Examples of sweet kitsch are often mentioned as paradigm instances of bad art, but the nature of its “badness” is just what makes kitsch philosophically interesting. Sweet kitsch is not always badly done. Indeed, it may be highly professional, much in vogue, and keenly aware of artistic and cultural traditions in which it gains appeal. Indeed, what makes sweet kitsch kitsch seems to be that it is flawed by its very perfection, its technical virtuosity and precise execution, its explicit knowledge of the tradition, its timeliness, and the fact that it stimulates the very best (in any case, the nicest) emotions–the “soft” sentiments of kindness and sympathy and the calm passions of delight. But the best emotions seem to be the worst emotions where art is concerned, and “better shocking or sour than sweet” has become something of a rule of thumb for artists and a criterion of good taste for connoisseurs. But why is this? What is wrong with sweet kitsch? Its deficiencies appear to be just what we would otherwise think of as virtues: technical proficiency and a well-aimed appeal to the most sentimental of the viewer’s emotion.
Robert C. Solomon
Pin for later