Kitsch, also called cheesiness or tackiness, is art or other objects that appeal to popular rather than high art tastes. Such objects are sometimes appreciated in a knowingly ironic or humorous way. Kitsch is usually pejorative in the common sense for a from the perspective of the observer inferior, longing-like emotional expression. Contrary to an artistic endeavor for the true or the beautiful, critics consider an easy way to express feelings as sentimental, trivial or cheesy. Kitsch is the accumulation and heterogeneous use, in a cultural product, of traits considered trivial, old-fashioned or popular. Kitsch implies a judgment of value and the norm which conditions it.
The word Kitsch was first applied to artwork that was a response to certain divisions of 19th-century art with aesthetics that favored what later art critics would consider to be exaggerated sentimentality and melodrama. Hence, ‘kitsch art’ is closely associated with ‘sentimental art’. Kitsch is also related to the concept of camp (Camp as an aesthetic has been popular from the 1960s to the present, emphasized artifice, frivolity, naïve middle-class pretentiousness), because of its humorous and ironic nature.
To brand visual art as “kitsch” is generally pejorative, as it implies that the work in question is gaudy, or that it serves a solely ornamental and decorative purpose rather than amounting to a work of true artistic merit. The chocolate box artist Thomas Kinkade (1958–2012), whose idyllic landscape scenes were often lampooned by art critics as “maudlin” and “schmaltzy”, is considered a leading example of contemporary kitsch.
As a descriptive term, kitsch originated in the art markets of Munich in the 1860s and the 1870s, describing cheap, popular, and marketable pictures and sketches. In Das Buch vom Kitsch (The Book of Kitsch), Hans Reimann defines it as a professional expression “born in a painter’s studio”.
Translations dealing with the Romany language used the term “kitsch” to refer to the Hindustani word for pottery clay (history of the Gypsies, their origin, nature and species, Weimar and Ilmenau, 1835). In fact, there are artifacts throughout the Indus Valley that can be interpreted as kitsch in the Western sense. Early tourist souvenirs, which are today also referred to as “Airport Art”, may be the origin of this loan word in current European usage. The word “kitsch” is today as a loanword in many languages, including English, an integral part of their vocabulary.
The study of kitsch was done almost exclusively in German until the 1970s, with Walter Benjamin being an important scholar in the field.
The difficulty of defining kitsch is reflected not least in the “untranslatability” of the German word. British translators ranked kitsch among the ten most difficult to translate terms; in English, the word kitsch is also used. Even in French, there is no adequate translation, the word kitsch is therefore also partly used there. Numerous languages have adopted the word, including the Turkish language (kitsch or kiç) and even the Greek language (κιτς), which manages with few foreign words.
In contrast to the work of art, which allows scope for interpretation (interpretation even demands), kitsch is not interpretable.
Stereotypes and clichés: Kitsch repeats what the viewer already knows. Originality is expected from the artwork (innovation of art).
Easy to reproduce (mass-produced),Too frequent reproduction of artworks of the past (eg Mona Lisa, van Gogh’s Sunflowers). New works are often meant for duplication and therefore not kitsch.
Persons, events etc. take on a ritual value that does not belong to them (false myth)
Transfer from one medium to the other (eg novel to film, themes of classical music into pop music, paintings to glass windows, replica of statues in other material)
something occurs in the form of something quite different (eg a clock in guitar shape)
exaggerated dimension, but still usable (eg an oversized glass)
the imitation of another time (eg new figures in the style of the 18th or 19th century)
Even an unrealistic accumulation of negative clichés is considered kitsch. Holthusen coined the term “sour kitsch”.
Modernist writer Hermann Broch argues that the essence of kitsch is imitation: kitsch mimics its immediate predecessor with no regard to ethics—it aims to copy the beautiful, not the good. According to Walter Benjamin, kitsch is, unlike art, a utilitarian object lacking all critical distance between object and observer; it “offers instantaneous emotional gratification without intellectual effort, without the requirement of distance, without sublimation”.
Kitsch is less about the thing observed than about the observer. According to Roger Scruton, “Kitsch is fake art, expressing fake emotions, whose purpose is to deceive the consumer into thinking he feels something deep and serious.”
In sociology, and more so in the framework of civic education, kitsch is classified as something dangerous, because the associated euphemisms, trivialities, prejudices, stereotypes and illusions promote precisely that ambiguity that ultimately leads to the inevitable dilemma for the individual and for the collective Conflict of any kind prepare the ground. “Kitsch is actually easy to spot, because he always has something to do with mendacity.”
