Second Article

Whether kitsch is art?

We proceed thus to the second article:--

Objection 1. It seems that kitsch is not art. For art proceeds from the intense experience of beauty and truth, but kitsch proceeds from the intense experience of ugliness and lies. Therefore kitsch is not art. As it is said in the holy texts of The Congessional Record, Vol. 131, No. 6, H7015, as the representatives Mr. Armey and Mr. Yates argue about what counts as "art" for purposes of NEA funding:

"Mr. Armey: I think it is a matter, it is a requirement, of our office that when we appropriate funds to any agency we know that those funds [are going to subsidize art]... I have poems here that did bother me at that time [when funding was previously discussed] and do bother me at this time. I sat in my office with seven young, virile men, and not one of us could read several of these poems aloud, they were that bad."

So there are standards for art, especially art to be funded through public resources. Kitsch cannot be funded, for it is not art. Even standards for funding artistic endeavors cannot include kitsch: poems so bad that they cannot even be read aloud by "seven [count 'em!] virile young men." This is not art.

Objection 2. Further, art is not of individuals. Kitsch treats of individual lives, like Bill and Ted in the Underworld, playing Battleship with Death. Or homoerotic photographs--hardly something that can be universally appreciated as beautiful and true. Therefore kitsch is not art.

Okay, fine. You got it. We won't contest the point. Whoever wanted kitsch to be art in the first place?

If it's not art, why talk about it? Funding?

Why talk about anything? It's fun to talk about kitsch. But that doesn't mean we have to assimilate it to art or distinguish it from art. All art is kitsch and all kitsch is art, and both is neither. And we'll discuss funding later--you're pulling us off the Aquinas track again and imperiling the integrity of our form. And our beatification.

Up yours; I'm not through yet. What do you mean by "both is neither"? That is precisely a kitschy definition of art; for it makes all rational discourse about art impossible. Art is only defined in opposition to kitsch, which is by definition outside of art, which is in turn by definition that which excludes kitsch. Break down those categories and you throw the baby out with the bath water.

"Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires" (Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell). Or throw it out the window.


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