Monday, January 25, 2016

Problems with the Church in the Round: #2 "Perfection"

Last week I wrote about the problems with the "church in the round", in particular how the location of the celebrant at the center causes a de-emphasis of the importance of the altar as authority over the congregation. In this post I'd like further at the symbolism of the church in the round and how it relates to the eschatology of the Church.

The form of the circle symbolically is one of gathering and binding together. All points of the circle are equally distant from the center point of the circle, being "held together" by that point. The only direction that can be seen in circle has is either inwards or outwards. One cannot really talk about a top or bottom, or front or back or a circular form, at least without reference to something outside the circle itself. Also since it has no real sides like any polygon, one can think of the circle as having an "infinite" number of sides. The circle symbolically then has the nature of completeness and "perfection" as well as infinity. Thus we can see why throughout almost all of human history, the circle is symbolic of divinity. Indeed in Christianity we see an ancient symbol of the trinity, of three intersecting circles is deep with that same meaning.

But this nature of completeness and perfection of the circle is deeply problematic in the design of a Catholic church. The reason for this revolves around the idea of eschatology. Eschatology, as Dr. Denis McNamara explains in his excellent series on the Catholic Architecture, is the teaching about the eschaton, or simply about the end of the world. Christianity, in contrast to the ancient pagan religions, proposed that not only did Christ come to earth to die for our sins, but also that he will come again at the end of times, and that there will be an end of time.  The Church has always looked forward to the Second Coming, and thus has always taught that the people of God are marching toward that end, where the work of Salvation will finally be completed. The Church, through the liturgy of the Mass, teaches about the perfection of Heaven and the world to come, but also gives us a "foretaste" of Paradise. When we receive the Eucharist in Mass, we receive Christ truly and thus partake in his perfection in Heaven, but we still remain in this world, fallen as it is, so it is we still are left wanting more.

But when the circular form is used in a church, the symbolism of the circle conflicts with this teaching. The circle as said before, has a notion of completeness, of perfection and infinity. We lose the sense that there is something lacking, which we are heading towards, namely the perfection of
Heaven.

When you consider the ancient pagans at Stonehenge, you can see this in act, there they saw that seasons changed, but always came back to the same place, a perfect world, symbolized by the circle of stones.

So when we have a church in the round, symbolically it communicates that this church where we stand, is complete and perfect just how it is. Coming to church, being in communion with the people we see "face to face" is all that we need, and there's nothing beyond.

When you couple this with a de-emphasis on the authority and importance of the altar, as we saw in the last post, that notion of community alone becomes even more overwhelming. We begin to lose the sense of being on the pilgrim's path toward salvation, and begin to think that just seeing friends and simply "being nice" to them is all that there is to the Church.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Problems with the Church in the Round: #1 Orientation

The church in the round.
The church in the "round" is a particular form of church architecture that has been all the rage for the past 50 years since the end of the Second Vatican Council. The form of the church puts the altar of sacrifice, admittedly the focus of Catholic worship in the Mass, at the direct center of the church.

Whether it be a new purpose-built church or a church which has been renovated since then, the seating around the altar is intended by the liturgical designers and architects to foster "a sense of community" and to emphasize the "sacred meal" aspect of the Mass. I'd like to take a few posts here to take a look at what sort of ideas and symbols are communicated by this form of church and what sort of philosophical and theological problems arise from those ideas.

The first problem of the "church in the round" is a problem of orientation and emphasis.   The church in the round sets the altar of the church directly in the center of the church. The liturgical designers note that being circular, the seats are all arranged closer to the altar, allowing for ease of visibility. Oftentimes the church floor is sloped downward to the altar, much like in a theater, making the altar easier to see. Aspects of community too then would be emphasized, as everyone could see the face of their fellow parishioners and literally gather "around the altar."

The liturgical designers of this sort of church note that the Council asked for the altar to be "truly central" (p. 91), meaning that it be the symbolic focus of worship.  Therefore, what could be more symbolic of an altar being central to attention than it being literally central as well!  The configuration then was a "win-win" situation, as it both got you community and gathering, but also kept the focus on the altar and the sacrifice of the Mass.