The value of typical kitsch criticism often relativises itself as: Kitsch is the “design of insightless dream images”. Rather, the definition of kitsch seems indissolubly bound to the definition of art. The more obscure the concept of art, the more incomprehensible is the kitsch, for it is difficult to dispute, as Umberto Eco argues, that the effects attributed to art. impulses to think, to shake, emotions – can also amount to kitsch.
Kitsch can be conflict, petty-bourgeoisie, mass culture, hypocrisy, stereotyping, retarded, flight from reality, false security or about “stupid comforting (s)” . Kitsch can also be the cute, leisurely, sentimental, religious, poetic, social kitsch, natural kitsch, home kitsch, blood and soil kitsch, swanky, sour, erotic kitsch, horror kitsch, sublime kitsch, monumental chit, patriotic, ideological kitsch and bully.
The accusation of criticism is less concerned with a lack of truth, as with badly made art, but often with the psychological calculation of kitsch. The emotional stereotypes of pop music or trivial literature as well as handmade or machine-made works of art with idyllic or childish schemata serve as a popular illustration of such a “calculated emotional falsehood”.
Folk art, such as costumes and costume jewelery, carved wooden utensils and so on, with its European heyday in the 18th century, is often presented to kitsch as a real thing to a fake. From this point of view, kitsch largely expresses the decline of customs in modern times. However, there is a fundamentally unsatisfactory simplification to say: folk art is handmade, kitsch machine-imitated folk art. Manual labor can imitate machine production. Moreover, aesthetic qualities do not go into such simplification. Customs and folk art, however, can stiffen and collapse, while the critical view in kitsch always sees the decline completed at the highest level.
In everyday language, kitsch refers to objects of bad taste, embellished with superfluous decorations, which most often copy works recognized as classics. Kitsch is the product of social and historical change. It emerges during two specific periods.
It is intimately related to the idea of inauthentic, overload and bad taste. Starting with the “artistic and industrial production of cheap objects” (Legrand), the concept is inseparable from the mass consumer industry.
The first phase of kitsch was brought in the middle of the nineteenth century by industrialization and urbanization. In Europe and North America, those taking advantage of the positions offered by the industry form a new middle class. These workers, previously satisfied with rural and traditional art, now have access to new cultural products. The new middle classes seek to be entertained with means adapted to them. The latter are thus satisfied with what Greenberg calls a “cultural substitute … for a population insensitive to authentic cultural values, but nevertheless eager for the entertainment that only culture, in one form or another, can offer”. Leisure activities allow the middle classes, among other things, to develop a taste for cheap imitations of traditional high art. Manufactures and retail trade thus enable the middle classes to easily acquire widely distributed cultural products.
In the middle of the twentieth century, when the second phase of kitsch developed, the latter became a prime target for criticizing mass culture. Left-wing intellectuals use kitsch to condemn the culture of the new consumer society. This time, kitsch is not criticized for eroding elite culture, but is accused of being a privileged tool for manipulating the masses: “Reducing adults to children, the new kitsch made masses easier to manipulate by reducing their graciousness offered by the Disney cartoons, pulpliterature, and romance novels. (Binkley) – Which means: “Depressing adults into kids, the new kitsch makes the masses easier to handle by reducing their cultural needs to the easy gratification offered by Disney cartoons, pulp literature (cheap) , and romances with rose water. For some thinkers of the 1950s, kitsch, insofar as it encourages the lowering of the mass before authority, operates in the same way in the American capitalist context that it operated among the fascists and the communists.
The author Milan Kundera develops in his novel The Unbearable Lightness of being the report maintained by the communist regime of Czechoslovakia between the values expected from the ideal communist citizen and kitsch. Thus, according to him, any attempt to demarcate the individual in relation to the way of thinking of the masses is rejected by the communist kitsch.
Along with the gradual globalization of markets and products traded, kitsch has unintentionally become one of the most prevalent styles in the world through consumer products. The term is between pejorative and emotional (“bad” assumed taste); the kitsch of an object is especially corollary of the tastes of its observer. For example, Rococo art, Neapolitan tablecloths, the snow globe and Bavarian clocks or cuckoo clock are often labeled “kitsch”, sometimes with condescension, or with humor.
The Kitsch movement is an international movement of classical painters, founded in 1998 upon a philosophy proposed by Odd Nerdrum and later clarified in his book On Kitsch in cooperation with Jan-Ove Tuv and others, incorporating the techniques of the Old Masters with narrative, romanticism, and emotionally charged imagery.
