skating for the stars

Kitsch was the dominant theme behind French Salon painting and English Victorian art; the heavier it was buttered onto canvas the better. Sentimental decoration and dreary bourgeois values sparked the anxiety inducing fear of kitsch as one of the central motives behind the modern art movement. Both music, visual arts and literature seemed to have exhausted the generic inventory of conceivable emotions, leading to an ethos, a creed, whereby use of the traditional was tantamount to treason of the higher life. At the time, there seemed to be no viable alternative between the pull of the abstract launched after Picasso’s Filles D’Avignon or a headlong succumbing to the kitsch. It was a utopian view.

But,  Kitsch is omnipresent, almost a gravitational pull, it becomes absorbed as part of the language, and is intrinsic to capitalism’s ability to produce cultural goods, the tool of mass dissemination and a hierarchy of art and taste that pop culture converts into commodity at each plateau. Kitsch seems an almost inevitable element of  Western cultural democracy. In short, it is debased, discardable detritus of the emotions. When the alchemical process of making gold from crap collapses. Ultimately, all kitsch is advertising and marketing the same way that most  advertising is kitsch. Commodification. The effort to convert value into price. The real  problem, the nub of the issue, is that its subject matter at the core, only has meaningful value when it is natural, genuine and not faked,  and a price to regulate medium of exchange only when it is artificial and pretended. Therefore, the “market” in emotions that provides the narrative of the selling effort must excel in packaging the simulated; simulated goods and services as proxies for the “real thing”, always within an arm’s reach of desire…

--- is by American Gilbert Stuart, painted in 1782, "The Skater," aka Portrait of William Grant, part of the Andrew W. Mellon Collection in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C. Read More:

Writing about “pseudo-events,” and by extension “pseudo-images” — in effect pseudo-art — the historian Daniel Boorstin notes that “from their very nature [they] tend to be more interesting than spontaneous events. . . . pseudo-events tend to drive all other kinds of events out of our consciousness, or at least to overshadow them. . . . the experience of spontaneous events is buried by pseudo-events.” Pseudo-events and pseudo-art give rise to pseudo-experience — experience which is not spontaneous but simulated and “spectacular.” It is socially manufactured and ordained experience, and thus pseudo-personal. The False Self has false experience, that is, as Winnicott indicates, it is incapable of “creative apperception” of reality, to use his term. A reality-deceiving pseudo-experience occurred at the Vancouver Olympics earlier this year. In an article in the New York Times dated February 22, 2010, and headlined “After Skating, A Unique Olympic Event: Crying,” Juliet Macur describes how crying was turned into spectacle, that is, stripped of its subjective meaning and spontaneity and objectified as a programmed marketable appearance. Crying was commodified as a pseudo-event by the television media that publicized it, that is, used to stimulate the sales of the products they advertise in the intervals between their reporting of Olympic events….

Norman Rockwell. Read More:

…Media analysts have shown that more visual spacetime is given to the money-making advertising agenda than to the “live” sporting event whose every detail they claim to be covering. The event becomes an entertaining adjunct to the advertising, not vice versa. It is derealized and depersonalized, while the technology of advertising “realizes” and personalizes the product. The event is used to market the product, and becomes a way to publicize it — part of the sales pitch — completing its derealization and depersonalization, that is, its pseudoification and psychoticizing. As Brett and Michael Yormark say — they are the directors of the huge BankAtlantic Sports Center in Broward County, Florida — “teams are merely the ‘show’ for drawing in an audience of consumers.” …

---Mili’s creation of photoflash photography work was just his first gift to the light painting world. In the 1940’s Gjon attached small lights to the boots of ice skaters he then opened the shutter of his camera and created what would be the inspiration for some of the most famous light painting images ever created.--- Read More:

…Skating is “a very technical sport,” the champion figure skater Mark Ludwig says, but it is also “a sport of esthetics,” and he thinks its esthetics have been corrupted by being turned into “theater.” He notes that “he had attended a U.S. Figure Skating training program in which skaters participated in a mock kiss-and-cry.” Kiss-and-cry was rehearsed and simulated, losing reality and personality by becoming a staged appearance. Indeed, David Michaels, “a senior producer for NBC’s Olympic coverage and the network’s director for figure skating,” points out that the Olympic stadium has a “kiss-and-cry area.” “’It’s gone from a blue curtain and a bucket of flowers on the side to plastic ice sculptures and crazy sets. It becomes a big design element that everyone works hard to figure out. . . .

Walter Granville Smith.---

…The network often adjusts the lighting to make it look more realistic and less like a TV set, he said, adding that one of NBC’s cameras is attached to a small crane that swoops into the kiss-and-cry from above.” He adds: “The value of the kiss-and-tell is basic. . . if you add up the total amount of airtime that the kiss-and-tell gets relative to the skating, it’s a very large percentage.” What is supposed to be an “unscripted moment” in which the skaters let “their guards down,” becomes a scripted moment in which the skaters let their guards down on cue. Thus spectacle triumphs over reality by simulating it, falsifies a life event by turning it into a pseudo-event, thus devaluing it and subverting its significance. Read More:

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Eastman Johnson. The Ice Skater. 1879. Read More:

Kitsch seems to have a natural habitat around those those things that push us to transcend ourselves. Kitsch seems to sweeten everything; Dickens saw the value of the easily wiped tear. The triumph of the sentimental means that when the challenging or even the tragic enters the sphere of kitsch it becomes stripped of its absolute sense, profound ethical response becomes a surrogate emotion for someone else to deal with. Harmless grief, cartoonized; A Disneyfication as if they took Kafka’s weird crossbreed animal creatures stuck in almost paralyzed anguish and converted them into Charlie the Tuna and Elmer Fudd. Death? What up Doc?  Kitsch is essentially disguised  pretense. Guile, even though not all pretense can be classified as kitschy; behind it all is a sense of intrusion, something traumatic like child abuse and incest, something unwanted; so kitsch is not just pretending. Its a manipulated incitement to join some bizarre social game. The game, and its mechanism knows that what is being faked, contrived, pretended, cannot really be taken as real. The dishonesty, the lie, means that the  pretense is mutual, a hush-hush complicity where everyone is in the know. A secret of Polichinelle.  The antagonist of kitsch is not  sophistication which seems to be a product of it,  but a search for traces, fragments of innocence, a recovery of language, a willingness to enter that bare room with the lone light bulb. … Kitsch  is feigning to express something, and the individual, in accepting it,acquiescing,  is going through the motions of  pretending to feel.

Hendrick Avercamp.---Winter landscapes evolved as an independent subject from pictorial cycles of the months or seasons, a popular theme in 16th-century Flemish art. The round format, the castle, and the festive skaters all reflect the work of Flemish artists who had moved to Amsterdam in the late 1500s.--- Read More:

Kitsch is dependent  on codes, cliches, tropes, stereotypes which transform the less accessible emotions into a soft-food, pablum, worry free distilled  form. The easily pretended as the ready-made. The genius of Duchamp who understood that kitsch flees everything  in the human body that requires some ethical and integral fuel; pissing it into a urinal and more vulgarly going from ready-made dross to feces without any nourishment from the spiritual, or the thinking about thinking….

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