Aesthetic Theory / Aesthetics / Creativity / Education / Ideology / Kitsch / Politics / Quality / Religion

On Kitsch

File:Rudawka Rymanowska, 2010.08.jpg

I am currently thinking about the phenomenon of Kitsch. My thoughts about this very complex and multifaceted topic only cover a few aspects of it and are by no means finished, but let me share them with you.

Kitsch may be defined as something that appears beautiful if viewed from a lower level of education but from a higher level of education its low quality is obvious. There is Kitsch in music as well as in visual arts and also in literature and poetry.

In the processes of perception, perceptive knowledge is built up. New information is assimilated into our perceptive system (see What is beauty). Successful assimilation of new information is rewarded with a feeling of beauty. In the course of this process, new, more advanced knowledge is created. This process can be thought of as the gradual development of increasingly sophisticated analytical spaces. Things that once where a challenge to our perception will become routine and the perceptive knowledge advances. Things that were perceived as beautiful initially are now looking dull.

But many people remain on a less sophisticated level of aesthetic perception, as if their development is arrested. This might be a result of peer pressure in groups or of ideological thinking (which is often an advanced form of peer pressure). The phenomenon of kitsch is often connected to some form of narrow-mindedness. These people do not afford their own taste, their aesthetic judgment remains conventional. The result is a culture of kitsch.

On the other hand, ideological systems of power often use some form of kitsch as a means to transport their ideology.

It looks like having an advanced aesthetical judgment, a developed taste, is to an extend incompatible with ideology, or at least ideology has a strong correlation with kitsch. A developed taste requires an open-mindedness that goes against ideology and is therefore prosecuted by ideologists of all kinds. Ideology means putting up walls and fences in our thinking and perception, erecting some kind of thought control (see Walking inside). It means blocking creativity. The way out is through creativity. An advanced aesthetical education therefore can, to some extend, work as an antidote against ideology.

Just a few examples:

An example of nazi kitsch:

(http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-H27141,_Berlin,_Neue_Reichskanzlei,_Statue_%22Partei%22.jpg)

An example of religious kitsch:

File:Jesús en Ti confío.jpg

(http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jes%C3%BAs_en_Ti_conf%C3%ADo.jpg)

An example of socialist kitsch:

(http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:VM_5506_Xian_Peoples_Theatre_statues.jpg?uselang=de)

An example of American kitsch:

(ttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Iwo_Jima_Memorial_Statue,_USS_Intrepid,_New_York_City._(727855908).jpg)

(The garden gnome picture is from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rudawka_Rymanowska,_2010.08.jpg)

8 thoughts on “On Kitsch

  1. I am using the German term “kitsch” here since I am not sure how to translate it into English. I think the word has entered English as well.

  2. Hmm. The gnome looks kitschy, but the last pics don’t seem kitschy in the sense that we use them in the US. Kitschy is like pink flamingos in your yard, or basically anything in the first Pee Wee Herman movie.

  3. Pingback: Dogma and Kitsch | The Asifoscope

  4. Pingback: On Beauty | The Asifoscope

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