Category Archives: kitsch

👏🏻Clap for the NHS👏🏻 is to gestures what Jeff Koons is to art

Every Thursday at 8pm, Britishers are required to come to their windows and hail 🙏🏻the NHS bureaucracy🙏🏻. Applause must be long, loud, and accompanied, Dalrymple notes,

with ululations.

He dislikes such actions,

which seem to me empty and shallow. They are supposed to be gestures of gratitude and encouragement, but all that I have seen suggests that doctors and nurses are more irritated than pleased by them. Often they have to work in poor conditions, with essential equipment lacking despite the vast expenditure on the health service.

He points out that thus to genuflect is cheap.

It costs nothing, financially or in any other way.

The Danube of Thought: cheer him to the rafters

There is also

something unpleasant about it. When lots of people make a gesture collectively, there is often the implication that if you refrain from making it—and even worse if you actively refuse to make it—you are in some sense an enemy, in this case, of the people. Whatever your inner conviction, it is safest to join in. By doing so you avoid drawing attention to yourself and you are assumed to think and feel like everyone else, which is always safest.

It reminds Dalrymple, in its tendency to get longer and louder and almost more hysterical,

of the applause after a speech by Nicolae Ceaușescu or any other communist despot, in which everyone in the audience had to show himself to be as enthusiastic as the most enthusiastic applauder, and to continue applauding as long as someone else was applauding, for to be the first to stop might be taken as a sign of disloyalty and dissent from the official line.

His objection is also æsthetic:

I find it to be emotionally kitsch.

The sort of ‘art’ excreted by Jeff Koons: Play-Doh (five versions, 1994-2014)

Kavanaugh’s excruciatingly bad taste

The age of emotional kitsch

In his statement to the American legislature, Brett Kavanaugh said that his 10-year-old daughter had prayed for his accuser. To this, Dalrymple had the kind of allergic reaction he used to have when, at his junior school just before the Great War, his teachers caught their nail running down the blackboard. It was, he says,

a blatant attempt to manipulate the emotions of the committee.

Kitsch radicalism

‘The photo that adorns a thousand tea-towels, watch faces, boxes of fudge, covers of exercise books, and other products of radical kitsch. Che started as a murderer and ended as Mickey Mouse.’

How to quickly sort the dead from the comatose

Founding exhibit of the National Museum of Kitsch

Looking for a plastic-cased alarm clock in the form of a mosque? There are, Dalrymple notes,

three colours to choose from: sky blue, apple green, and baby pink.

At the appointed time, Dalrymple explains,

a raucous muezzin begins to call, enough to waken the dead, let alone the sleeper. When I hear him—he switches suras if you allow him to go on long enough—I think of those Victorians who feared premature burial (I have a small collection of books on the subject).

These Victorians

invented many different methods of avoiding the terrible fate, including patent coffins with megaphones to alert passers-by to the presence of the living interred.

There were also

cords tied to the big toes of the pseudo-deceased, in the undertakers’ chapel of rest. The cords connected them to a bell, sensitive to the slightest movement, in the undertakers’ office — like the defunct servants’ call bells you sometimes see in old mansions.

But these methods, it seems to Dalrymple,

would quickly have been superseded by this mosque alarm clock.

 

Notes on sex shops

These establishments must show more imagination if they are to stimulate our sated appetites

From time to time, writes Dalrymple,

in far-flung places, I catch a glimpse of pornographic films on cable TV in hotel rooms. These mostly German films are almost as widely exported as Mercedes cars; yet they are about as unerotic as it is possible for pornography to be.

The films appear to consist largely, he says,

of overweight men and women running naked into muddy ponds, where they thrash about naughtily, giggling.

Dalrymple reports that the queen of German pornography, Beate Uhse,

is preparing to open a chain of her sex shops in Britain. Not only are cities such as London and Manchester in her sights, but small country towns. She feels the need to bring leather to Leamington and dildos to Devon.

