Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Communications and Arts

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr Nicola Kaye

Second Advisor

Dr Christopher Crouch

Abstract

This exegesis examines the theoretical concept of contemporary kitsch within a creative practice that incorporates sculptural and installation art. Kitsch is a distinct aesthetic style. Once designated to the rubbish bin of culture, kitsch was considered to be low class, bad taste cheap fakes and copies (Greenberg, 1961; Adorno & Horkheimer, 1991; Calinescu, 1987; Dorfles, 1969). I argue, however, that this is no longer the case. This research critically examines the way in which contemporary kitsch now plays a vital and positive role in social and individual aesthetic life.

Although there are conflicting points of view and distinct variations between recent cultural commentators (Olalquiaga, 1992; Binkley, 2000; Attfield, 2006) on what kitsch is, there is a common sentiment that “the repetitive qualities of kitsch address . . . a general problem of modernity” (Binkley, p. 131). The research aligns the repetitive qualities to what sociologist Anthony Giddens (1991) refers to as “dissembeddedness” (1991) or “the undermining of personal horizons of social and cosmic security” (Binkley, 1991, p.131). The research investigates: how the sensory affect of sentimentality imbued in the kitsch experiences, possessions and material objects people covet and collect, offer a way of the individual moving from disembeddedness to a state of being re-embedded; and locates the ways in which the artist can facilitate the re-embedding experience.

Through this lens it is demonstrated that kitsch has become firmly rooted in our “lifeworlds” (Habermas, 1971), as an aesthetic that reveals “how people make sense of the world through artefacts” (Attfield, 2006, p. 201) and everyday objects; that the sensory affect of sentimentality on connections to possessions and material objects that contemporary kitsch offers is shared across cultures and societies

Comments

Appendix 1: The Aquarium is available as an additional file (at the bottom of the page). The backing music has not been included in this version of the video.

Appendix 1. The Aquarium.mp4 (9411 kB)
Appendix 1. The Aquarium (original version has the instrumental version of "A summer place" playing in the background).

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