“What drives modern man so strongly to style is the unburdening and concealment of the personal, which is the essence of style. Subjectivism and individuality have intensified to breaking-point and in the stylized designs, from those of behavior to those of home furnishing, there is a mitigation and toning down of this acute personality to a generality and its law.” Written over a century ago, these words by German philosopher and critic Georg Simmel have proved remarkably enduring.
Fashion, adornment, and ornament have vicious lifecycles whereby newness is simultaneously associated with demise and death. Though fashion and adornment are closely related to the body, ornament can expand to architecture and environment. My work blurs the boundaries between body and object, beauty and repugnance, outer and inner.
I show the persistent interplay between imitation and differentiation that underscores the association between fashion and modernity. I explore how taste—even ‘bad taste’—can be celebrated in aristocratic society but once mimicked by a different social sphere quickly becomes kitsch, disdained as ‘aesthetic slumming.’
Kitsch excites the desire for ownership, suggesting ‘hominess’ or the kind of clutter in which objects are assembled in an attempt to signify wealth and taste. Chintz, beads, and lace often function as unnecessary embellishments piled on to dress up an object and disguise its humble origin; plastic preserves but ultimately destroys the object. These decorative acts function as an aesthetic veil that draws attention only to reveal deficiencies.