However, this latter aspect, the idea that Christ himself is offered on the altar, that God is present in the church, over time seems to have been steadily eroded. A recent paean to a parish renovation in what we might well assume to be a church in the round, in National Catholic Reporter was illustrative.  While the author talked glowingly about how often she "looked for" her friends and various people, not once did she mention that she looked for God in the church. The purpose of this author's church seemed to be more on socializing than the worship of God in the Mass.

Why then is this sense of sacredness and presence of God so lacking?  There are of course many reasons, but one striking one philosophically is of orientation, or rather the lack of orientation. Despite the claims of the liturgical experts that the church in the round would increase the importance of the altar, the arrangement in fact actually almost nullifies the importance of the altar.  The reasons for this are apparent when we look at the form of buildings, and how architecture is derived from our own human form.

As human beings we of course have the ability to communicate, and most universally through speech. Our speech of course comes through our mouths, and because we only have one mouth, the sound tends to emanate from only one side of our head. Logically then if you want to hear a person speaking, you stand in front of them and face toward their face.  This then is even more important when someone of authority is speaking.  Everyone who gathers to hear them stands not around them but in front of them, oriented facing toward them.

As societies developed throughout history, the places where authority resided, mostly kings and other lawgivers, would be built so that the speaker would stand or sit at one end of a large space, and the audience facing toward him. The shape of the architecture then is determined in a very real way by human nature. This is so attuned to our universal human nature that almost every single example of the architecture of authority is made this way, no matter what time or place the building was made.

In the Old Testament God instituted both the form of the Tabernacle in the desert, and the Temple in Jerusalem and the Israelites would have recognized that a universal form, where the the rational place for authority, was placed at one end of the space, facing the gathered. So even more so for the highest possible authority, the One true God, would the form be appropriate and good.

So when the Christians gathered to worship, the location of God, in the aspect of the Eucharist would be just the same sort of place, in one of highest authority.  The Christians then adopted the Roman Basilica was just as naturally as a duck to water. It is no coincidence that the apse of the lawgiver is located analogously to where the Holy of Holies sits in the Temple.  The form is nearly identical because the nature of the use is identical.  Placing authority at the end of a space, in order to be seen and more importantly heard.

Now the problem of the church in the round and the presence of the sacred and of God becomes apparent.  When the altar is set below and amidst everyone, the authority is lessened, if not negated entirely.  According to our natures, we look to authority to be placed facing us, to be situated even a few steps above us.  What would we think of a judge seated not in the usual raised box bench, but seated at floor level at the center of the court?  The authority he holds would be lessened, as we could look down on him, or be in a position to not even hear him.  So too for a President being sworn in, or delivering a State of the Union address, or even a teacher in front of a lecture hall.

So in church in the round the altar, the priest and the sacrifice of the Mass itself lose the true position of authority, and cannot compete with the overbearing symbolism of the community, the meal and the social gathering or even the rock show. Each "participant" in the Mass then too sits at a position of equal authority, equal even to God.

Now, one could argue the in the usus antiquior form of the Roman Rite, the priest faces away from the congregation.  However this only emphasizes the point further, as God is the authority, the priest faces not the people, but toward to the cross and the tabernacle. 

Then when our NCR author says looking across to the members of the community: "I look for David and his twins. For Marge and her daughter. For Will. For Barbie. For Jerry, due back from India. I look for Rita. If Bob is with her, I know he is having a good day", we know she's not thinking about God, and certainly she's not praying, but instead she's thinking about her friends. This is not because she's a bad Catholic, but it is because the proper object of her attention in Mass, God and the Eucharist, has been removed from the one place where it's location would naturally command that attention and allow her to pray and see God face to face.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Four Questions: Q1: What is architecture?

I subscribe to an email list that talks about traditional and classical architecture, often the talk of the philosophy of architecture, and the philosophy of aesthetics is a topic. A contributor who I respect posted recently a series of questions to the list, trying to ascertain if people had any sort of common principles from which we were approaching the subject of classical architecture.

1. What is architecture
2. What is classical and why?
3.  How is classical different from traditional?
4.  What are the orders?

In the next series of posts, I will try to give a brief, but more in depth answer to these questions than I was able to give in the midst of our online discussion. I will try to answer each in one post, but some may require further elucidation.

What is architecture?

