The excitement is particularly high as this year’s Met Gal theme, “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” is perhaps its most out-there one, to date. For one, As a huge Susan Sontag fan, myself, I was elated to hear that the writers’ 1964 essay, “Notes on Camp,” was behind The Costume Institute’s Andrew Bolton’s inspiration for the theme. So, what is Camp, exactly?
To understand Camp, one has to understand Sontag. She was a hugely influential and intellectual journalist, writer, filmmaker, and visionary of the mid-to-late 20th century. It’s crazy to me that the first I had ever heard of her was in a photography course, where I read her book, On Photography. In the book, she analyzes the act of picture-taking, as well as the influence of images on modern society- notably, not from a photographer’s perspective, but from a journalistic, observational perspective. Her ability to delve into complexities and idiosyncrasies of the medium- something at which she had absolutely no ties to- fascinated me. Her same way of rational, intuitive thinking, applies to how she saw certain, seemingly unrelated phenomena, as interconnected phantasms, as aesthetics.
Camp is an aesthetic so esoteric it is hard to explain in a singular definition. However, I I will try to sum it up in within the confines of this paragraph, so bear with me. Camp is, “the love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration,” where one is, “serious about the frivolous, frivolous about the serious”. “Camp sees everything in quotation marks,” a quote that immediately brings to mind none other than Virgil Abloh’s, Off-White. A coincidence? I think not.
Bolton probably looked towards Camp as an explanation for 2018’s Gucci’s craze, a refresher for maximalism in a carefully curated sea of black and white oversized blazers and suits. Coming full circle, Gucci is a sponsor of the event, creative director Alessandro Michele will co-chair alongside the likes of Anna Wintour, Serena Williams, Lady Gaga, and Harry Styles, and designed by Jan Versweyveld, of David Bowie’s “Lazarus”.
When thinking about camp today, think pop-art on crack. Drag, 80’s movies, logo-mania, the melodrama of reality TV and explosive celebrity Twitter feuds (Fofty Cent and Lala Kent, anyone?). Think Memes- a post-modern extension of Dada-ism and Surrealism. Think about the ridiculous world we live in today- the blurred lines of pop-culture, politics, and technology. Perhaps Sontag was foreseeing Camp as not just a stylistic aesthetic, but as a reality for the near future.