Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Kitsch Style and the Age of Kitsch (N. Elias)

"[...] It has sometimes been said that the eighteenth century was the last to have a 'style' at all. And indeed, hardly has anyone dared to entertain the idea of a capitalist style that the doubts set in: Can one still speak of a 'style' in this context? It seems clear the the rise of bourgeois professional and industrial society was marked not only bu the replacement of one aesthetic, one 'style' bu another, but by the collapse of a coherent set of typical expressive forms. The aesthetic productions of capitalist society therefore tend to be described, far more than earlier ones, in relation to the single creative individual, or at most to various schools and tendencies. The existence of a unified development of forms and of common, typical basic structures, in short, of a 'style' of artworks in he capitalist world, remains more or less obscure. Names have been found, at most, for episodes in this development, for example, the so-called Jugendstil. A more comprehensive name is lacking, and the problem itself has hardly yet emerged into our consciousness.

If the term 'kitsch style' is used here to fill this gap, that may seem like a piece of eccentricity or even a malicious depreciation of the art of our time. In reality, the choice of this term is anything but a tendentious whim. For if we look beyond the general terms 'capitalist' or 'liberal' for underlying concepts expressing what is uniform in capitalist aesthetic idiom, after much sifting of terms which are either colourless or imply a positive evaluation, one comes across this term as one of the very few which express a pervasive feature of capitalist aesthetic products. To be sure, the term 'kitsch' is unclear enough in common usage. But if it can and should mean anything more than a random generality to embrace the concrete phenomenon which underlies its topicality in our day, then its content and boundaries must be sought in the evolution of aesthetic form within bourgeois society. That the peculiarity of an age first becomes visible from a negative aspect is certainly not without precedent in history. Originally, terms such as 'Baroque' or 'Gothic' did not have much more positive ring than 'kitsch' has today. Their value-content changed only in the course of social development, and - without giving undue weight to historical parallels - the term 'kitsch style' is sent on its way here with the same likelihood and expectation that its value may change, and to help prepare for such a change. it is used, first of all, to designate the stylistic character of the pre-war period. But no one is able to say whether we ourselves are not still 'pre-war' - that is, more closely tied to the pre-1914 period, when seen in a historical perspective - than appears to us today from our close, foreshortening viewpoint. 

What the term 'kitsch style' is intended to express first of all is an aesthetics quality of a very peculiar kind, namely the greater formal uncertainty inherent in all artistic production within industrial society. This can already be seen in the very early stages of the bourgeois-capitalist era. For to begin with liberal-bourgeois society certainly did not express itself in entirely new forms. Ornamentation persisted, and Empire and Biedermeier were clearly descendants of the old court style. What was lost, above all, was the certainty of taste and of the creative imagination, the solidity of the formal tradition which was discernible earlier in even the clumsiest products. Outburst of feeling of unprecedented intensity shattered the old forms; groping for new ones, artists produced some well-formed works but, to an unprecedented degree, others marked by an extreme want of clarity and taste. In this groping, this coexistence of high standards with a total lack of standards, not only in different artists but often in one and the same individual, the change structure of the artistic process found especially vivid expression. For even the most capable artist the lapse into formlessness now became an acute and constant threat. Every successful, fully-formed work was now wrested from the abyss to a quite different extent than had been the case earlier, when a firm social tradition both fettered and sustained the creative urge. [...] Kitsch in the negative sense, therefore, is never only something antagonistic existing outside the true creators, but is also a basic situation within them, a part of themselves. This incessant interpenetration of structure and disintegration is a feature of the lasting regularity to be observed in industrial society. [...] The powerful accentuation, the peculiarly artificial and sometimes almost convulsive intensity of form characteristic of some of the greatest modern artists, expresses, fundamentally, nothing other than this insecurity, this unabating struggle against formlessness and disintegration which even the most accomplished artists have to wage today. [...] So much, in our age, has dilapidation become a constitutive element, decisively affecting even the positive aspect of artistic works. And, as we can see, the re-evaluation of kitsch as a positive concept begins at this point."

Elias, Norbert (1935) "The Kitsch Style and the Age of Kitsch". In: Goudsblom, J., Mennel, S. (1998) The Norbert Elias Reader. Oxford. Blackwell. pp 27-29.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Warm kitsch

Not exactly architecture, but certainly kitsch.

(Seen at Target)

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Art, Kitsch and Art History (A. Brzyski)

The Widow, Frederick Dielman
(Boston Public Library, upload.wikimedia.org)
"On the most basic level kitsch is not art. Our ability to distinguish between the two terms - even in those instances when kitsch approximates the appearance and logic of art and art that of kitsch - marks us as members of the cultural elite. Precisely because we are aware of their crucial dissimilarity, we can identify, discuss, and diagnose a wide range of phenomena usually associated with popular or mass culture as kitsch. We can even indulge in kitsch as camp, because unlike the actual consumers of kitsch, who lack the necessary critical distance and therefore fail to recognize kitsch for what it is, we know better. As Susan Sontag noted in the 1960s, our eager willingness to watch the very best "bad movies" or to relish with a hint of revulsion the extravagantly "awful" reveals our membership in the hip inner circle. Kitsch is therefore our term for their lack of taste and as such always a value judgement made from a position absolute cultural superiority.

