Sunday, May 20, 2007

Kitsch or Cliché?

Kitsch: n. Postmodern kitsch is bad taste masquerading as irony.
I think kitsch is fun and funny. For that reason, I have several pictures tagged as kitsch at Flickr. When I did a search among other Flickr members for pictures tagged as kitsch, some nature shots showed up--sunsets and seascapes--and one picture of a pony being fed something by a small girl reaching up.
These pictures, however, the nature shots, are not kitsch. They may well be visual / artistic clichés, but given that they are more or less naturally colored and that the subject matter itself was natural not manufactured or created by some man-made act of industry, they cannot be kitsch.

I offer here these two pictures of similar subject matter: Above, the painting of a seaside scene found in a pasty shop in a landlocked English town. And off to our right, a seaside scene taken in actual Whitby on the Yorkshire Coast. While the subject matter is superficially the same, the painting is in bright, garish colours and adds the "ificial" to artificial (as opposed to adding the "art" to artificial, which is arguable at best). I found it fun to look at on my eyes when I was there and amusing on a couple levels, but I don't mistake my admiration of the painting or its placement for good taste.
The idyllic scene at right with its shades of blue, tile roofs and lighthouse has all the elements of a typical sea view. Despite its being really like that, invoking fond memories of a better day in February than had any right to be expected, and not obviously ugly in its composition, it may be (probably is, but it's my baby and how can I say things against it?) guilty of cliché. It is, after all, the very type-ical-ness of the picture that makes it cliché.

But not kitsch.

I suppose kitsch that's repeated to the point of being a cliché would be a kitsché