Tomáš Kulka in Kitsch and Art starts from two basic facts that kitsch “has an undeniable mass-appeal” and “considered (by the art-educated elite) bad” and then proposes three essential conditions:
Kitsch depicts a beautiful or highly emotionally charged subject;
The depicted subject is instantly and effortlessly identifiable
Kitsch does not substantially enrich our associations related to the depicted subject.
The concept of kitsch is more used in the field of aesthetics. Its definition is not easy, since, generally based on value judgments, it suffers from the inconsistencies common to all kinds of valuations, which vary according to times, social groups, individual preferences and geographies, but it is generally assumed, in short, as synonymous with something banal, cheap and in bad taste. It is often considered a complete opposition to the concept of art, while at other times it is accepted as art but of poor quality. In spite of scholars’ efforts to establish clear definitions, it is problematic to identify objective traits to describe an object as kitsch. As Tomáš Kulka has pointed out, he typically lacks an intrinsic characterological structure that makes it possible to show that an object is in bad taste or of little aesthetic value, opposing it to the world of “art”, or at least scholarly art, and analyzes are usually based on parallel concepts derived from anthropology, sociology or history to reinforce their conclusions.
Even artists of the Italian high renaissance, such as Raphael, Correggio or Luini, succeeded with overly sweet depictions of the Madonna and the Child Jesus.
In spite of the author’s caveat, several other scholars have pointed to generic indications of what a kitsch object is. Among them, as can be seen in the Itaú Cultural Institute’s summaries, are: forgery of materials (wood painted as marble, zinc objects gilded as bronze, always looking to be something more noble than it is); preference for the copying or adaptation of scholarly models; distortions compared to the original model; use of bright colors or in exotic combinations; tendency to exaggeration, stacking and accumulation; onivoria and syncretism; dynamism, fluency and inconstancy; sentimental tendency; functionality offset or minimized by emphasis on decorative; translation of a complex code into a simpler one, while also disseminating the product from a reduced audience to a wider audience.
The Swiss art theorist Georg Schmidt defines kitsch as “idealistic naturalism” in which it comes to the contradiction between artistic-naturalistic means of representation and inner attitude.
In the fine arts kitsch emerged in the mid-19th century on the basis of Romanticism, Biedermeier and Realism, whereby the boundaries between art and kitsch are not always easy to define. Examples of the tightrope walk between art and kitsch are the works of Ludwig Richter and Carl Spitzweg. Richter combined in his late work great artistic ability with hard-to-eat sweetness. Spitzweg, also very talented, chose sweet themes, to which he also distanced himself with irony. Eduard von Griitzner and his Cooping Monks, Julius Adam with his kittens and Carl Jutz with his henhorses, which they repeated in the same way, can be clearly assigned to kitsch. In addition to these themes, which are particularly associated with the names of certain painters, the roosting deer, the alpenglow, the alpine hut and the sunset by the sea are common themes of kitsch paintings, which were taken from the fund of late romanticism.
Moles added to these traits those of hedonistic and occasionally humorous intent, some dose of surrealism, alienation, dependence on industry (it is a product), authenticity in what is proposed (spontaneity), heterogeneity, synesthetic perception, mediocrity (in the sense that adequate to the average taste and is therefore democratic), universality, ofelimity, urbanity and permanence, jokingly saying that it is as permanent as sin. In addition, Călinescu pointed out that kitsch can only appear in dependence on specific contexts, without its constituent objects, referring to the principle of aesthetic inadequacy with characteristic of the kitsch and giving as hypothetical example the installation of an authentic painting of Rembrandt in the elevator of a millionaire residence. Other examples may be discarded materials used as decoration, such as spoiled books, old postcards, rusty old bathtubs, and so on.
From Rimbaud’s praises to “poetic litter” and “stupid paintings,” to Dadaist irreverence and the surrealistic dreamy extravagances, avant-garde art in the twentieth century has been prized by the use of a variety of heterodox procedures to overthrow all the traditions and question the bases of the own art, lending them directly of the kitsch by its ironic and iconoclastic virtues. In the process where kitsch was incorporated by the avant-garde into the universe of cultured art, the production of academic art, once the dominant cultured form, became the reverse of kitsch, accused of artificial, predictable, stereotyped, banal, sentimental, mercantilist, and insensitive to demands for a new society.
