The Aisthetics of Banality

Monday, July 14, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: 304
Oral Presentation
Veronika ZINK , Cluster "Languages of Emotion", FU Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Francis LE MAITRE , University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany
Be it Breton’s fascination for an adorned wooden spoon or Valéry’s ambiguous affections towards an indefinite fragment of a sea shell and not to mention the rapturing experience of cracking the crust of Crème Brûlée described by the movie character Amélie Poulain, all these seemingly ordinary objects are said to be surrounded by a sacred aura offering the possibility to sense the (assumed actual) mysterious depth hidden behind the surface of banality. Whilst the avantgards at the beginning of the 20th century conjured the magic of the overlooked in terms of a countercultural model, we are positing that the epiphany of the unimposing has to be regarded as a prevalent model of popular culture symbolizing a nostalgic search for the utmost real.

According to sociological approaches referring to material culture and with respect to coeval cultural theorists we will first reconstruct the emergence and the changing cultural valuation of the discourse about the cultural significance of the insignificant, claiming that the contemporary search for the meaningfulness of banal artifacts serves as a prime example for the reenchanted conquest of the quotidian. In particular the new aesthetics continuously stress the fact that the aisthetics of the marginal are laying at the core of the condition postmoderne: on the one side with regard to the construction of the banal as a category of sensuality and on the other side with respect to diverse strategies of aestheticism creating the auratic effects of trivial things. Hereon we will secondly shed light on the consequences of this discourse on the study of material culture suggesting that we won’t be able to expose the cultural significance of mundane objects properly, if we don’t account for the factor that these “actual significatory structures” are themselves part of a prevalent model of the aisthetics of banality.