The Parthenon
Architecture is commonly thought of as simply the profession which is concerned with the designing of buildings.  The architect draws up a design on paper, or more commonly these days, a computer, and hands off his vision to a builder.   Most simply he's the person who understands everything necessary to build a building which the client needs. The architect takes in consideration the place of the building, the building laws, the necessary activities taking place in the building and the technology necessary to keep the building dry and comfortable for its occupants. An architect also might take into consideration a number of other factors, such as the environmental impact of his building, and so work to reduce its power consumption or even prefer some materials over others that the production of which causes deleterious effects in his city or country.

Now for most people these simple utilitarian ends are more than sufficient for them to feel that an architect has done his job. Were an architect to be simply a technician, then this definition would be sufficient, indeed the word itself implies this. Coming from the Greek, arche, meaning master or highest, combined with tekton, builder; the architect is simply the orchestrator of technical skills to build something.  But today architects who are in the highest demand around the world are not desired for simply their technical knowhow, but because they build structures which in themselves we consider a work of art.

What makes architecture into an art, a "fine" art that is, is when it goes beyond simply the utilitarian needs of a building and becomes something in which we find pleasure or delight. That delight is there not simply because the building is put together well, but because the building has something more to add which all people are able to see, a layer of meaning, or if you will, poetry.

The addition of poetry to the practice of building is what makes architecture into an art, and indeed what makes a building truly architecture.  All other considerations can make a perfectly acceptable building, but one that is not architecture. Of course just like there are many poets and many styles of poetry, there are many different means of which an architect uses to add poetic meaning to a building and transform it into architecture.  Order and disorder, materials and arrangement, ornament and decoration, all are tools in the architects palette as an artist.  I believe in answering the next three questions we will see what poetic devices are best for an architect to transform simple building into architecture.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Anti-Culture of Modernism

In my previous few posts last year, I wrote about the relationship of folk art and classical high art to culture.  I wrote that folk art, as an expression of culture, aims towards a particular expression of a particular culture's self awareness, or "what it means to be" such and such a culture.   High art, or academic art or classical art, is an attempt not to express "what it means to be" English or Italian or American, but what it means to be human as a universal idea.  This classical high art is concerned with the most fundamental principles: order, reason, and beauty.  This spectrum then, between the particular of folk art, and the universal of high art served to describe well what art was for nearly all of human history.


The potpourri of ornament and styles in Victorian architecture
riled the modernists for the excesses of "useless" ornament.
Now this all changed, as I related before, with the rise of "kitsch".   The rise of industry, advertising and mass marketing of art which arose in the 19th and 20th Centuries created a new category of art, the mass marketed art of kitsch.  Kitsch is characterized by the divorce of art from any of its cultural roots, meaning that no painting, no building or no song which is produced by kitsch has a real relation to culture, but only a "simulacrum" of culture to appeal to its market. 

This is the state of art that the artists of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries found themselves.  They saw that the rise of industrialism and the market was making kitsch the dominant form of art, which was threatening to kill culture and art.  So to rescue art,  a new art was needed; and this new art would be the avante-garde of modernism.  Modernism would be the true art which could express man's deep longing to know "what it means to be."   So with one swift stroke, Modernism, would both simultaneously sweep away all the meaningless detritus of kitsch as well as create a new meaningful, authentic and universal art.

Piet Mondriaan's "Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow"
To the modernists, all culture had been irredeemably lost with the rising tide of kitsch.   Folk art was lost to the masses and had been entirely replaced by mass-marketed art of every form.  Think how true this is today, as most people know not a single folk tune passed down from their ancestors, while the infectious insipid "Call me maybe" is ever-present.  Not only has folk culture been replaced, but the academic high art as well, having all been run over by a kitsch of Beaux-arts historicism.  So then, if culture and its art has been entirely lost, then a new art which embraced traditions and traditional forms would make no sense at all.

Entirely new forms of art would then be found in the avante-garde, the new forms of art in abstraction and cubism, which, stripped of their cultural cancer, would allow for only the raw expression of those fundamental truths themselves.  Instead of using color and line and form, art became color and line and form.   From Mondriaan's blocks of color to Picasso's human forms transformed into cubes, the art would not express old dead notions of particular cultures, but one new universal idea of art.

