We thus proceed to the seventh article:--
Objection 1. It seems that kitsch represents not real life, as art does, but artificially processed representations of real life. "The primary task of poetry, arising out of art in its first function, is to convey the aesthetic component of reality in and for itself apart from all postulated doctrine and theory. Put more concretely, it must keep men continuously aware of the freshness and the ineffable beauty and richness of the immediately apprehended" (F. S. C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities).
Reply to objection 1. Take two portrayals of hell, Dante's Inferno and Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey. Dante's account has been around for almost seven centuries. It has been taught in the schools and the colleges, admired in the original and in countless translations--and thoroughly hated by the students of Italian 310 who have been subjected to it, lectured and tested on it. Bill and Ted came out in 1992. Which is gonna be fresher?
Reply to reply to objection 1. Yeah, but as Dante hisself saith:
The latter mode seems only to deny
the bond of love which all men have from Nature;
therefore within the second circle lie
simoniacs, sycophants, and hypocrites,
falsifiers, thieves, and sorcerers,
grafters, pimps, and all such filthy cheats.
The former mode of fraud not only denies
the bond of nature, but the special trust
added by bonds of friendship or blood-ties.
(Inferno Canto 11, Circle 6, 55-63; John Ciardi's translation)
Reply to reply to reply to objection 1. Yeah, so? Just trying to bludgeon me into submission with a kitschy quote from a major author?
Reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 1. If it's not obvious to you what that quotation is supposed to show, there's no point my elucidating it for you.
Reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 1. But that's--that's not--but that's mean! That's not nice! Why can't you tell me? (Sob, sniff)
Reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 1. Oh, God, don't go all soft and mushy on me.
Reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 1. But you hurt my feelings!
Reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 1. Okay, okay. Look, I'm sorry. I forgot for a moment my pedagogical mission. Here, let me make it up to you. This is the kind of stuff you like, right? Check this out: "The Majesty of Roses . . . Soothing the senses . . . lifting the spirit . . . nourishing the soul in a spectacular collector plate by internationally renowned botanical artist Rosanne Sanders in an official commission for the United Kingdom's Royal National Rose Society: 'Fragrant Glory,' A Limited Edition Collector Plate portraying the magnificent blooms found in the gardens of the Society--from the scarlet petals of Madame Louis Laperriere to the coral blossoms of Fragrant Cloud. Priced at just $29.50, this imported collector plate is forever limited to 45 firing days" (Memphis Commercial Appeal, Parade Magazine, June 28, 1992). Let's see, ordering information: write The Franklin Mint, Franklin Center, PA 19091-0001--or better yet, let me buy you one. Can't have you blubbering like a baby, can we.
Reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 1. "Malice is the sin most hated by God, / And the aim of malice is to injure others / whether by fraud or violence" (Inferno, Canto 11, circle 6, 22-24; John Ciardi's translation). And if, by the implication of your former citation, kitsch artists are fraudulent, you are clearly being malicious; therefore, I call to my defense Dr. Tommy Aquinas:
And the Master said: "You had best not be seen
by these Fiends till I am ready. Crouch down here.
One of these rocks will serve you as a screen.
And whatever violence you see done to me,
you have no cause to fear. I know these matters:
I have been through this once and come back safely."
(Inferno, Canto 21, circle 8, 61-66)
Reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 1. I don't need no rocks to hide behind, like some people I know. I've got the truth on my side, pal. And I ain't afraid of no Tommy A, neither.
Objection 2. It seems further that kitsch relies for its false "power" on high technology: computers, repetition, mass marketing and packaging strategies, repetition, shrink-wrap, sugar and artificial preservatives, repetition, artificial flavors and colors (colorized movies), special effects, repetition, lip-syncing . . .
Reply to objection 2. "High tech is potent, precise, and in the end, unbeatable. The truth is, it reminds a lot of people of the way I pitch horseshoes. Would you believe some of the people? Would you believe our dog? Look, I want to give the high-five symbol to high tech" (George Bush, 4/25/89).
Reply to reply to objection 2. What, are you crazy? And you call yourself President of these great United States? You're sitting in the room with that red button? Do you know anything, do you ever think anything, do you ever read anything--
Reply to reply to reply to objection 2. "Watch quite a bit. I watch the news and I don't like to tell you this, because you'll think I'm into some weird TV freak here, but we--I have a set upstairs that has five screens on it and I can sit on my desk and whip--just punch a button if I see one off on the corner, that moves into the middle screen, the other one goes to the side. Then I can run up and down the--up and down the dial. So I--and you can record all four--four going at once, while you--when you're watching. I don't quite know how to do that yet. But I cite this because Barbara accuses me of being too much--not too much, but plugged into TV too often, put it that way. Love sports on TV" (George Bush, 12/22/91).
Reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 2. Jesus Christ, man, you're out of yer fuckin tree! You, a Yale graduate! I oughta--oughta--
Reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 2. "I've got to run now and relax. The doctor told me to relax. The doctor told me to relax. The doctor told me. He was the one. He said, 'Relax'" (George Bush, 5/12/91).
Reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 2. Even if Bush's health goes to hell, never worry; Death, who has power even over hell, can lip-sync (even got busted for it, we saw it in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey), and may even have been lip-syncing Bush's public appearances.
Objection 3. It seems that kitsch is inorganic, divorced from an earthy, natural grasp of life itself; it is mediated by alienating and denaturing capitalistic apparatuses whose only goal is the further subjection of the true life within every human being. "If one of our man-ape ancestors needed a heavy stone to hammer something or a sharp stone to scrape something, he poked around until he found one, and when he finished with it he would throw it away. He had no pockets, because he had no clothes" (Donald Barr, The How and Why Wonder Book of Primitive Man). In our kitsch culture, on the other hand, the average citizen will not even pull a hammer or a plane out of his pocket; he will simply go to his local Wal-Mart and buy a smooth surface to lay over whatever roughness has annoyed him. To be sure, this development is even present in germinant form in prehistoric times: "Soon the news was passed from tribe to tribe that if you could find good core-stones you could make many handfuls of tools from one stone, and make them quickly" (Donald Barr, The How and Why Wonder Book of Primitive Man). Repetition: the beginnings of kitsch culture. Fortunately, we have surviving cave paintings to remind us that there was, even then, great art (back before color copiers). And then, in Aaron Elkins' portrayal of the survivors of the Yahi in late-twentieth-century Washington State, we see a nearly extinct primitive tribal culture (nearly extinct because separated from their truly organic culture by persecution from a kitsch culture) returned to their cultural prime by a graduate student of anthropology sick of the kitschy ways of his own culture, nostalgic for the days of true hands-on artistic culture, horrified when the protagonist Gideon Oliver arrives in the midst of his tribe with--but let Elkins tell the tale: "'I bring gifts in your honor,' he said [in rudimentary Yahi picked up from Karl Kroeber's dictionary]. 'I apologize for their being poor and worthless and not to be compared with your own belongings, but I beg you to accept them.'
"He delivered his little address with what he hoped were properly expansive gestures, but nonetheless he experienced a slight sinking sensation as he spoke. A rubber turtle in their honor?" (Elkins, The Dark Place).
Reply to objection 3. But who's to say that, to the Yahi, a rubber turtle isn't art? It was, in fact, the tribe's favorite; they all fought over it. It's a certain visceral response to an artifact, conditioned by ideological assumptions, that makes it "art" or "kitsch."
Reply to reply to objection 3. Of course it's a response. But it's not an authentic, organic response. The Yahi could not possibly respond authentically to an inauthentic object like a rubber turtle.
Reply to reply to reply to objection 3. But it's the response that makes an object (seem to some, not to others) authentic. Authenticity is a reification of liking something, wanting more of it, the desire to establish it as the best kind of thing there is. Authenticity is a secondary fiction--not the "real thing."
Reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 3. Any "secondary fiction" of authenticity is indeed not the "real thing" but precisely inauthentic.
Reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 3. Okay, put your money where your mouth is, bud. Show me an authentic object. And prove to me, while you're at it, that it hasn't been constructed as authentic by ideological norms.
Reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 3. Sure, put the burden on me, when obviously, logically, the burden is on you. The authenticity of an object is required by the logic of our postulate. It's not an ideological norm, nor is it a thing in and of itself; it is a function of the postulate.
Reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 3. But where does the postulate come from--if not from the ruling ideological norms of the society (the desire of a ruling class to declare their own art "art" and the masses' art "kitsch") or of the Force (which goeth wither it wist).
Reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 3. No, no, you don't understand (which reflects on your education, my friend). A postulate does not "come" from anywhere; a postulate is postulated. Why does two plus two equal four? Where does that "come from"? Nowhere. It is a function of mathematics.
Reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 3. Actually, it's a function of faith. You believe it because somebody told you to, and you quickly discovered that it was in your best interests to at least act as if you believed it.
Reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 3. Are you saying that two plus two doesn't equal four?
Reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 3. No! If you say it, I believe it. You are, after all, the professor; and I want an A out of this course.
Get in here and close the door (for article eight). Not a peep.
Behind this door's the articles screen.
And old Copyright stands guard outside for Bill and Doug