Camp | Chicago Reader

Camp

Andy Warhol's 1965 response to Susan Sontag's famous essay defining camp won my heart at the outset when its cast members (including Mario Montez, Gerard Malanga, and Jack Smith) start by discussing summer camps they've attended. Filmed at the Factory, each person presents a performance illustrating his or her idea of camp. Malanga reads a poem about his own public sex acts; Smith comes "out of the closet" by creating a powerfully restrained, near-static mini drama that climaxes with the opening of a closet that contains a little Batman figure. Unlike the later Warhol films directed by Paul Morrissey, this has the raw, improvised, mistake-filled look of much of Warhol's early art. One can see the random effects that inspired later filmmakers and performance artists, happy accidents like a crew member repeatedly adjusting a microphone within the frame or absurd stylistic elements like zooms that only sometimes find a human target. "I don't think anybody's camping—I think we're all doing ourselves," Tally Brown explains, and therein lies Warhol's implicit quarrel with Sontag: "camp" is not about momentary poses but about how the roles people assume define their lives.

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