Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Notes on Camp at ICA

I went to see a discussion on 'Notes on Camp' at the ICA, as I am very interested in queer theory and camp (especially camp films) I was very excited to attend. I thought the talk somewhat missed the mark a bit, or perhaps they focused too much on 'neo camp' which seemed to align more with the victorian notion of camp as merely alluding to sexuality in a somewhat 'closeted' way. The talk didn't really address much of my interest in camp but I got some interesting things from it.

Obviously, Susan Sontag's "Notes on Camp" was mentioned, and is pretty much the epitomal text about camp, more recently is Bruce La Bruce's "Notes on Camp/Anti Camp"(which they didn't reference at all, but here it is out of interest because it's very current and good.)

"Classic Gay Camp:
Carmen Miranda
Mae West
Joan Crawford
Bette Davis
Whatever Happened To Baby Jane
Art Nouveau
Art Deco
The Catholic Church
George Kuchar
Franklyn Pangborn
Edward Everett Horton
Paul Lynde
Charles Nelson Reilly
The Boys in the Band
The Killing of Sister George
John Waters movies
Mario Montez
Holly Woodlawn
Candy Darling
Jackie Curtis

Bad Gay Camp:

Will and Grace
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
Misogynist Drag Queens
Neil Patrick Harris
Contemporary Broadway Musicals
Certain Ken Russell Films (The Boy Friend)
Perez Hilton
Adam Lambert
Lady Gaga

Good Straight Camp:

Woody Allen’s dramatic films (InteriorsSeptember)
Certain Robert Altman films (That Cold Day in the ParkImages, 3 Women)
Certain John Cassavetes films (The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Minnie and Moscowitz)

Bad Straight Camp:

Stanley Tucci in The Devil Wears Prada and The Hunger GamesTwilight
Black SwanIl DivoStar WarsAdam Sandler movies
Che Guevera
Damien Hirst
Tim Burton movies (except Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and Ed Wood)
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Jeff Koons
Tropic ThunderBenny Hill
Lady Gaga                                                                                                                                                     Baz Luhrmann

High Camp:

Oscar Wilde
Jean Cocteau

Low Camp:

Bawdy humour
Moms Mabley
Sophie Tucker
Better Midler’s bathhouse routines

Ultra Camp:

Mae West performing "Love Will Keep Us Together" in SextetElizabeth Taylor and Noel Coward in Boom!
Myra Breckenridge
Valley of the Dolls

Bad Ultra Camp:

Liza Minnelli performing "Put A Ring On It" in Sex and the City 2


Jerry Lewis’ sixties movies (The Ladies Man, The Patsy, The Big Mouth)
Midnight CowboyLooking For Mr. GoodbarLuna

Subversive Camp:

Rock Hudson/Doris Day movies
Roddy McDowell’s Tam LinBrett Anderson of Suede
Pee Wee Herman

Reactionary Camp:

Tyler Perry
Eddie Murphy
Heavy Metal

Liberal Camp:

Dr. Ruth
Rev. Al Sharpton
Shepard Fairey’s Obama "Hope" poster

Conservative Camp:

Kirk Cameron
Sarah Palin
Newt Gingrich
Mitt Romney
Ann Coulter
Fox News
The Iron Lady

Intentional Camp:

The Shining
Casino Royale with Daniel Craig
Green Acres (TV Show)

Unintentional Camp:

Lost in Space (TV Show)
Eyes Wide Shut
J. Edgar
Valley of the Dolls
The Iron Lady

Good Intentional Straight Camp:

Russ Meyer movies
Carry On movies"

The rest of which can be read here (

Interesting things were discussed at the beginning of the talk, this is what I got from it:

The whole point of camp is to dethrone the serious, and the suggestion that one can be serious about the frivolous and frivolous about the seriousness. Camp is the answer to the problem of "Straight Seriousness".
Camp was born in the 60s when Pop Culture was in its infancy, since then we have seen these changes in our sociology. Political speech is seen as more multifaceted and we no longer take it at face value. We don't believe so ardently in ideology, and the way we consume culture has changed, with "trash taste", disposable culture, predominating. Additionally, the position of LGBT politics has taken a massive stride.

In the infancy of camp, as an opposition to 'straight seriousness' it was seen as a homosexual ticket to social inclusion within hetronormativity. Camp is sustainable because of necessity.

For me, I found the talk to focus too much on 'neo camp' which is more estranged from political ideology, because of a lack of 'urgency', it almost rejects camp history and identifies itself as more closeted, a code in a cultural language liked to victorian euphemism.

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