Tag Archives: kitsch

RIP John Miles (1949 – 2021)

“Music” (1976) by John Miles

John Miles was a British composer and musician best known for his composition “Music” (1976).

“Music” is a camp monstrosity in the category “foute muziek”.

The second movement of “Music”, which is uptempo, reminds me of “The Mexican” (1972) by Babe Ruth.

“The Mexican” shares some of “Music’s” campy qualities, but it is altogether a more satisfying song.

RIP Vittorio Gregotti (1927 – 2020)

And the first covid-19 victims start to come in.

Kitsch: The World of Bad Taste (1968)

Vittorio Gregotti was an Italian architect. He contributed the essay “Kitsch and Architecture” to Kitsch: The World of Bad Taste (1968) by Gillo Dorfles.

While the essay references Googie architecture and the kitsch of the roadside attraction, it fails to cite God’s Own Junkyard (1964).

It also fails to foreshadow the positive view of kitsch in Learning from Las Vegas (1972).

Being charmed and moved, isn’t that what it’s all about?

I have an aversion to Immanuel Kant, especially his aesthetics (that’s the only thing I actually know something about, I have to admit).

While in general I don’t ‘do’ negative criticism, I’m making an exception for the man from Köningsberg [the town where he was born and where he died and which he never left].

I first mentioned his incomprehensible concept of disinterestedness here[1].

Innocence (1893) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau: Both young children and lambs are symbols of innocence

Innocence (1893) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Today, while researching kitsch (most recently explored here[2]), I came upon another and similar of his dicta. This one warns us for charm and emotion in matters of taste:

“Any taste remains barbaric if its liking requires that charms and emotions be mingled in, let alone if it makes these the standard of its approval”.

I’m stumped.

Being charmed and moved, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Not for Kant it would appear.

And then I remembered one of my favorite definitions of aesthetics.

“Some of the meaning of aesthetic as an adjective can be illuminated by comparing it to anaesthetic, which is by construction an antonym of aesthetic. If something is anaesthetic, it tends to dull the senses, cause sleepiness and induce boredom. In contrast, aesthetic may be thought of as anything that tends to enliven or invigorate or wake one up.”

matter of life and death, so to speak.


My heart in my hands

Il Sacro Cuore, Church of the Gesù, Rome by Pompeo Batoni

I love art. I love kitsch. I love independent body parts.

Unite these three and you get Pompeo Batoni‘s uncanny painting Il Sacro Cuore (above), a depiction of Jesus who is holding his Sacred Heart in one hand and pointing to it with another. The work has become a staple of Christian art and the flaming and bleeding heart shining with divine light, pierced by the lance-wound, surrounded by the crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross, is familiar not to Christians alone.

In all honesty, when I say kitsch, I’m not being fair to Batoni, since his original work[1] (an oval portrait) is far less kitschy than the campy paintings that are derived from the original.

The visual trope of the sacred heart (with flames and blood) originates in a mystical vision by the French nun Margaret Mary Alacoque, who in 1674, described one of her visions:

“The Divine Heart was presented to me in a throne of flames, more brilliant than a sun, transparent as crystal, with this adorable wound. And it was surrounded with a crown of thorns, signifying the punctures made in it by our sins, and a cross above signifying that from the first instant of His Incarnation, […] the cross was implanted into it […].”

Jesus holding out his own heart reminds me of Denis, the patron Saint of Paris, holding his own head in his hands after he was decapitated.

One of the finest versions of the Sacred Heart is the frontispiece to De Culto Sacro Sancti Cordis Dei (above), 1726 by Charles-Joseph Natoire.

it unites art and anatomy and reminds me of  Goats & Heart (Ventriculi quatuor Caprilli) [image], a highlight from my days at Tumblr.

In praise of artificial ruins


A cross section of the Broken Column House at the Désert de Retz as recorded in Les jardins anglo-chinois by Georges-Louis Le Rouge, 1785 [1]

A cross section of the Broken Column House at the Désert de Retz as recorded in Les jardins anglo-chinois by Georges-Louis Le Rouge, 1785

A cross section of the Broken Column House as recorded in Les jardins anglo-chinois by Georges-Louis Le Rouge, 1785 [1].

The Broken Column House (the “colonne brisée”, or ruined column) is an artificial ruin in the French landscape garden Désert de Retz.

Let’s make some room for bad taste


Let’s make some room for bad taste.

Enter Lolo Ferrari.

Lolo Ferrari, born Eve Valois (February 9, 1968 – March 5, 2000) was the stage name of a French dancer, actress, and singer billed as “the woman with the largest breasts in the world” though their size was artificially achieved. In 1995, she caused a sensation at the Cannes Film Festival with the presentation of the movie Camping Cosmos by Jan Bucquoy.

Camping Cosmos is a comedy film by Belgian director Jan Bucquoy, starring Lolo Ferrari. We see Belgians on holiday in a trailer park at the beach in the year 1986 with the first danger signals of AIDS. The purpose of the campsite entertainer is to bring culture to the common people; but they are not interested when the play of Bertolt Brecht Mother Courage and Her Children is shown. Then he launches a beauty contest, a song contest and a boxing match

In Camping Cosmos Lolo Ferrari comes out of the sea as an Aphrodite with the song of “Land of Hope and Glory” and having her first orgasm with the comic Tintin in the Congo. The influence of Jacques Lacan is imminent: Sex is the little Death. Arno Hintjens and Jan Decleir are a homosexual couple. The protest of the younger generation (Eve and her boyfriend) supposedly refers to Traité du savoir-vivre à l’usage des jeunes générations by Raoul Vaneigem. A character cites Louis Scutenaire and détournement publicitaire à la Marcel Mariën is used. Both were Belgian surrealists.

The film is awful but aged 34 and feeling you haven’t seen everything yet and after all, you are from Belgium, and you see it anyway. You rent it a second time (you must be bored) and thankfully the video store clerk alerts you to your mistake.

Introducing Lisa Yuskavage

Introducing Lisa Yuskavage

Lisa Yuskavage (1999) by Katy Siegel [Amazon.com]
[FR] [DE] [UK]

I’ve mentioned the work of Yuskavage several times[1] [2][3][4][5] before but never dedicated a post to her.

Lisa Yuskavage (Born May 16, 1962 in Philadelphia) is a contemporary American figurative painter. She is a controversial painter with loaded subject matter such as that has been referred to as “outrageous quasi-pornographic sirens” and “anatomically impossible bimbos” as they mock the male desires of male fantasy.

Yuskavage is classified as a new figurative painter, to which American artists such as John Currin and Graydon Parrish also belong.

Lisa Yuskavage attended Tyler School of Art and received her MFA from Yale in 1986 but came to prominence in the mid-nineties in a series of seminal museum shows “Figure as Fiction” (1993) Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati; “My Little Pretty” (1997) Museum of contemporary Art, Chicago; “Presumed Innocence” (1997) “Pop Surrealism” (1998) Aldrich Museum; “The Nude in Contemporary Art” (1999).