When the avant-garde finally came into fashion, this by the middle of the century, kitsch came to gain a kind of negative prestige, even among the most sophisticated intellectual circles. Then it was incorporated by the camp culture, where bad taste was deliberately cultivated as if it were a superior refinement. Susan Sontag crystallized this philosophy in the phrase “it is beautiful because it is ugly,” which became a major current in post-war American culture, and from there began to influence a true resurrection of kitsch on a large scale, arriving to gain space in some respected museums, redeemed by camp sensitivity. At the same time, pop art also took it as an important reference, at a time when the massification of culture was beginning to become a global phenomenon and became an artistic theme for me.
The American artist Jeff Koons used testimonies of consumer culture as starting points and alienated or imitated them. He also worked on objects from everyday art and advertising. Like the latter, he repeatedly resorts to sexual and other key stimuli, alienating them with an ironic refraction.
Architectural examples of kitsch are works in the American gambling city of Las Vegas. There are replicas of the Eiffel Tower, the pyramids, often in materials other than the original and even in entirely different colors. In the same breath the various Disneyland are mentioned, which show examples of buildings from different regions of the world. These are usually built only up to the first floor, then followed by a construction with other materials.
Often referred to as “architectural kitsch” is the so-called “country house style”. These are detached houses, which are equipped with mullion window imitations, semicircular bay windows, winding exterior walls, arched windows, Schopfwalm roofs and sometimes even turrets. These are stylistic elements that many people associate with traditional architecture, but in most cases have nothing at all to do with the local and regional building tradition, and therefore appear rather as a disturbing foreign body in a historically grown village or old town dining complex. The purpose of this construction is to suggest a kind of homeliness and “ideal world”. This style became fashionable in the late 1980s and was particularly popular in the 1990s, after decades of predominantly modern architecture, where residential buildings were usually built in a rather plain, unadorned style ,
Kitsch plastic arts
In the 1980s, the visual artist Jeff Koons deliberately developed his work within the kitsch aesthetic, finding in the marketization of images of potential creative resources .
In Japan, the manga culture, and especially the kawaii style (cute) were the vectors of incalculable kitsch productions: Takashi Murakami has diverted the childish connotation of these productions in his works.
Some genres of composed music, like Epic music are considered kitsch for their over-romantic or arduous style.
The folk music is the combination of pop music and hits with elements of traditional folk music. Already in the light music of the 19th century, there are many works that can be classified as cheesy.
Advertising wants to create incentives to buy; Thus their manipulative simplification and trivial fulfillment promises are almost immanent, so that par excellence is a field for the deliberately calculated application of kitsch.
Advertising photos, for example for perfumes, often use a heroic aestheticization of the naked body, the u. a. already used by the National Socialists.
In contradictory terms such as “real wood imitation” or “marble decoration” should be close to authentic values such. As a noble material pretend. Also a term like “Relive” for a straight not live-transmitted record is in the broadest sense kitsch.
Folk plays, which often play in a peasant environment that never existed before, are processed for television and then recorded in front of an audience in a theater.
Sentimentality and sentimentality are always associated with the term Schnulze of any category. The genre Heimatfilm often shows landscapes that are characterized by their untouched nature. These include mostly alpine meadows, valleys and mountain slopes. The focus is mostly on traditions, costumes and folk music. In the center of the home movies are usually authorities such as doctors, foresters or pastors. The films are accused, good and evil are clean separated and the action mostly predictable.
The so-called trivial literature is accused of dedicating itself to themes such as love, death, adventure, crime, war and so on in a clichéd way that is alien to reality. In terms of language, comprehensibility, and emotionality, it is structured in such a way that it meets the expectations of a large mass audience by suggesting to it a beautiful world with a clear distinction between good and evil. Perhaps the most essential of its characteristics can be captured in this sense: it does not break the reader’s horizon of expectation.
Studio Harcourt has, through its licked lights and his art of retouching, his stars photographed with their Doudou, their Eiffel Tower junk, photographs of celebrities Grévin museum, etc. the kitsch champion.
Similar are kitsch associations with Salvationist religions such as Christianity. In these currents the final happiness happens only after death, when the soul rises to a paradise of eternal beatitudes. In other societies, where the idea prevails that time is circular, in spite of transient difficulties the continuity of life is assured in a universe in essence harmonious, but in salvationist religions the world is conceived as essentially evil, which imposes the necessity of a definitive liberation, based on an ethics of postponing gratification and an evolutionary perspective of life. However, it happens that with the advent of modernity many religious myths are exhausted and lost popular appeal, at the same time that the dizzying changes throughout society triggered the birth of a feeling of anxiety before the impermanence of things and the instability of traditions. This converges with the political critique that kitsch serves as a sedative for the pains of the world, and the Christian imaginary overflows with sugary and pre-digested representations of the promise of postmortem reward, thus becoming products for immediate consumption and comfort and inciting predictable responses without the need for deep reflections.
