Thursday, 9 July 2015

Michael Pearce on sentiment, zombies, and the fine art of kitsch

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Michael Pearce: The Words (Priestess) – Oil on Canvas

They might be “massive, mythical and brimming with allegorical subtext” just as the brochure says, but … I have to confess, I do wish he painted like Caravaggio (his first love) instead of like this.

But artist Michael Pearce has more to him than just his paintings, as his keynote speech entitled “Kitsch and Emergence” proves.

Selfies, like kitsch, are our way – he says – of trying to surround ourselves with sentiment when our art has failed to do the job.

Sentiment and kitsch are indivisible. Without sentiment we live in a world without healthy human relationships.
As individuals living within the postmodern society of the spectacle – in a culture dominated by Kant, Nietzsche and Marx, we find ourselves isolated in a world of strangers, who may look like us, but share no empathy with us – although we live in an ever-growing population we are alienated in a world without human sentiment and we fear becoming anonymous. We take endless selfies in an effort to assert individuality and reach out to others via social media, in a desperate search for human contact.
    And I think this is why zombies are so popular right now – they perfectly mirror the postmodern world. In zombie movies and tv shows the zombie plague has transformed our population – zombies have no individuality to define one walking corpse from another. They lose their free will, becoming dominated by one simple urge: to consume others, who then become just like the rest of the mass of zombies overrunning the earth. Being undead, zombies lack sentiment; experience no empathy for others; have no regard for human culture, being driven only by their basic instinct to destroy.
    But zombies are incapable of self-improvement, being destined to live at base levels where everything is relative. They have no choice but to live as beasts, unconscious of the survivors’ evolving minds. A zombie heart may beat a rhythm of false, dead blood through the walking corpse, but that heart cannot feel love.
The annihilation of the self is a symptom of the postmodern zombie plague, but among the survivors, love is the bridge that lets one mind reach out to touch another and reaffirms the individual as part of the community of survivors. Sentiment saves humanity from the zombies.

He makes some useful points. Marx, Nietzsche and Kant make cameos. Shame he rates Prince Charles.

[Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

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