“Camp: Notes on Fashion”, an Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art


Theodora Reichel

The current exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Camp: Notes on Fashion” is inspired by writer Susan Sontag’s 1964 Partisan Review essay, “Notes on ‘Camp'”.  This fashion show showcases extravagant designer pieces spanning centuries. Sontag originally describes camp as a “love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.”.  The 2019 Met Gala, chaired and hosted by Gucci creative director, Alessandro Michele, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, Lady Gaga, Serena Williams and Harry Styles gave celebrity guests a chance to break free from the glamourous gowns usually seen on the red carpet and instead embrace the intentionally absurd.  But what exactly is camp? Definitions of this term vary by generation, but camp is fun, teasing, playful and impractical. Sontag’s essay described the characteristics of camp, which include irony, humor, theatricalization and exemplified extravagance.  This is displayed through art and costume. Narrow corridors and low ceilings expand into larger more dramatic rooms echoing camp’s movement from the margins of society into the mainstream. Camps ideals are demonstrated through the traditional paintings of Crivelli, Caravaggio, Mannerism, to Tiffany lamps and the beaded flapper dresses from the 1920s, all examples of exaggeration and artifice.  Camp is inherently subjective, which is part of its enticement. Camp is always changing, forcing you to come to your own interpretation of it.