You just don’t see the word kitsch flying around. I don’t think it’s because there’s any lack of kitsch — art that’s considered overly sentimental, pretentious, or mass-produced into clichedom. I think it’s because kitsch has taken over. Anymore, if it isn’t kitsch, art is considered “weird.”
KITSCH: The reduction of aesthetic objects or ideas into easily marketable forms. Some theorists of postmodernism see the “kitschification” of culture as one symptom of the postmodern condition. The term can be as difficult to define as its companion term, “camp,” since there are so many disparate examples that can be cited as kitsch. Jean Baudrillard provides us with a useful definition: “The kitsch object is commonly understood as one of that great army of ‘trashy’ objects, made of plaster of Paris [stuc] or some such imitation material: that gallery of cheap junk—accessories, folksy knickknacks, ‘souvernirs’, lampshades or fake African masks—which proliferate everywhere, with a preference for holiday resorts and places of leisure” (Consumer Society 109-10). As Baudrillard goes on, “To the aesthetics of beauty and originality, kitsch opposes its aesthetics of simulation: it everywhere reproduces objects smaller or larger than life; it imitates materials (in plaster, plastic, etc.); it apes forms or combines them discordantly; it repeats fashion without having been part of the experience of fashion” (Consumer Society 111). My class on the Holocaust (HONR 199K) defined kitsch on January 23, 2001 by way of Spielberg’s film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: 1) kitsch tends to simplify and trivialize complex ideas by reducing them to black-and-white stereotypes, as Dale Fresch explained (for example, Sean Connery’s speech about the “armies of darkness”); 2) it is oriented to the masses and thus tends towards a lowest-common denominator so that anyone can relate; 3) it tends to be tied to mass consumption and thus to profit-making entertainment. As Baudrillard puts it, “This proliferation of kitsch, which is produced by industrial reproduction and the vulgarization at the level of objects of distinctive signs taken from all registers (the bygone, the ‘neo’, the exotic, the folksy, the futuristic) and from a disordered excess of ‘ready-made’ signs, has its basis, like ‘mass culture’, in the sociological reality of the consumer society” (Consumer Society 110); 4) kitsch remains, on the whole, completely unselfconscious and without any political or critical edge. When kitsch becomes especially self-conscious it begins to tip over into camp. The one point in the Last Crusade where kitsch could be said to tip over into camp is when Hitler himself signs Indiana Jones’ book in the film.
“Bathed in Blessing” by Annie LaPoint. Insidous.
Q. “What so bad about it?”
A. “It’s like a salesman who agrees with everything you say and ends with, ‘So that’ll be $700 for fifteen copies.'”