However, the analysis of kitsch in relation to sacred art is delicate and dependent on a wide variety of determinants, and many scholars as well as religious leaders have therefore avoided it, not wishing to hurt susceptibilities. They recognize that even a sacred art being kitschy, it often exerts a positive influence on the audience for which it is intended. Therefore, some people consider the quality of art, as far as religion is concerned, a matter of lesser importance, taking into account the legitimate spiritual goals it seeks, making its criticism almost synonymous with impiety. Even when Christians admit that the art they prefer to contemplate is kitsch, they find theological or humanistic reasons to defend it, minimizing the aesthetic question. David Morgan recalled that recognizing the legitimacy of feelings such as sweetness, love and tenderness, central to popular religiosity, is an indispensable factor in understanding the kitsch phenomenon in the sphere of sacred art. In addition, he noted that this type of image is seldom used alone, and is only part of a range of pious practices, including prayer, cultivation of ancient traditions, and others that together form a complex, organized, and coherent whole.
Others, however, consider that sacred kitsch art exacts a high price in return for the profit it intends to produce, leading to a demise of spirituality and a relaxation of the experience of its inherent rigors, replacing them with mere sentimentalism. Paul Coates went so far as to say that this art is an impotent formula that not only trivializes and emasculates the sublime subjects it represents, but covers them with ridicule, which seems to be confirmed in the existence not only of poor, also of an avalanche of items that only fit in the categories of souvenir or pure hardware, although decorated with images of the religion. At the same time, new kitsch sacred
are emerging that are characterized as kitsch for their spectacular and emotional proselytizing, for their numerous concessions to individual preferences and for their lack of sound moral foundations.
The basic problem that kitsch raises for criticism is the relativism of what is considered good or bad. Several recent authors have emphasized the importance of this relativism as a form of legitimation of otherness, but again Kulka pointed out that although good or bad are relative concepts, they are in reference to a certain cultural context where general values remain valid, without meaning that relativism can be reduced to a problem of personal taste. He also said that although the kitsch has been co-opted by educated artists, rarely has it in its purity been able to gain recognition from critics for its own virtues, since it is most often consciously used by those artists as a citronistic element of irony, parody or social and cultural criticism.
Above all, what seems essential to the concept is its emotive charge, and to be effective it needs to be explicitly narrative, easily understood by its audience. Kitsch objects as a rule trigger an automatic and unreflective emotional response. Porcelain kittens, plaster statues for religious worship, plush dolls, garden dwarfs, stereotyped tropical landscapes with coconut trees at sunset, representations of mothers with babies or crying children, postcards of snowy villages in Switzerland, these other recurring images in the kitsch world are described as cute, sweet, and other affectionate adjectives, describing universal emotions, while invoking a certain self-complacency, manifested in the recognition of that universality and that the emotional response was correct. Milan Kundera reflected that “Kitsch provokes two tears in rapid succession: The first one says: How beautiful it is to see children running on the lawn!” The second says: How good it feels to be touched, along with all humanity, lawn! It’s the second tear that makes kitsch kitsch. ”
Unlike contemporary art, which in its most radical forms seeks to subvert the system by creating new cultural, perceptual and ideological parameters, the goal of kitsch is not to create new expectations, nor to challenge the status quo, but to please the greatest number of people possible to meet existing expectations, exploring basic human impulses relative to the family, race, nation, love, nostalgia, religious beliefs, political positions, becoming, more than an aesthetic preference, a way of life if the absence of questioning and the aversion to facing the dark side of existence are consistently reiterated. For Abraham Moles, kitsch is “the art of happiness.” Another facet of this is the infantilization of the popular imaginary, with obvious examples in the aesthetics of Disneyland – called by Baudrillard of the “western microcosm” – and in the proliferation of Japanese cartoons, both of which dynamize very rich markets.
Bert Olivier understood that since the flourishing of postmodernity, contemporary culture seems especially suited to the seduction of kitsch, emphasized by a shifting of the attention of the object of desires to the search for substitutive feelings of egocentric character. This manifests itself in the preference for decontextualized images, imitations and simulacra, in a culture saturated with images and pervaded by virtuality such as is contemporary. He said that this impression is corroborated by the omnipresence of “addictive” products like sugary soap operas, Hollywood pasteurized films and exciting videogames that offer emotional intensity in the absence of real objects, and with their scenes of conflict against fictitious oppressors solved to order, eliminate the observer’s need to identify oppressors in the real world and combat them, functioning as vicarious catharsis.