Blog: Art and Camp

Christine Alfery

Posted on July 22 2019

Flowing Waters by Christine Alfery

Flowing Waters, 12×12 water media on paper

The personal element in art, that of the individual composition of the artist and the individual experience of the viewer allows the concept of art to be always changing always moving.  The personal elements of art are the only consistent elements within the concept of art.  This subjectivity this individualness is what makes art subjective and at the same time objective.  If there is no individual in the work then the work isn’t art.  It makes no difference how shockingly different it is from the past, what rules it breaks, what technes it follows.

An excellent example is the current “Camp: exhibition at the Met in NY.  How gloriously wonderful is each unique exhibit.  The exhibition traces the concept of “camp” through the centuries through fashion. Exploring the many articles written about this exhibition, never once does the notion of individualism however expressed not present.  At first I thought of “camp” as an object that is trendy, currently in. A current example of this is how “pop” art and/or the comics currently appear in art exhibitions everywhere.  Camp can be seen in moves, Hunger Games comes to mind.  Trendy is not camp, trendy is not art.  According to Susan Sontag in her essay “Camp” which was the inspiration for this exhibition, “Camp rests on innocence.  Camp discloses innocence, but it can corrupt it also. … In the naïve, or pure, Camp, the essential element is seriousness, a seriousness that fails.  Of course, not all seriousness that fails can be redeemed as Camp…. only that which has the proper mixture of the exaggerated, the fantastic, the passionate and the naïve.”  Not all art is camp,  but “art”  definitely has some of the same properties that camp has.  Art is an exaggerated, mimicked reality, art is also fantastic, passionate and at the same time naïve.  Naïve, passionate, fantastic because art is created by the individual the unique individual with an idea.  The “Camp” exhibition illustrates how the individual can be a work of art, how an individuals life can be a work of art, how media has nothing to do with what art is or what art is.   Art is about idea, art is about the individual. Camp is about idea and about the individual. They always have been. Art like camp has always been hard to define just because it is about the individual, and individuals are always changing   

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