Angela Simione responds to Kitsch Posts

by on Aug.25, 2010

Angela Simione was going to post a comment to the Tiffany interview but then it became too long so she wrote an entire entry on her blog. I’m copying it here.

Angela Simione:

i’ve been following this discussion about kitsch and its “poetry roots” for the passed few days and i find it so compelling. totally intriguing. and there is such a huge possibility for this kind of discussion to blow up, morph, twist, writhe, and then maybe create a site for a bit of understanding too.

i went to leave a comment but my comment got so big i decided to just stick it here. 🙂


mmmmmmm… Greenberg. i have issues with Greenberg.

a lot of his theories are based in class/social systems/beliefs: those who can afford leisure, those who have time to become educated about art vs. those who don’t. and he is quite blatant in his theories that poor people are stupid because they can’t afford to become un-stupid: they’re too busy working and scrubbing and scrimping.

i have deep, angry issues with Greenberg.

and so, based on his theories of Art: rich people have art. poor people have kitsch.

did poetry fall in to the hands of The Poor? did Poverty impoverish poetry? did The Poor infect it with their “bad taste” and lack of education? is it “fraudulent” to be poor? or… is it the social pressures to HIDE poverty that make one’s actions (poetry) appear “fraudulent”? is it “evil” to be poor? and therefore, Evil to express poverty? or, by way of lack of access, to function within/expose a language of impoverishment? dirt offends. that’s why The Angel of the House never did any cleaning. women are expected to be “pure” and not offensive. and so she had some other Poor Woman to do the cleaning for her, touch the dirt, finger the grime. status in direct connection with one’s proximity to dirt. to cleaning. to scrubbing floors.

and so i really like kitsch described as an “ineradicable residue” – dirt that cannot be removed. a grime that does not go away. a stained language. or the language of The Stain.

there are only two choices then: to ignore it (which has been the case) or to reckon with it (war or acceptance).

but, since the era when Greenberg was shoving all this out in to the world, the middle-class has become the biggest class in America. they create(d) a space between the extremes of rich and poor. but… a person of The Middle Class does not ever want to be mistaken for “Poor”. if anything, a person of The Middle Class would love to be perceived as “Rich”. and so i wonder… is kitsch, now, a sort of keeping-up-with-the-jones’s value system? is it a new breed of disdain for The Poor? that we are soooooo taken in and harnessed by the appearance of wealth (not necessarily actual wealth, just the appearance of it) that people who have the means to emulate wealth, do? or at least attempt to? is kitsch a Faux Elite?

if so, would kitsch, then, be an object produced that, through simulating the appearance of wealth, actually makes Greed concrete?

is kitsch, in essence, a representation of envy?

and therefore: shame.

an object or language that feels bad about itself? an object or language that refuses to accept itself as is, and wants to be perceived as something else? a play of pretend? a conscious action of trying to “trick” the sight and perceptions of others? a “poser”?

sight is the most easily tricked of all the senses: if you look like you have money, people will think that you actually do have money. kitsch understands this but somehow manages to miss the mark. there is the “ineradicable residue” of self-loathing (an acceptance of the ideology that “Poor” is a crime) on the surface. it is, somehow, an anti-reality. it doesn’t understand The Myth of Photographic Truth.

Bertolt Brecht said, “realism is not what real things are like, but what things are really like”

i have to read that statement out loud most of the time to get it. but once i catch what he’s saying, it makes such wonderful sense that it is the only way for me to describe my personal experience of what Kitsch “is”. it does not attempt to describe things as they actually are. it describes its own desire to be something it isn’t but hopes to be mistaken for. it is Frailty made visible. it is Inferiority-Complex made visible. it announces its complicity with regimes of wealth, power, and desire. it agrees that individual human value can be determined through the appearance of wealth. and, at this stage in the game, the actuality of Poor and the appearance of Poor (in its extremes) line up and therefore have an authenticity that kitsch will never have.

the Language of the Stain has honesty in it. art can be made with such humble materials. it can transcend its physical components. kitsch does not have the power of transcendence because it attempts to mirror what it sees to be art, not what art actually is.

Greenberg had it wrong. poor people are able to see and know art. they make it. they live it.

envious people have a hard time knowing what art is. an envious person spends their time in anger and fear, not learning.

a person becomes a leader by leading. not by making a knock-off of the jacket the leader wears. maybe kitsch is a physical manifestation of a NOW NOW NOW quick-fix culture?

it is an object that wants YOU to believe it has value. and kitsch is conscious of this. it is conscious of its own desires, shame, and motivations. it actively seeks to be perceived as The-Something-Else it admires.

this is not an effect of poverty itself. it is the effect of making being poor a blemish, a crime, something to be ashamed of… and the people who have become complicit with this outlook.

if people were not ashamed of poverty and did not try to hide it…
if people were not ashamed of the struggle they face…


what would kitsch be then?

all this is preliminary. i’m just thinking out loud. this is such an interesting topic and i can’t wait to see where johannes goes with this.

the language of kitsch is quite compelling and i think it can be harnessed to create tremendous works of art, and maybe even a new language.

1 comment for this entry:
  1. Mattie Giller

    are you quite sure? I’ve seen similar discussions around then net, but with other conclusions