Friday, January 3, 2014

Kitschy, Kitschy Koo is no Longer Baby Talk – It’s a Meme

"The interior of a Mexican Restaurant" Kitschy or Cool?
The term “meme” has been around since 1976; yet, for some of us, it feels brand new thanks to the Internet. The word, first coined by Richard Dawkins was used to describe the behavior of genes. Later he referred to the internet’s use of meme as “deliberate and altered;" In other words – a high jacking of the original content or idea. #stolenstuff 

Pronounced meem, this term refers to any idea, style, action which spreads, often as mimicry, from one person to another on the Internet. Like a plague or a disease, a meme may take the form of an image, hyperlink, video, picture, website or hashtag. Even an error or misspell can become a meme that catches on and spreads until it becomes popular and accepted usage.

"Kitschy" or Flashy?
I’ve seen it in the art world. A popular composition or theme gains momentum when it is shared and soon there are countless variations or knock-offs from that first original idea. Like rabbits, these alterations spawn additional copycat versions earning the title of “kitsch.”

What exactly is kitsch? In the 19th century it was art that conveyed exaggerated sentimentality and melodrama or “camp” if it was humorous or ironic in nature. Today kitsch is simply tacky or in bad taste. The word “gaudy” is sometimes used to describe work that is calculated to have a popular appeal. But beauty and worth are both in the eye of the beholder. "One person's trash is another man's treasure," so who's to judge? #Lovemyjunk 

Kitsch is not a new word. Originating in Munich, Germany around 1865, it described any artwork that was cheap, popular, and marketable. That still holds true today. The reason artists resort to kitsch in the first place is because it’s fun, quick, and lucrative. Kitsch brings in the cash and butters the bread.

Kitschy or Catchy?
Critics argue that the essence of kitsch is imitation. The purveyors are merely copying the beautiful and the popular to make money, but the good and substantial part of the work is missing.

Kitsch becomes “cliché” when it is overused to the point of losing its original appeal. Salvador Dali once said: “The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot.”

Ironically, Dali stole that phrase from Gèrard de Nerval who said: “The first man who compared woman to a rose was a poet, the second, an imbecile.”

"Couldn't resist adding an Internet joke." #nothingpersonaldear
The old fashioned game of “Whisper” where you passed a secret from one ear to another seems minuscule compared to the scope of the “world wide web” of today’s Internet. Like the flash of a speeding bullet, ideas, artwork, and photographs race across cyber airways adding fodder to meme, kitsch, and consequently the trash that ends up in our inbox. #damspam 

The Jewish culture has long had a word for this aberration: “Schlock” which refers to something shoddy, cheap or inferior. In this day and age of information overload, perhaps we should use more discretion in our choices and focus on quality not quantity. We’ve all heard this before, but does anyone ever follow this advice? #turnsadeafear 

Stay tuned for a discussion of an art movement known as “Pop Surrealism” and why some consider this a “lowbrow” alternative.

mixed media -- "That's my Baby"