Kitsch as the natural aesthetic of nationalism

Posted on February 17, 2010


Again, I can’t claim to have watched carefully all of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies in recent years. Even the highlights are usually painful. But this quote from Michael Ignatieff in 1993, with Yugoslav civil wars and a recent visit to an exhibition of Nazi “art” fresh in his mind, clarifies a few things:

“There is no nationalist art that is not kitsch, no patriotic creation that does not pantomime emotional sincerity. Why? Perhaps no art that is not personal can ever be genuinely sincere, and nationalist art, by definition, cannot be personal. Perhaps also a nationalist art cannot invent the new. It is chained to available tradition, or, failing that, chained to kitsch…” (Blood and Belonging: Journey Into the New Nationalism, p. 72.)