“…. No me conformo, no; me desespero. I am hurry because finish me the ink.”
-Juan Rulfo, Cartas a Clara.
To be cursi is to be suspended in desire and always aspiring. It consists of over-the-top gestures, it is romantic in nature, and for anything to be cursi it must always fail. This failure can appear ridiculous to some and it is imperceptible to those that find themselves attempting, aspiring. There is no direct translation from the Spanish word cursi into English. But in the spirit of being cursi, we attempt, fail, and settle. In this case; corny.
Cursi-ness can be attempted in everything (attire, relationships, work, ethics) and it manifests in variables as well (language, objects, personas, aesthetics). To be cursi is sincere. To be cursi is to aspire to grandioseness in any sector of life. One is cursi on the road to good intentions. Cursi-ness can emerge both from lack and excess, but I am unsure that it can develop in balance. It requires a certain kind of chaos, a certain kind of creativity because although cursi-ness can be thought of as an act of mimesis it is always emphasized by personal touch and charisma.
Contemporary photography strikes me as cursi due to its self-aware, aspirational, and mimetic nature. In current photographic practices both the process and the outcome attempt and fall short. Photography fails – it is cursi. When I speak of attempting (photographically) I wish to illuminate photography’s desire to reveal itself, to deny its limitations, or to overemphasize its limitations, to ignore its past, to want to be like painting, or sculpture or even like photography itself. Photography is cornered by all its aspirations and promises and in its many years of failure, it has compiled a vast archive that demonstrates photography as cursi (Cathy Opie) and cursi as subject matter in photography (Ricas y Famosas, Daniela Rossel).
Cursi-ness is excessive and short-lived; it’s urgent and filled with possibility. Because it might appear so evidently disastrous one can’t help but assume that cursi is blind to its own image. But it turns out that it retains an impressive sensibility for self-awareness through its loop of hope. Like a DIY toy that never fully works but it insists, like a photograph of painted rock patterns into a concrete wall, or like Juan Rulfo; one of the most respected writers of the 2oth century in Mexico writing to his beloved Clara in a foreign language and closing his love letter in the most pitiful way. I am hurry because finish me the ink.