For the June 2011 edition of Modern Horizons we invite essays that explore the various intellectual, artistic, emotional, and political manifestations of kitsch in our time.
In our current culture, the word ‘kitsch’ has come to be associated often with tacky souvenirs and cheap trinkets. However, there is a thicker sense given to the word by various thinkers and authors in the twentieth century, even if it is regularly connected with an idea of culture. The Austrian novelist Hermann Broch, examining kitsch in art, offers that kitsch is the greatest aesthetic evil, for its imitative style and overdone effect detracts from the epistemological ethic that grounds all genuine artistic achievement in culture, which is humanity’s defiance of death. Theodor Adorno’s approach, by contrast, focuses on the presence of kitsch in mass culture. He emphasises the pure beauty of kitsch—its lack of ugliness—and the ease with which kitsch culture is consumed—a relationship which precludes any concentrated, conscious experience with the art object. Furthermore, Walter Benjamin’s careful critique of experience and culture leads him to think about kitsch as thoughtless overproduction. For Benjamin, however, kitsch also presents a potential for a renewed interpretation of culture and a renewed relationship to the world of things.
The sometimes daunting richness of theoretical meditations on kitsch is complemented, though, by simpler or more easily discernible forms of kitsch, especially intellectual or emotional—the latter of which often takes the form of sentimentalism or overblown gestures, while the former may be seen partly in parallel as an overemphasis on technical aspects of a work of art to the detriment of its larger importance or effect.
With this beginning in mind, we may ask: What is kitsch and how does its presence or absence in art and life affect us? Although often assumed to be primarily emotional, how does kitsch manifest itself in and affect the intellectual realm? What is the relationship between kitsch and culture? How is kitsch manifested in different art forms? How has the idea of kitsch changed over time and to what extent does it influence our current society?
Possible essay topics include, but are not limited to:
Examples and implications of kitsch (ontological, epistemological, ethical)
Kitsch and vulgarity as enemies of art
Kitsch and libertinism
Kitsch and experience
Kitsch and culture
Kitsch and the counterfeit
Forms of political kitsch
Kitsch, cliché, stupidity
Kitsch’s relation to trendiness
Kitsch and popular art
Kitsch and escapism
Kitsch and music
Kitsch in theatre, film, dance, and performance art
Kitsch and photography and painting
Kitsch and sculpture and architecture
Philosophical engagements with kitsch (Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, etc.)
Hermann Broch’s concept of kitsch as the greatest aesthetic evil
Milan Kundera, the novel, and kitsch
Accepted essays will be published in the journal Modern Horizons. Modern Horizons seeks to address, through examining a variety of ideas and artistic works, the endlessly open question of what is meaningful in what we are living.
The name ‘Modern Horizons’ comes with two emphases in mind. We include the word ‘modern’ because we begin with the arts, thoughts, and experiences of our own time. There is an essentially ahistorical sense to our idea of ‘modern,’ as we seek to avoid questions of periodisation or ideas of historical necessity. Our second emphasis is on ‘horizons,’ in the hermeneutic sense of the meeting of disparate interpretations and vantage points through conversation. The notion of horizons is essential to our way of thinking because, from the perspective of our own time and place, we seek to examine and interrogate those inherited, negotiated, and created forms of art and thought which matter directly or indirectly for us, here and now. This thought will involve the ongoing effort to raise, engage with, rehabilitate, and think about ideas that have impact today as they shape and are shaped by us; to this end, we solicit contributions with an emphasis on engagement and insight—contributions whose aims reach beyond their pages.
The essays published in Modern Horizons will take the form of thinking in public; that is, we wish to serve as an outlet for thinking that bridges academic and non-academic subject-matter—not for essays tied finally to a particular text, but which take the form of exploratory endeavours which may participate in an ongoing conversation about what it means to be human in this world. This aim will be echoed in contributions that embody a deliberately essayistic form, whether personal, essential, critical, hermeneutic, or public.
Each issue in Modern Horizons is theme-based; these themes may be explored through essays on literature, philosophy, painting, music, architecture, or other forms of art. Our non-affiliation with a specific academic institution is deliberate, as it allows us freedom in exploring ideas that are often neglected or obscured by academia or the public voice.
Modern Horizons is a peer-reviewed journal and welcomes a variety of submissions: essays, dialogues, interviews, and critical-reviews, in either French or English.
Submissions of approximately 1000-5000 words will be considered for publication. Please direct submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org as an attachment in .doc format. Deadline for submissions is March 1, 2011.