Cabinet Of Disinterest

Cabinet paintings are reviled as the precursor of kitsch. Kitsch is reviled by critics. Left-wing critics object to the content of Kitsch, which they regard as saccharine distraction, sentimental, void of social content, worse than null. Right-wing critics object to the form of kitsch; its low quality and therefore its low value. Neither particularly object to the subjects of kitsch. People, animals, scenery, all can be found in high art. If realism is the necessity of the translations required to maintain isomorphism between real-world referents and aesthetic signs, then Kitsch transformations are degenerate, destroying value and reference and substituting low-level self-referential sentimentality. Kitsch is unrealistic, even anti-realistic.

Cabinet paintings are also the precursors of screensavers. Small, personal distractions that ironise their context. Beyond this, it is the screensaver’s avoidance of work for the viewer to do that places it firmly in the category of kitsch. Screensavers need not be kitsch. Julian Opie has made screensavers, and AARON is available as a screensaver. In both cases the relationship of the screensaver and the user to work is what gives the piece value. Opie’s ever-changing abstract landscapes and cubes don’t allow the viewer to rest, finally forcing them to leverage their environmental aesthetic knowledge to complete the work and exercise some degree of control over the experience. The screensaver version of AARON creates original compositions at a frightening rate whenever a computer’s user isn’t doing anything else. It is working, even if the user isn’t.
Critical fetishism of breakthrough and transitional works operates against anything as seemingly prosaic as the screensaver. This should be taken and ironised, or at least parodied.

Posted in Aesthetics