Shaking the House: Seeking Out “Ugliness”

By Regina Connell.

Lladro Little Kitty

Spring Cleaning

It’s not just Marie Kondo and Martha Stewart anymore. It seems that these days, everyone’s cottoned onto the idea of a good spring clean. There are even apps that help you with it. Please.

Each major culture has a reason for spring cleaning: some are practical (cleaning out the house after months of indoor fires, etc.). However, most commentators ascribe the idea of spring cleaning to cultures based on the lunar calendar, and in particular, the Persians. In the Persian culture, people celebrate the spring with the khan tekani, which translates literally to “shaking the house,” a way to shake out all the dust and evil spirits, and make room for the new year.

I’ve really taken by the idea of “shaking the house” but it has nothing to do with beating rugs or arranging your underwear Konmari style. I like the idea of shaking things up in general: breaking routine and, in particular, breaking your own rules.

Now, I suppose you could chuck the job to become a Buddhist priest, buy the motorcycle and become a prospect in your local MC, decide that your given gender identity isn’t the right one. However, I’m trying something a little less drastic: breaking my own aesthetic rules or at least being less tied to them.

In particular, I’m trying to get away from intellectually judging what’s beautiful (all those aesthetic rules of mine), and in particular, trying to engage with things that I have always shied that I’ve had an adverse “yuck” reaction to.

This may not sound like a big deal, but it was inspired by a notion you find in pop psychology circles: that if someone has a character trait you find objectionable (serial killers, child molesters, terrorists, rapists and politicians aside) it’s often because it’s a trait you either wish you had, or (much more likely) deplore in yourself.

And I started to wonder whether that applied to taste as well. What can the things I steer far clear of or—and even downright hate—tell me about me? How can I loosen my judgments and appreciate more? Wouldn’t that be nice, to spend time there, rather than judging so quickly all the time?

Time to shake the house and see.

So, despite my general embrace of William Morris’s beautiful/useful edict, I’m using this spring period to pull together a little collection of three or four things that nonetheless transgress my traditional notions of beauty.

Seeking out the uglies

Seeking out the uglies

I will look for a small collection of things that repel me in some way. Banal ugliness isn’t enough: badly designed things are so common that they don’t repel, just irritate and are quickly forgotten.

To be repellent, it needs to get at my gut, really get under my skin. What repels? Well anything yellow. Pre-Pixar Disney. Doilies. Crafty-ness (yes, Etsy, I’m talking about you). Plastic. Overly conceptual art. A lot of glass art. Hello Kitty and anything cartoony and silly. A lot of kitsch. Most raku, particularly the sculptural kind. At the other end of the spectrum, Lladro. (That’s kind of an interesting list, but also cringe-making in its baldness.)

Of course, I absolutely get that these can be beautiful to others and have intrinsic beauty and value. I’m sure that I’m attracted to many things that aren’t attractive or valuable to many. So be it. It’s the why of repulsion and rejection that I’m interested in.

I won’t be going overboard, no large dollars spent. And I will see what meditating on ugliness does for me to shake up my own house. Photos to follow.

Image: Hello Kitty by Lladro.

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