I'm not feeling too eloquent and articulate today so I'm just going to use other people's words (for now) to try and describe what I feel about 'kitsch'. I was blog-hopping yet again when I came across masalachaionline's eclectic collection of posts featuring Indian artists and designers. One such post featured a bunch of photographs of 'Indian street-art'. The following was one of the comments left by a reader and I'm borrowing her words:
"these are wicked - I love any street art and look forward to seeing more of this. I don't like how Indian street art has been appropriated by retro-ironic types here though - really irks me when I see rails of mass-produced tees and totes with some faux-bollywood style poster, or Indian packaging or something - you're left with nothing of the original humour, but just some dry remnant of exotica."
A more oblique but interesting viewpoint is provided by Franco-Czech writer Milan Kundera in his fabulous book The Unbearable Lightness of Being where he says that kitsch is the anti-thesis of anything that is remotely reminiscent of individuality, originality and doubt. A leveler of the contradictions and complexities of real life, kitsch according to Kundera is akin to totalitarianism where "all answers are given in advance and preclude any questions."
So what's all the fuss about? When what all kitschy art is really all about is imitation and appropriation of an established style without trying to question it any way. It doesn't challenge convention, it follows formula and is a function of capitalist machinery. How many more pillow cases/bags/t-shirts with printed faces of Rekha/Dharmender/Amitabh do we have to sell before we move on to something that can be called 'original' and 'authentic' without having to use quote marks?