Walter Gropius' Bauhaus school in Dessau Germany.
In architecture, the accretions which the Beaux-arts academics and their peers had cobbled onto architectural form were stripped free in the architecture of the Bauhaus.   This new architecture, the "International Style," is probably the most succinct expression of this new idea of the universal art.   Since all culture is swept aside, a pure clean architecture, which expressed the barest idea of architecture itself, was to be created.   Not mired in cultural flotsam, the International Style would be at home in any place, whether in Berlin or Los Angeles or Brazil.  Since culture had already been destroyed, it was only logical to create art that would be pure expressions of art.

Modernism became then, at least in its earliest expressions, fundamentally and essentially anti-cultural.  Artists working in this milieu didn't see themselves as destroyers of art and culture, but rather as saviors of art.  Certainly this was Clement Greenberg's idea, that the art of the avante-garde, in casting off as already dead the cancer of kitsch, would revive art and make it whole again, and modern man, so longing for this purity and wholeness, would respond and find it wonderful.

Jeff Koons' "Balloon Dog" exemplifies a later modern
fascination in the art world with kitsch.
At least that was the idea, but the reality was that Modernism created a world that mankind did not respond to, that left a cold and empty world devoid of any meaning.  In the next few posts, I'd like to look at a few responses that art has made to the "failure of modernism."   In no particular order, I'll be looking at the embrace of kitsch in art, the criticism that "anti-art" made, and the rise and fall of Post Modernism, and where that leaves us today.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Kitsch, the Anti-Cultural Commodity

The essence of art, its final end, is to explain to man his own nature, what it means to be human.   Any art which does not have this for its end cannot truly be called "fine art."  Art, however, that  is created for the sole purpose of being sold in the market cannot, in an unqualified sense, be called true art, since it does not share the same final end.  Now this sort of art, which has for its end the pure utilitarian end of the maker, is called kitsch.  Kitsch, as reader Bob pointed out, can be defined as "the reduction of art to marketable forms." 

Graceland by Thomas Kinkade
Every part of kitsch is ordered toward the end of being sold, so every part of a work of kitsch is calculated to be more palatable to the marketplace. Kitsch uses conventional forms, motifs and even symbols only in so far as they make the particular work of art more marketable.  Clement Greenberg in his essay Avant-Garde and Kitsch (from which I draw heavily from) remarks that kitsch uses as "raw material the debased and academized simulacra of genuine culture."  The preservation of a cultural memory, or consciousness of "what we are," as I described before, is not the end of this art but rather something akin to the utilitarian end of making money.

Kitsch, Greenberg continues, "borrows from [culture] tricks, stratagems, themes...[and] converts them into a system and discards the rest."  Kitsch sees the products of a culture only as a component to be drawn from, not as a "good thing" in and of themselves.  The "art" of kitsch then is only an art of the most basic sense of making something, just like the art of pouring a concrete sidewalk, or making a chair.  This most basic sense is primarily concerned with its utilitarian end (i.e. making a place to sit or walk), and if it elevates itself to something to the level of poetry, it does so only accidentally.  Greenberg confirms this saying "nor is every item of kitsch entirely worthless.  Now and then it produces something of merit" but these are only "accidental or isolated instances."

Kitsch though may be thought of as some sort of folk art, but as Greenberg argues, kitsch is merely a replacement for the folk art lost by rural people living now in cities as a result of the industrial revolution.  "Discovering a new capacity for boredom ... the new urban masses set up a pressure on society to provide them with some kind of culture fit for their own consumption. To fill the demand of the new market, a new commodity was devised:  ersatz culture, kitsch, destined for those who, insensitive to the values of genuine culture, are hungry nevertheless for the diversion that only culture of some sort can provide." [emphasis added] 

Kitsch, the art of a mass-culture is not something that falls on the spectrum of art as poetry, that spectrum between folk art, and high art.  By and large, even though there may be "isolated instances", kitsch cannot provide that consolation that only true culture can, through beauty and symbolism and rich traditions, that gives meaning to the important moments of our lives.  One need only think of those jarring moments when a cell phone jingle goes off in church, worst of all during a funeral. These are moments where the market cannot give us what we really need in our souls.  Kitsch does not have for its end the poetic imitation which leads to a fuller understanding of man and his place in the universe, which is the proper end of culture, both high and low.  

Catholic Mall Chapel, a fine thing,
but somehow seems out of place.
I'm reminded of a story I read about a Catholic chapel in a shopping mall.  The priests would say Mass, and hear Confession, but something about the mall made them hesitate to ever hold a wedding there, not to mention a funeral. It is as if the overwhelming materialism of the mall, entirely ordered towards consumption seems so alien to those parts of life where symbolism and culture are so essential to our very human existence.

