A Creative Conversation by John D’Agostino
Killer Kitsch by John D'Agostino
Could Kitsch Be Dangerous?

In Mary Shelley’s story, Frankenstein’s Monster is sewn together from the parts of different dead bodies, much like a postmodern pastiche of Kitsch works of art we know and love today. A common staple of today’s artistic practice is the appropriation of various pop culture material, often with an ironic attitude to the styles before. On the surface, Kitsch appears to be just harmless fun. It may however, conceal a darker agenda.

From Marcel Duchamp’s call “to use a Rembrandt as an ironing board,” to Robert Rauschenberg’s erased DeKooning, to Ai WeiWei’s smashing of a Han dynasty vase, artists of the past 100 years have engaged in a tradition of actively demeaning & attacking other art. Much like the eradication of the Native American way of life as a countervailing economic system in Western expansion, history reminds us that alien value systems often cannot co-exist, even if one is not an actual threat. Kitsch may be sugary sweet, but could it also play for keeps?

Interestingly, the seemingly hostile attitude of Western Kitsch may be in stark contrast to the Eastern notion of Kitsch, (which in Japan and elsewhere) is much more agreeable to co-exist with the more traditional. So as Rodney King once opined, “Can’t we all just get along?” Or is it necessarily a zero sum game, where ideas & aesthetics fall out of fashion, never to return?

This discussion group will tackle some of the darker implications behind Kitsch, and encourage its participants to discuss more deeply the larger Darwinian “struggle” for the supremacy of style that lurks behind the competing major art movements of the past century.
Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q. postcard, 1919.
Peter Gronquist, Louis Vuitton Chainsaw
Ai Wei Wei, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995.
Leg Lamp For Sale, Amazon.com
Phil Toledano, from the Kim Jong Phil series
Walton Ford, I dont like looking at him, Jack, 2011.
M.I.A., XXXO video.