BID Lecture 4: Camp – Failure – Queerness

Delivery Date: 10 February 2020 | lecturer: Fenia Kotsopoulou

Summary | What is camp and how can we think of camp aesthetics beyond sexuality? What is the importance of attending to queerness?

Introductory Reading

  • Sontag, S. (1994) ‘Notes on Camp’ in Against Interpretation. London: Vintage: 275-292

Compulsory Reading

  • Munoz, J. E. (2009). Cruising Utopia: TheThen andThere of Queer Futurity, pp. 168-18
  • Coates, J. (2019). Collateral Damage: Warfare, Death, and Queer Theory in Global South. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies.25 (1): 131–135
  • Halberstam, J. (2013). The queer art of failure. (Queer art of failure.) Durham. NC: Duke University Press, pp 1-5 & 23-25 & 87-120
  • Ahmed, S.(2006). The Orient and Other Others. In Queer Phenomenology. Orientations, Objects, Others. USA: Duke University Press, pp. 120-142

Recommended Reading

  • Gere, D. (2001) ’29 Effeminate Gestures: Choreographer Joe Goode and the Heroism of Effeminacy’ in J. Desmond (ed.) Dancing Desires: Choreographing Sexualities On and Off the Stage, Wisconsin, The University of Wisconsin Press: 349- 381
  • Crisp, Q. (2007 [1968]). The Naked Civil Servant. London and NewYork, Harper Perennial
  • Houlbrook, M. (2005). Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis 1918- 1957, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press
  • Brooklyn, Sargeant, NY: J. (1999). Soft Skull Deathtripping: Press. Pp. 8-13, and 24-46 illustrated history of the cinema of transgression


Queerness remains in the realm of potentiality, for it is related to a way of thinking of the future. It is a state of becoming that deviates from the desires of mainstream culture, going against norms.

Queering Utopias – imagination of a future where the identities which are invisible can fully express their subjectivity

“Cocketes” – film

“Paris is Burning” – about the ballroom culture in NYC Harlem

Communities formed by invisible subjectivities and identities. Ways to reclaim power.

Jack Smith (late 50s 60s) – films. alternative realities based on imagination – it subverted how relity of represented in cinema at the time

Fred Herko

Commodification of Queerness

Camp is a way of engaging with queer aesthetics. It is a glorification of the character, fulfilling a fantasy in a very passionate way. When this operation fails causing laughter (with it, instead of at it), causing empathy it can be considered camp. The character does not evolve. Content is then reinforced by the repetition of form.

Naivity and passion that leads to failure

David Hoyle – anti-drag – whatever you imagine can be made into your reality through performance. He also works a lot with language in the context of “stand-up like” performances.

Kalup Linzy – great B&W film in which she does all voices – he is black and places himself as black characters protagonizing B&W films. The acting is exageratted, as in the old films. Placing a back body in the center of the narrative, instead of the colonizer.

Dynasty Handbag – NYC based artist – “Remote Penetration”

Cthulian Prophecies – paintings as prophecies (GREEK)

Fluffy World of Antygona – plauyfylness as a political tool

Nando Messias (PT) – UK based

Ann Liv Young – I don’t exist If You don’t – she creates unsettling feelings and transgressed the boundaries between performer and spectator through her behavior.

Joseph Morgan Schofield – UK based artist. Use of mythopoetics to construct different worlds. Divination. Abjection (makes an incision on his chest and spreads the blood). Rituals of transformation to become “something” else. Non-spectacular, not entertaining.

Alok (they/them) – writer and performance artist – “The Personal is Political” nice poem!!!

Queerness as a strategy, as a way to envision another future, as a way to be representative of something that does not (yet) exist.

Butoh could be seen as queer – gender is not performed, it relies on transformation