The Violence of Kitsch


There is something deeply unsettling in the airport experience these days: the proto-military exercise of multiple luggage x-rays and body scans, barcodes and passports and watchful men in machine guns – this exercise is to be promptly followed by a stunned zigzagging through the hallucinatory wonders of duty-free shopping, populated by 3-D adverts featuring a poor horde of photoshopped youth. The spectral brutality of the first exercise is redeemed in our minds through the compulsive compensation of 30% off some shiny stuff.

The violence is the same: the sudden gates of over-abundance and consumerist gloss open wide once we’re OK’d on all hardcore security fronts, yet they remain just as mandatory – there is no other way made available for passengers to access their respective flights. Half-awake, we traverse the shiny halls of Gucci and Toblerone, immersed in giant plasmas of seduction, a crossed, exhausted gaze of anticipation and relief.

However, the airport experience is itself a more procedural, more scripted version of our daily routines, even our experience of tourism. There is nothing left to distinguish these extremely polarised environments from our expectation of a turbo version of leisure at any given point – the experience of extreme, concurrent discontinuity is gradually the norm. Bright-coloured, calculated abandonment under the watchful eye of killing machines ready to act at any unreadable act. We’re beyond accepting it: we are beginning to embrace it.