacceptable in the garden, is the gnome. Nevertheless, there are people who shelter them in the garden, valuing them as pleasant, agreeable, and indispensable. Decorations like animal statues, windmills, sundials, symmetry, and disorder were equally beloved or detested. There was only one item that everybody liked—the purling brook combined with a glittering pool. Across all social and cultural borders, in town and in the countryside, independent of age, gender, and ethnicity, flowing water is appreciated as a true source of enjoyment to the senses and a symbolic requirement for life in the garden. So, water in the garden is never kitsch, while the garden gnome turns out to be the key symbol above all others in the genre deemed to be kitsch.

This research caused me to focus on the garden gnome phenomenon because it raised several questions: what fs kitsch, does kitsch really exist, or is it only in the eye of the beholder, what existed prior to kitsch? The fact that so many of my informants seemed so absolutely sure of the existence of something objectively beautiful, judging other things as just kitsch, surprised me [...].

I consider the garden gnome as a soldier at the front of the battle between good and bad taste in the garden. Or—to paraphrase Pierre Bourdieu, sociologist of culture—the antagonistic fight between different groups about the right to define good and bad taste, branding what is kitsch and non-kitsch (Bourdieu 1984)."

Londos, Eva (2006) "Kitsch is Dead - Long Live Garden Gnomes" pp 293-306.
Home Cultures, Vol. 3 Issue 3.

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