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Art in Life Beyond

Read more to find about aspects of art integrated to locations outside the school and community of Episcopal High School

Camp: Notes on Fashion

Written by Charlotte Breckinridge

Published 05/29/2019

If you haven’t already heard about the almost religious extravagance that metamorphosed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Monday, May 6, you are sadly living under a rock, a dull unintelligible rock. If you do live under said rock, let us first address the question that we indiscreetly yearn to be answered. What exactly is “Camp”? Here is Camp described by Met Costume Director Andrew Bolton:  

“Camp is like sand. It falls through your hands. Just when you think you’ve got a rock out of it, it turns into sand again.”

Ah yes, just as psychics causes sand to flow from our grasp, the ephemeral nature of Camp is perpetually intangible. Camp is a question mark made of sequins, a lavender purple coat on a warm summer's day, a dress made entirely of dollar bills, and put simply could be defined as anything deemed ironically extravagant. Camp is entirely, subjective.

The Met gala, an event and an exhibition, presented its striking historical tribute to Susan Sontag's 1964 essay "Notes on Camp” on the first Monday of May, upholding over half a century of tradition. The reason for such a grand recognition

of one woman's literary journal is the echo effect of her work. Sontag turned a once subcultural whisper into a beckoning roar representative of the emerging Camp aesthetic. Sontag’s best interpretation of it is as so, "a seriousness that fails... the love of the unnatural... the exaggerated."

"a seriousness that fails... the love of the unnatural... the exaggerated."

"a seriousness that fails... the love of the unnatural... the exaggerated."

Although we may not know the exact definition of Camp, and should probably stop trying to define it; we can assume that the Met’s exhibit is truly extraordinary. 

 The opening sector features the Palace of Versailles as the original eden of camp, and traces back the camp ideal to the queer subculture of Europe. Featuring over 250 objects that date all the way back to the 17th century, the exhibit seeks to examine, 

“how fashion designers have used their métier as a vehicle to engage with camp in a myriad of compelling, humorous, and sometimes incongruous ways." In its use of color, life, and uncommon objects, the camp aesthetic draws observers in by always keeping them in the dark.

If you do find yourself in New York City, you need not wander any farther than the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of art for a day of extravagant and whimsical nature.