Saturday, 18 August 2012

Good Bad Taste: Kitsch as a Middle Class Occupation

A friend of mine recently explained to me the phenomena of the 'ironic holiday', a trend in the young 'upper middle classes' to purposely holiday at seemingly 'kitsch' destinations popular with the 'working class' population. I have been repulsed and fascinated by this concept ever since. Here the invisible borders of the 'working class' spaces and the 'middle class' spaces are broken only to prove that they are impenetrable. For the choice to drink from the communal well of kitsch only serves to justify the rigid differences of the social classes. Kitsch's apolitical mask, its pretence to "demand nothing of its customers except their money”[1] renders this occupation more seductive, it is a playfully consumerist occupation, but an occupation nonetheless. 

Yet when I was sorting through the photographs on my laptop I realised how many of my photos unintentionally seem to fall into the brackets of 'kitsch'. They are gaudy, harshly lit and generally showcasing some form of novelty item. They document replica engagement rings of Lady Di and stolen Nicki Minaj posters in a council estate in Whitechapel. Much like the 'ironic holiday' they are both intrinsically tied to the physical world of space and place whilst also being entirely ahistorical. This is the sense that through kitsch we could be anywhere at any time. The photography of kitsch exaggerates this sense of displaced Otherness, providing a safe sense of removal for the viewer. 

However, I am reluctant to draw a total comparison between my work and the 'ironic holiday'. Does actually being the actual inhabiter of this environment differentiate me from the occupier? Or in the act of reproducing the replica am I wilfully distancing myself from my heritage? Either way in these strange, uncertain times there is a safety in kitsch, a sense of continuity in the fact that “kitsch changes according to style but remains always the same."

[1] Clement Greenberg, Avant Garde and Kitsch (1939)
[2] Ibid. 

'Christmas at Bristol Parkway Station', December 2011, 'Woman wearing Princess Diana Replica Engagement Ring from Primark on the Day of the Royal Wedding', March 2011, 'Royal Wedding Cupcakes, Tea Towel and Princess Diana  Replica Engagement Ring from Primark', March 2011, 'Shop Window', December 2011, 'Stolen Nicki Minaj Poster in Whitechapel', July 2011, 'My Cousins's Bedroom', December 2011, 'Waterfront Menu', April 2012, 'Rambo Arcade Game', April 2012, 'Lorrain's Tea Bar', April 2012, 'Welcome Sign in Whitechapel', September 2011.

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