Curiously though, this same feeling of alienation is felt less about a funeral on a city street, at least streets in our older cities.   Perhaps this is because even though commerce and all rank of ordinary things happen there, there remains something about the city as a community, that says these things are proper to this public place. The city is the product of culture par-excellance, the place where architecture, art, sculpture and public ceremony all come together where a culture can best express what we are. This notion of cultural identity, this notion of belonging, is cultivated by the arts, and is reinforced by customs and conventions, but it is today under constant assault -- first of all by the assault of kitsch, but also the assault of the avant-garde modernism. This is something I looked at briefly before, when talking about the city stripped of symbolism.  In the next series of posts, I want to look at the relation of modern art to culture, and its relation to kitsch, in so far as it too is an art which is at its essence anti-cultural.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Further Thoughts on High Culture and Folk Culture and Art

In my last post I talked a great deal about the art of "high culture" and "folk culture" in regards to their relation to the classical and vernacular in architecture.   The distinction that I was drawing was not to show that high and low culture are in opposition to each other, but rather are a matter of variation of degree.   Both high and low culture, classical and vernacular art, all deal with the same subject, namely cultural memory or the maintenance of shared ideas of self-identification.    From very simple traditions of a household, the baking of traditional meals for birthdays and holidays, to the triumphant hymn of a national anthem, the art and architecture of a capitol, every one of these things seeks to express though through varied degrees, "this is who we are."

The nature of a folk culture is of course defined by its having risen from the people itself, the folk, where local traditions, and family traditions lead to an art which is particular to a certain people, place or a even family.   High culture, which arises from the folk culture, is culture which has been subjected to intellectual and philosophical examination.   Rather than traditions of culture and art being simply passed on to the next generation, high culture places itself under to study and criticism in order to make it better, finer and more sophisticated.   Moreover, this sophistication allows it to be appreciated outside of a particular cultural context, it begins to be appreciated by everyone.

Thus art that is produced by high culture is transformed from a simple local art, into a universal art that begins to transcend the particularities of place and people, and is thus the only sort of art that can become a "national" art.   The universality of the art is what allows people from all over the world to enjoy the works of Mozart and Bach, even without having been a part of that particular central European Germanic culture from which the art arose.   Certainly though, had one come from that particular culture from which this high culture arose from, the art would be even more meaningful.

High culture produces an art that tends toward universality, but yet maintains that same goal of culture, to say "this is who we are," and consequently its art strives too for that universality.  Folk culture and its art says "this is what it means to be a Dutchman" or "this is what it means to be a member of such and such family."  High culture strives to say "this is what it means  to be man" (in other words in an unqualified sense).   This difference between universality and particularity is what I spoke of in earlier posts in dealing with art and politics.   Art geared towards politics is necessarily geared towards the particular, but it loses its meaning in the universal flow of history.  Great art, though even if it is political, is geared towards the great universals and it thus has constant appeal.

This is not to say however that Folk art loses its appeal through time, far from it.    The art of a folk culture is expressive of a particular culture's understanding of the same universal longing to understand "what we are."  This, coupled with transcendent notions of beauty which all true art strives for, for instance the same tonal system of music is found both in the folk song Greensleeves,  as it is in Mozart's Requiem, gives all true art a.   The level complexity and the precision of the music is the only difference between them, telling us they are in essence the same thing.   So too in poetry, as the works of Homer, Dante and Shakespeare represent the best of a high culture, the simplicity of the poetry of those same folk tunes can tell us just as much about what it means to be a human being.

But yet this universal nature of art and high culture only goes so far, we need only look to where cultures across the globe have interacted to see the limits of cultural universalism.  So too in architecture, where attempts to introduce classical Roman styles of architecture in foreign lands with highly developed native cultures, seem severely out of place.   One need only listen in the West to traditional Japanese or Chinese music to see where the limits lie.   Certainly one can come to know and understand and even love Chinese pentatonic music (it uses only five notes instead of the Western eight) but if we were to try to introduce it into a cultural setting in America, we would only see it as a charming "theme." 