Will this be the end of civilisation? Dalrymple doubts it, if Uhse’s Berlin sex shop and erotic museum — billed as the largest such establishment — are anything to go by. Both the shop and museum, Dalrymple says,

are as sexually provocative as a C&A store.

The displays

are dusty and unenticing. A plastic mermaid with a blue tail sits in one window, apple-green scallop shells demurely covering her nipples; while in another, a plastic woman in red underwear and white suspenders lies curled up in a Champagne glass, a toucan sitting on its rim. It isn’t so much sex that Miss Uhse peddles as barely titillating kitsch.

In a sex-saturated age, Dalrymple argues, the stores are tame.

We have become so used to the most explicit sexual images that stores dealing in pornography are bound to seem not merely uninteresting, but old-fashioned.

In the name of God, desist!

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-16-27-44Anish Kapoor, writes Dalrymple, is

one of those many modern artists who would add considerably to the beauty of the world by desisting from their activities.

On the question of publicly-funded art, Dalrymple’s view is that

if we must have it, as seems to be inevitable, let us at least have as little and cheap as possible.

Cheap, childish artefacts

Dalrymple points out that the professional caste of cognoscenti have

consistently applauded the trivialisation of art

and its relegation to the status of

financial speculation at best, a game for children showing off to the adults at worst.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 22.47.21

The 70-year-old adolescents

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 07.55.41Forever a teenager

When one sees pictures of ageing rock stars, writes Dalrymple,

one is torn between repulsion and pity. Their faces are canyoned by age, but with their uncompromisingly youthful hairstyles, dress and comportment, they look like revenants in a budget horror film, as if they have just brushed the clay of the churchyard in which they were buried from their face and body. There are more and more people in our streets who look like this but who have never been rock stars; we grow older as a population, but not with acceptance, let alone grace.

Western culture is one of eternal adolescence, keeping us permanently immature.

First comes precocity, then arrested development.

Dalrymple points out that adolescence

is an age of bad taste, when all that is garish and meretricious attracts, and all that is subtle and meritorious repels. To make of adolescence the state in which one wishes to remain is to wish upon the world the permanent triumph of the kitsch, the shallow and the gimcrack.

Accordingly, the adolescent sensibility

is one that prevails in much of the art world, where the most adolescent of goals, transgression, is still aimed at. Shock the parents, épater le bourgeois.

The problem is that

the parents have long since refused to grow up and the bourgeoisie has long since decamped to Bohemia. It is hardly surprising that so much artistic production now has all the freshness of last week’s bread, for few are so conformist as rebellious youth.

What is it about Cameron that repels?

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 23.26.34The British prime minister: a repulsive, ruthless sentimentalist who contemns his own countrymen

The language David Cameron uses, writes Dalrymple, is

a mixture of undignified and condescending demotic and mid-Atlantic psychobabble.

Especially repellent is

the sentimentality of what he has to say, closely allied as it is, to its utter complacency and ruthlessness, both express and implied.

Cameron’s actions, says Dalrymple,

cause me to shudder in the way I shudder when a singer misses a note. There is something wrong, kitsch or ersatz about it. An office-seeker who is prepared to parade his sentiments in public is ruthless, not sensitive. Sentimentality is frequently the reverse side of the coin of cruelty.

Implied in everything Cameron does is

contempt for the people of his own country,

whom he deems

incapable of grasping an argument about the desirability of fatherhood for children without the aid of Hello! magazine-type illustrations. This is to reduce our politics to the intellectual level of American tele-evangelism.

A powerful reminder of why modernism was an imperative

William C.T. Dobson, Christ as a Child, 1857. 'Garish and sickly,' says Dalrymple. 'The likes of Dobson not only painted bad pictures but did lasting damage to our artistic tradition, making the avoidance of their kitschy sentiment almost the first duty of any artist.'

William C.T. Dobson, Christ as a Child, 1857. ‘Garish and sickly,’ says Dalrymple. ‘The likes of Dobson not only painted bad pictures but did lasting damage to our artistic tradition, making the avoidance of their kitschy sentiment almost the first duty of any artist.’