Brand and Chaplin on Kitsch

“Milan Kundera memorably describes kitsch as art in which there is an absolute denial of s___.1 Kitsch offers a cosy, comfortable world, a world that is chirpy and cheerful and emotionally cheap. Kitsch trivialises human experience, never enlarges it. It deals in cliché, never new ways of saying something. It is art that is immature, often deliberately babyish. It is high on nostalgia and glitter and low on realism.

“The problem with talking about kitsch is that it risks criticising objects which can mean very much to people. The attachment is often based not on aesthetic qualities of the object but the associations and memories it evokes: a gift from a child, a souvenir of a happy holiday. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that. Any dogmatic condemnation of such items is merely snobbery. In any case, today’s kitsch may well be tomorrow’s antiques!

“However, if Christian artists produce art which is shallow, sentimental and low on realism, they not only produce bad art, they also misinterpret the full Christian experience of living in a broken, albeit redeemed, world – an experience which may contain more lows than highs.”

Hilary Brand and Adrienne Chaplin, Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts, 107.

1. Kundera, Milan, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

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