Praise of the corny



Date: 23 June - 8 October 2023


The Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy of Language defines cursi as: “1. adj. Said of a person: who pretends to be elegant and refined without achieving it. U.t. c. s. / 2. adj. Said of one thing: That, with an appearance of elegance or delicacy, it is pretentious and in bad taste”. It seems then that the cheesy is characterized, as the character of the marquis pointed out in the comedy Lo cheesy by Jacinto Benavente, for being the opposite of what it claims to be.

The word cursi has a disputed origin and a difficult translation into other languages. It appeared in the Spanish language at the beginning of the 19th century. Some look for its etymology in the cursive abbreviation. Cursive was a type of calligraphy that became fashionable under the influence of England at the end of the 18th century but was very difficult to imitate. Others find it in two characters who have almost acquired the character of a myth: the Sicur sisters of Cádiz. It was said, if they existed, that these two sisters copied the fashion of Paris and exaggerated it. The ornaments hid the stains, the tears and the shine of some dresses that time had worn out and they could not renew. Their appearance became ridiculous and, when they walked, they shouted at them: Sicur! Sicur! Sicur! Sicur! In this way, by repetition, his inverted last name became synonymous with ridicule. This story about language hides a story that has to do with the way in which gender is constructed and also with a question of class. From there, the cheesy were those and those young people from the lower middle class or lower class who imitated the forms of the wealthy bourgeoisie and the aristocracy. In Filocalia or the art of distinguishing the corny from those who are not, written by the conservatives Francisco Silvela and Santiago de Liniers in 1868, the year of the Glorious Revolution, "the empire of kitsch is one of the dangers of revolution. It means the invasion by the masses of the artistic, poetic, monumental and clothing terrain”. As Noëll Vallis affirms, “the cheesy results from undesirable social displacements”.

Related to other terms such as kitsch and camp, the cheesy is intended to define a certain type of bad taste that has to do with the idea of a degraded copy. The idea of this exhibition is to trace a genealogy of what this term has been associated with, following a methodology close to that of visual culture studies. The exhibition mainly displays popular culture products from fans, furniture or decorative objects, including books, photo novels, comics, postcards, billboards, theater advertisements, scene photographs and works of art.

In Praise of the Corny is curated by Sergio Rubira, professor of Art History at the UCM. He is part of the acquisitions committee of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Madrid. He is an independent curator, among his latest exhibitions are Baroque tactics (Historical Museums of the Community of Madrid); Bilduma HAU Collection at Artium, Vitoria, Metamorfosis del ser, Círculo de Bellas Artes, Madrid, and the solo show by Cristina Lucas, De ida y vuelta, at the CAAC, Seville. He is a contributor to El Cultural of El Español. He has been deputy director of Collection and exhibitions at the IVAM, Valencia. He has curated exhibitions at ARCO, DA2, CGAC, CA2M, La Panera, Temporary Gallery, Center d'art Santa Mònica, among others. He has written in numerous publications for institutions such as MUDAM, Luxembourg; Center Pompidou-Metz, the Venice Biennale, PS1-MoMA, New York, Tranzit, Prague, or the FRAC Bourgogne, Dijon, among others.


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