Pronouncements on camp

Thursday, 02 March, Year 9 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

I. Susan Sontag is a moron without remainderi.

II. Camp is not either fundamental or personal ; but both universal and marginal without exception. Its circumstantial expression "changes", and to they immersed in that circumstance may appear very deeply personal and connected to the very core of the world. In point of fact the item repeats itself to sickening identity, and is broadly irrelevant : if it does go to any core, it is a core of an orphaned chain, so to speak.

III. Camp is, in all times and places, a phenomenon of the economically sound colony interacting with the ideal objects of the culture that spawned it. It is a conflict specific to, and limited to, the fledging brain of the orc who, having mastered farming and ditch digging, is looking upon writing and turning piano leaves.ii

IV. The quanta of all camp is the man with an accent -- the Scot in London, the Mexican in Dallas, the Algerian in Paris. Besides these, the homosexualiii, the woman, the adolescent etcetera.

V. Because colonies are always the same thing in the sense and in the way children are always the same thing, camp is always the same thing, as the childhood of populations (with the notable exception that most children do, or at least used to, become adults ; whereas mostiv colonies do not become places of their own).

VI. Divine is camp not because he is a (very weak and altogether unconvincing) man nor because he dresses as a (very shrill and altogether unconvincing) woman ; but because he visibly fails to capture the substance of the woman even as he visibly succeeds in reproducing the trappings. That's camp. Julie Andrews is camp not because she doesn't look convincing as a young dandy, but because (and no doubt deliberately) in her authoritarian, biting ejection of the "sexual competitor" from James Garner's room and life she voluptuously, voluminouslyv displays the motherly care of a very much adult, and very much complete, woman in love -- so completely in love the mother in her shows through much like a momentarily prolapsed colum uteri after excessive, prolonged, overvigorous fucking. (She's not in love with him, of course, but this doesn't matter.)

VII. There is a difference between kitsch and camp, and that difference is entirely homologous to the difference between a miniature pistol and a toy pistol. A well made miniature could conceivably even firevi, but is still small. A toy might reproduce the look, the feel, the sound, whatever benchmark of the original tool -- but it may not reproduce its actual function. Both kitsch and camp may end up confused by later archeologists with the genuine articles of the empire they monkey. In so doing those archeologists would be mistaken, and it would be a different mistake in each case. Mistaking Phil Collins for the absent rider or Ben Affleck for Quentin Tarantino, or Tolkien for Mosesvii is a confusion as to relative sizes, a problem of proportions and perspective, whatever the relative quality of execution. Mistaking Cheesie Nelson for Elvis Presley is a confusion of function : even as they ate at the same diner in Texarkana back in 1954, one was going to swing his hips and the other -- not. But difference aside, there is evidently also a similarity between kitsch and camp : neither actually work.

VIII. As camp is of the context, not the text nor its subtext, there necessarily exists no such thing as self-aware camp. The proper term for denizens of the metropolis masquerading as colony orcs bumbling about with the tools of the empire is blackfaceviii. These two are very much symmetrical, married sartorial devices. The camp performer and the blackface performer discuss the same topic : cultural inappropriateness. In general, the public mind is disinclined from allowing bothix and so one will be taboo at a time, in alternation. Camp spent most of the 19th century under the table for this reason.

IX. Camp is not art, but leftovers. There is an ancient story about a rich man oppressing a youth through demanding payment for the latter's "having smelled the food in his restaurant", which is resolved through allowing him hear the sound of money. There is a joke about a campy character who wants to buy the fire extinguisher off the wall of an art exhibition. There are those who obsessively collect their nail clippings, and conceivably a poor man might buy the bits of cloth discarded by the tailor in making a suit for a customer, in order to make whatever habit for himself he might manage out of them. Camp is there, throughout, not culture but leftovers. Art, of course, is also leftovers, but there's a substantial difference between the ashes left on the altar after the sacrifice and the unused bits of the carcass the poor were allowed to scrape away.

That should suffice for a first pass.

———
  1. Not just because she fabulously fails to identify Napoleon, the wanna-be corsican in Vince McMahon tights as the camp champion of all time ; but because she understands as much of scholarship as Luce Irigaray understands of physics. The defect is not one of nurture, it is foncier to the subject abject ; it may have nothing to do with Susan Sontag being a woman, but it certainly has everything to do with Susan Sontag being Susan Sontag. []
  2. Petrus is the definitive camp character. This does not mean the coolies can't be taken seriously, but it does mean their cultural productions are fundamentally and inescapably partial -- just as no butcher ever made a living chicken, no Petrus ever made a work of art. His son may be a different matter, but history is unpromising : even the Rome born sons of Thracians that ended up belabouring under the purple made for rather campy emperors. []
  3. There is a very strict and unescapable relation between the colonial upstart, a man who knows how to earn the coins of the empire (ie, has mastered the civilisation) but does not know how to... "earn" the decorations of the empire (ie, has not mastered the culture) and the sexually active homosexual, who has figured out to a satisfactory degree the mechanics (hips or lips, baby ?) but is incapable of reproducing the substance.

    In case you are wondering, the reason the BDSM you know of traces its history from the leather clubs of gay bikers is fundamental to this discussion. It is, supposedly, a step forward, and yet just because a faggot can -- formally -- kneel just like a woman does not resolve the problem. Substance, the outsider's worst nightmare. []

  4. Notably, the New World colonies did not. []
  5. There is a certain, very physical if entirely ethereal volume of women, for which the big butt is a proxy in the mind of the big butt lover. []
  6. In some cases this is possible, in some other cases it is not -- there's a smallest nuclear bomb, or a smallest combustion engine, for instance. []
  7. First five books, minus last eight verses. []
  8. Exactly opposite of camp : the metropolis interacting with ideal objects of the economically sound colony. []
  9. The ambiguous presence of both is actually a major marker of anomie, specific of times and places where the empire was decapitated suddenly and unexpectedly. []
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