Monday, November 30, 2015

Precis Posted for Sachi Moskowitz

Too Camp or Not To Camp
In Notes on "Camp",Susan Sontag explores the idea of Camp, what is Camp, what makes Camp, and how to define Camp. “I am drawn to Camp, and almost as strongly offended by it,” she says in the second paragraph of the essay. In reference to art in relation to Camp, she states: “Camp art is often decorative art, emphasizing texture, sensuous surface, a style at the expense of content,” and claims it is the love of the exaggerated, the “off” that defines the canon of Camp.
Sontag uses Art Nouveau as an example, referring to it as a typical and fully developed Camp style, when one thing becomes converted into something else. Lighting fixtures in the form of flowering plants. She uses a specific example, the Paris Metro designed by Hector Guimard in the late 1890s who designed the entrance in the shape of cast­ iron orchid stalks. She takes a look at the art of mannerist artists like Caravaggio and Pontormo, and points out during this period there were extraordinary feelings for artifice, for surface, symmetry and its elegant conventions for representing instant feeling and the total presence of character. She wraps up this thought by stating that calling these artists and their genre simply Camp would not be accurate. It is providing a lens which blocks out content.
Sontag also focuses of different types of literature and what makes it a success. She compares works such as the Iliad to Metamorphosis by Kafka which are completely different works but have the same effect. She writes about valuing work because of its seriousness and the dignity that it achieves. For example the Iliad and Aristophanes’ play. In contrast, in support Sontag's quest to define Camp she focuses on the other creative sensibilities besides seriousness that achieve the same value of underlying seriousness. For instance Kafka and Rimbaud. She states, “That whose goal is not that of creating harmonies but of overstraining the medium and introducing more and more violent, and unreasonable, subject matter.” Supporting her example that, “ something is good not because it is achieved, but because another kind of truth about the human situation, another experience of what it is to be human­­in short, another valid sensibility­­is being revealed.” A seriousness that fails.
To Sontag, Camp is represented in a person's taste, and in a response to the exaggerated. Sontag states Androgyny is an image that supports Camp sensibility. She uses examples like the flowing sexless bodies in Art Nouveau prints and posters, figures with “androgynous vacancy”. Also, the swooning slim figures in pre­-raphaelite paintings and poetry. This is when she talks about Camp drawing on an unacknowledged truth of taste, being the most refined form of sexual attractiveness. Which consists of going against the grains of one’s sex. Sontag explains, “what is most beautiful in virile men is something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine. (Bringing it back to relating to Camp, it is similar because it is an exaggeration of sexual characteristics and personality mannerisms.) Sontag supports this idea by stating, “It’s not a lamp, but a “lamp”; not a woman, but a “woman.” To perceive Camp in objects and persons is to understand Being ­as­ Playing­ a ­Role.”
Sontag describes Camp in many different ways and in an obsessive love / hate kind of relationship. After reading this essay I will be haunted by “what is Camp.” Sontag has delved into something that is rarely discussed or articulated, and she’s analyzed it in what seems every way possible. 

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