The original meaning of the word “Kitsch” is actually a pejorative description for a particular kind of art, that has no intellectual value. However, philosophers and artists have been arguing about the meaning of the word for ages.
In general, everything that can be considered mass culture and the illusion of a perfect world, of permanent childhood, can be called kitsch. A classic example is the drawing of the roaring stag, which was really popular in the 19th and 20th century.
The German philosopher and sociologist Theodor W. Adorno has described Kitsch as “stupidly consoling”. Meant is the art, which shows us a sophisticated world without conflicts, and which gives a positive feeling when we look at it. The positive feelings can be, for example, of religious, patriotic, nostalgic, or sentimental nature.
What every artist has to worry about, is the question of whether his works could be classified under this category and, if so, why. Producing a “kitschy” artwork is not negative, as long as this was the artist´s intention. Thus, many postmodern artists were proud to create Kitsch and made their works cult objects. However, Kitsch can easily become something negative when the artist is not aware of producing something kitschy. It is hard to not cross the line of kitsch sometimes. It is not important what, but rather how you draw. Pretty much any subject can be portrayed without slipping off into Kitsch.
One of the tasks of art is to shape, form and reflect the society in which it is created, but we don´t necessarily need to take the distances from what is kitsch. Human beings actually need kitsch from time to time, to flee from reality. This is the reason why kitsch is still very popular. Not every book we read is from Goethe or Schiller, not every movie we see is “Citizen Kane” and not every music we hear is Mozart or Bach. From time to time we need trivial literature, pop music, and popcorn cinema because not everything has to have a deeper meaning. Sometimes the objective is just to entertain. The real question is: at which point a work stops being art?
Image: Christian Kröner – Hirschkampf