Thursday, 4 June 2009

Bad Taste: Applied, Reflexive and Camp

There is Taste that is bad because it is defined by people who conform to or are active within a given taste (taste here being distinct from sensibility, since many tastes can together form an epochs overall sensibility), and define their taste as good in opposition to an antithetical taste which they call bad (such as the successions of nouveau-rich aesthetics from New York to Houston to Dubai and Moscow which are dogmatically classed as bad taste by those who posit their own styles as being all moderation, restraint and hence “good taste”).

This type of bad taste is externally applied to an uncapitulating group and I guess I would call ‘Applied Bad Taste’.

Then there is Taste that is entirely aware of the boundaries of a particular given group that defines in one place and time what constitutes Good Taste, and defines itself entirely within a liminal zone around these boundaries. Unlike Applied Bad Taste -which exists on its own and only has judgements projected on it externally from Good Taste, this form of Bad Taste is self conscious of its relationship to Good Taste and controls the way it is seen by carefully controlling the distance it goes towards the outer reaches of what Good Taste considers a part of itself… but the key is that it will always return either to the boundary line or back within, because this form of bad taste (which is the one which can handle shock and horror so effortlessly) is internal to Good Taste, is a part of it and performs the role of constantly checking where it ends, and so maintaining its integrity as a unit as it changes through time. These arbiters of Bad Taste are Aristocrats and have a privileged Aesthetic role in society.

This type of Bad Taste acts internally on its own group and I guess I would call it ‘Reflexive Bad Taste’.

Then of course there is that field full of earnest and overabundant inventiveness that is something like the fecundity of nature coming out in plastic, velvet, rhinestone and lace. Namely a taste which is entirely the opposite of the Aristocratic and controlling role of Reflexive Bad Taste, but which also performs at the edges; here Good Taste is not tested to breaking point, but rather multiple tastes are grown in a fecund profusion of uncategorisable inventions and styles which surround good taste like fields or forests used to surround cities, providing unending material for any future alterations or innovations within Good Taste itself. This Taste is precisely too heterogeneous to be a taste at all, and is therefore looked at but not seen in its entirety by Good Taste’s homogeneity, and can only be understood in tiny parts at any one time.

This type of Bad Taste is Nature coming out through our hands and in our Garages, is by necessity heterogeneous, self-sufficient and EARNEST, and is obviously ‘Camp’.


These areas that are often dismissed when encountered visualy as being in Bad Taste, and when they are present in the work of an artist or architect who uses them knowingly is always assumed to be intended ironically, these three realms of creativity are always present in everything I do –to varying degrees- and interest me greatly: from the vast, explosive, and joyous release of Camp genius when it encounters vast wealth, from Versace to Cavalli, all the way to the shit-eating murderous sexuality of Salo, and back again to the suburban streets of outer london and all the innumerable “minimalist”, “roman”, and “classic” living rooms occupying the train-set terraces and semis. I want Camp to be present because for me it is the effusive joy of creation, the human instinct to multiply itself and its beauty out into the space around it in a celebration of existence… unquestioningly taking flight in the pleasure of doing; Applied Bad Taste (for me here refering specificaly to the Nouveau Riche aesthetics whose ends is luxurius differentiation. There are many others but I am interested in this instance) is the saturation of art with money and power, and it is glittering, dangerous and full of overripe potential. I am interested in it… when I saw Cavalli’s boat day after day in the harbour, while making all the right sounds with my mouth to my friends about how vulgar it all was so that we were all in communal agreement, my head was furiously imagining what was going on on board, what kind of conversation were happening, what did it look like, how dearly I would have loved to be on it! And Reflexive Bad Taste is like a touch of Tabasco… there is no need to smother all the other flavours by shocking the palate with an overtly unpleasant taste, but it adds so much to the whole if there is that piquant kiss, that cheeky and unexpected position.

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