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(More on this later.) Thus, the personality and many of the works of Jean Cocteau are Camp, but not those of Andr Gide; the operas of Richard Strauss, but not those of Wagner; concoctions of Tin Pan Alley and Liverpool, but not jazz.Many examples of Camp are things which, from a "serious" point of view, are either bad art or kitsch. Not only is Camp not necessarily bad art, but some art which can be approached as Camp (example: the major films of Louis Feuillade) merits the most serious admiration and study. Rural Camp is still man-made, and most campy objects are urban.
There are "campy" movies, clothes, furniture, popular songs, novels, people, buildings. It offers no opportunity, say, for a contrast between silly or extravagant content and rich form. In the last two years, popular music (post rock-'n'-roll, what the French call y y) has been annexed.
And movie criticism (like lists of "The 10 Best Bad Movies I Have Seen") is probably the greatest popularizer of Camp taste today, because most people still go to the movies in a high-spirited and unpretentious way. There is a sense in which it is correct to say: "It's too good to be Camp." Or "too important," not marginal enough.
Examples: the swooning, slim, sinuous figures of pre-Raphaelite painting and poetry; the thin, flowing, sexless bodies in Art Nouveau prints and posters, presented in relief on lamps and ashtrays; the haunting androgynous vacancy behind the perfect beauty of Greta Garbo. Allied to the Camp taste for the androgynous is something that seems quite different but isn't: a relish for the exaggeration of sexual characteristics and personality mannerisms. The question isn't, "Why travesty, impersonation, theatricality?
Here, Camp taste draws on a mostly unacknowledged truth of taste: the most refined form of sexual attractiveness (as well as the most refined form of sexual pleasure) consists in going against the grain of one's sex. For obvious reasons, the best examples that can be cited are movie stars. " The question is, rather, "When does travesty, impersonation, theatricality acquire the special flavor of Camp?
Many things in the world have not been named; and many things, even if they have been named, have never been described.
One of these is the sensibility -- unmistakably modern, a variant of sophistication but hardly identical with it -- that goes by the cult name of "Camp." A sensibility (as distinct from an idea) is one of the hardest things to talk about; but there are special reasons why Camp, in particular, has never been discussed.
It is not a natural mode of sensibility, if there be any such.
Indeed the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.
It is one way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon. Camp taste has an affinity for certain arts rather than others.
That way, the way of Camp, is not in terms of beauty, but in terms of the degree of artifice, of stylization. To emphasize style is to slight content, or to introduce an attitude which is neutral with respect to content. True, the Camp eye has the power to transform experience. Clothes, furniture, all the elements of visual dcor, for instance, make up a large part of Camp.