But what exactly is that we mean when we identify something as kitsch? At different times, different authors have used this label to denigrate nineteenth century academic paintings, anything made by Salvador Dalí, various "inappropriate" forms of art reproduction, decorative bric-a-brac, political propaganda, votive objects, erotic images, advertisements, and Hollywood movies. The diversity of this list and the seeming lack of consensus among those disparate phenomena under the same rubric may be based on external considerations rather than any qualities shared among them. The pertinent question with regards to kitsch appears to be, therefore, not what is kitsch, but rather what exactly is meant when that label is applied to something.

Brzyski, Anna (2013) Art, Kitsch and Art History. In: Kjellman-Chapin, Monica, Kitsch. History, Theory, Practice. Newcastle upon Thyne: Cambridge Scholars. p 1.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Clubs (François Prost)

François Prost is a french graphic designer and photographer. In his most recent project he photographs night clubs and discos at the outskirts of cities.

"Without the distraction of teetering crowds and flashing disco lights and blurred, eager eyes, the clubs look a little sad and depleted, and it becomes apparent just how weird and kind of dystopian some of the designs actually are." - It's nice that.

Imágenes: http://www.francoisprost.com/photography/

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Kitsch fix

A sample of the many "Kitsch fix"s found at Jennifer Coté's blog, Coté writes. Enjoy!

[And her top ten personal favourites]

Kitsch fix 01 - Pink gorilla, Austin, TX (cotewrites.com)

Kitsch fix 03 - Hyde Park Bar & Grill, Austin, TX (cotewrites.com)

Kitsch fix 25 - Dinosaurs, Half Moon Bay, CA (cotewrites.com)

Kitsch fix 28 - Peter Pan mini golf, Austin, TX (cotewrites.com)

Kitsch fix 42 - Hand car wash, Studio City, CA (cotewrites.com)

Friday, 25 April 2014

SketchUp competition "Out of Place".

The open competition solicited renderers to submit their most outrageous decontextualized 3D models, generated with SketchUp and Maxwell Render.

Read on.

Friday, 12 April 2013

California Crazy

Heimann, Jim (2001) California Crazy & Beyond. Roadside vernacular architecture. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Rules for modern design

"Great design comes from appropriate restrictions. We can’t just go off willy-nilly designing frivolous trite, full of decorative representations of a by-gone era. No, indeed. We’re not completely uncivilized. 

Modern Design needs rules."

Written by Jody Brown for Coffee with an Architect. Read/watch the whole article.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Polvos azules

Beneath Its Polished Surface, a Black-Market Shopping Center Thrives

In one of the busiest shopping complexes in downtown Lima, thousands of Peruvians squeeze past each other in narrow corridors and jockey for space in tiny rooms. Music blasts from stalls as shopkeepers try to lure customers with their seemingly infinite rows of goods. The smell of food and plastic lingers in the air.

This is Polvos Azules, an epicenter of retail activity in Lima and a place often referred to (in oxy moron) as the city’s “official informal market.” Legend has it that Polvos Azules, Spanish for “blue powders,” got its name in the 1540s from the material used by leather artisans to dye their skins on a small street behind the Presidential Palace. Five centuries later, the capitalist spirit embodied by those early merchants is alive and well, their leather goods replaced by faux-Levis jeans and bootleg Magic Mike DVDs.

Lima is a city where the formal and informal are naturally spliced, a condition exemplified nowhere better than the bustling and raucous stalls of the Polvos Azules. In the 1980s, semi-ambulant vendors began congregating in Polvos Azules, selling Walkmen and VHS video tapes, and eventually growing in number to upwards of 5,000. In the early ’90s, they organized, forming the Association of Owners of the Polvos Azules Commercial Center. The association negotiated a relocation program with the city, and built a large shopping complex with 2,400 stalls.

Keep reading.

Vigo, Manuel (2013) Beneath Its Polished Surface, a Black-Market Shopping Center Thrives. In: Informal city dialogues. http://nextcity.org

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Tabula non rasa (S. de Maat)

"In a slum, one can often not afford the luxury of demolition. Building a larger home usually means extending an existing house by a floor on top. Choices from the past remain visible and set implications for further development. Continued building means puzzling with the existing situation. The current situation imposes restrictions on the new design. It requires much creativity and inventiveness to get all connections, both spatially and technically, of old and new quite right. Design issues and building projects are therefore in a slum more complex than average. As a result, especially proven techniques are used. Style architecture makes little chance. Avoiding risk is crucial, because of financial constraints. In his book How Buildings Learn1, Stewart Brand shows how not only the initial design determines the shape of a building, but also how the subsequent existence leads to growth and change. In a slum, especially that growth and change are built, not style and originality.

[...] Although an architect will never design a slum, the architecture of a slum is an essential source for designers."

Related Posts with Thumbnails