116th Annual Conference - Bellingham, Washington
Friday, November 9 - Sunday, November 11, 2018

Why I Love Camp

Heidi Schlipphacke, University of Illinois, Chicago

I will explore my love of camp aesthetics, the bastard “queer child” of modernism.  Camp is characterized as an exaggerated, artificial mode of art that engenders detachment. I will reflect on my exquisite pleasure in the contemplation of the painful gap between the ideal and the real that camp embodies.


In this paper I will explore the affective and personal sources for my love of camp aesthetics, the bastard “queer child” of modernism.  A concept emerging around the turn of the 20th century as a marker for a taste that is “exaggerated, artificial, affected, theatrical, and effeminate,” camp seems to turn Schiller’s concept of naïve art completely on its head. Yet camp could never crawl its way up to the heights of what might be considered self-reflexive art. For Susan Sontag (“Notes on Camp”) camp engenders detachment on the part of the beholder, and this understanding of camp has dominated mainstream readings of camp as “low art” to this day. So why would I love that from which I am detached, with which I cannot easily identify? Queer theory has a lot to contribute to this discussion, so I will consider queer approaches to the question, reflecting on the exquisite pleasure I experience in contemplating the painful gap between the ideal rendered imperfectly as exaggeration and the real (always falling short) that, for me, characterizes camp art.