The "theme" would of course be a farce, as there would be nothing that connects Chinese traditional music as "belonging"for instance to a traditional Christmas party.  The idea of cultural "themes" can best be seen in context of amusement parks, or "theme parks" which accumulate architecture of different places all into one park.   A park such as this seems cheesy and "kitschy" because the cultural artifacts that it reproduces are all out of place.   Its like a man walking into a bar in New York in a cowboy hat, chaps and spurs, where he would be entirely silly, while doing the same in Texas might be an everyday appearance.  The idea of things being "out of place" is the essence of kitsch, which I intend to explore in the next post.  In particular, I am interested in how kitsch relates to the ideas of the avante-garde in modernist art.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Are McMansions Classical or Vernacular?

In architecture there is a distinction often made between the classical, made by the most highly educated architects, and the vernacular, the common stuff built by ordinary people.  This distinction is understood most correctly as a spectrum between the two extremes rather than a simple dichotomy.  However one has a problem when trying to place particular buildings in this spectrum, especially where the building in question is a typical American suburban home, or "McMansion."

The typically overblown details in a suburban "McMansion"
The suburban house hardly fits in the realm of the classical, as it is often badly proportioned and badly detailed.  It has little thought put into its design, rarely are architects involved in designing such houses.  Nor does it seem to fall in the vernacular, as the suburban house doesn't follow any local building traditions.  Rather it picks and chooses from a number of different marketed styles.  The typical suburban house then seems to fall somewhere outside of the spectrum of the classical to the vernacular in architecture.  This is because the classical and vernacular are products of the same thing, high and low culture, and the suburban house, is a product of another thing entirely, that of mass culture.  

Folk culture, and its corresponding art, the vernacular, is the simplest expression of a culture, and its principles.  Folk culture is the expression of belonging, of home, of a sense of identity that is carried through a common understanding of the basic principles of life, those of love, family, justice and order and beauty.   Filtered filtered through generations of tradition, folk culture takes on a particular identity that is tied with a people and the places they live.   

High culture and its corresponding art, the classical, is an expression of that same folk culture, but one that is informed by an education and deliberation.   High culture is one trained in philosophy and history, and therefore is able to push the bounds of the principles of the culture.   High culture and folk culture both are reciprocally is informed and educated by the other.  One can see this in the common use of themes from folk music in the works of classical composers.  The composer takes the folk melody and expands it, makes it more complex and intricate and intellectual, but all the while still works within the culture of the folk.  Thus the classical and the vernacular fall in the same spectrum, precisely because they are expressions of the same culture, though it is the understanding by different degrees of that shared culture.

Mass culture on the other hand is concerned primarily with the market.  Mass culture often takes things from both the folk and the high culture but it jumbles them together in a mass of confusion.    In folk and high culture, the cultural artifacts that belong to the culture, that are valued by the culture, are those that are shaped by tradition in folk culture, and by reason and tradition in high culture.  In mass culture the cultural artifacts that are most valued are those that sell the most.   What sells most is usually what is marketed and advertised most, and is mass produced not by a culture interested in preserving its roots, but a company interested in its profits.

Mass culture produces products that essentially have no cultural reference, as they neither come from nor are marketed towards a culture as a culture, but as a market.  And since markets exist all around the globe, each is treated essentially the same.  This is the great problem of globalization, the marketing of products that drown out a local culture by the influx of cheap products, a local cuisine drowned out by the burgers and fries of McDonald's.  It is not folk or high culture that is globalized but mass culture.

McDonalds in Florence. 
Mass culture in the center of high culture
The McMansion is like the burger stand, it does not arise from a culture, either high or low, but arises instead from a marketing strategy.  It appeals in some ways to cultural relevancy, but not in any way that refers to a true cultural identity.  The typical suburban house is not cultural, and therefore not classical or vernacular, but is anti-cultural.  Art of this sort could pop up anywhere just like a McDonald's, as we see now in China, where American style suburbs are sprouting everywhere, but nowhere does it have any relation to its cultural or architectural surroundings.

This is the fundamental problem of kitsch.  Kitsch an art which is out of place in its surroundings, this is art produced by the mass culture.   This is art purely for the market, and mass culture is anti-culture, kitsch is anti-art.  And as kitsch is anti-art and anti culture, so too is the avante-garde.   I want to take a bit of time to talk about the avante-garde in relation to kitsch, so I will come back to this in the next post.