Monday, August 10, 2009
Gibson, Eric. "Why Dictators Love Kitsch." WALL STREET JOURNAL August 8, 2009.
'Kitsch' has become a byword in the culture for anything over-the-top or tacky. In art, it’s meaning is more specific. It refers to works trafficking in facile, base or false emotions—most often sentimentality—and whose imagery is off-the-shelf and formulaic, a debased version of a once-original aesthetic idea. Need to conjure that warm-and-fuzzy feeling? Cue the fiery sunset. Looking to express fragile innocence? Bring on the shoeless urchin carrying the bird with the broken wing. Totalitarian kitsch puts those ideas in the service of the state. It is the official art of authoritarian governments, aimed at extending state control through propaganda. Totalitarian kitsch exists to glorify the state, foster a personality cult surrounding the dictator and celebrate ceaseless and irrevocable social and economic progress through images of churning factories and happy, exultant workers. It does so using the corrupted language of academic realism—heavily muscled supermen and women and colossal scale. Pyongyang’s “Monument to Party Foundation” consists of three hands each emerging from a circular platform and holding, respectively, a hammer, a hoe and a brush. The hands alone are over 150 feet tall. Such art isn’t produced by the proverbial starving artist in a garret but on an assembly line, like Mansudea Studio in Pyongyang. . . . Read the rest here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204908604574336383324209824.html.