Wednesday, October 19, 2005

On Camp aesthetics

The dissolution on apparent aesthetical symbiosis with the real changed the status of the new, the original and the relation with authorship as a superimposition to spectator. As this reference to the new can sustain an authoritarian position - which critical devices expanding from poststructuralist practices tried to (de)contextualize – it has become clear the necessity of a positioning facing the original positioning or at least questioning authenticity in art practices.

Original’s aesthetics endorse thinking the new as an aesthetical condition. One of the constitutive principles of humanity is set upon the improvement of tools. The search of new in art embodies this search for improvement. Thus if this quest for new is inextricable to our condition in aesthetics she’s emphasized beyond comparison transforming that mediation in purpose: a goal itself as quasi-imperative formalism[1]. But the danger of this aesthetical focusing may incur on its hermetic bias over the observer and the historical artistic imperialism. These are the main reasons that lead this reflection on the status of the object as characteristically element and portrait of art.

The problem within authenticity and all the positions on the axis of the representation of truth is: authentic according to what?

Defending authenticity of an object as revealing the authentic value of its maker embodies the shadow of essentialism, in a way that its not reduced to a nominal entity – bond to possession, bond to object – but as expressive authenticity sense: the focal point of an object as legitimate expression of an individual, society and its values. In Heidegger authenticity reports the straight expression given by a genuine voice that truly belongs to the universe that’s being described (sic Adorno, 1973).

Common (sense) speech opposes authenticity to falseness. We shall not ignore that “truth” doesn’t correspond merely to facts but also to what is mistrustful and that “fiction” relates itself with its dynamic nature and formatted (from Latin fingere). Art always intended (assuming it or not) on a spectrum clearly bond to fiction of reality (the ideal reality, mimesis of reality, symbolic or allegoric reality,…) and it’s this reading that makes us go along an understanding that art proposes a movement in the direction of change: less connected to what is than to what can eventually be, without a loss of truly or authentic value.

Artifice as arts sine qua non condition emphasizes individual position. As much different they are, modernist concepts are set as “authoritarian” artistic text: artist never assume their perception of reality as something contingent. What we can do on the side of the reader is to accept or not this proposal at the same time we redraw from the art maker the valence of truth, installing in turn the speech of artificiality as the core bias of art. Heidegger presents us the object production as the materialization of truth (regarding Plato’s Theory of Ideas) and which according to the principle that we refuse or accept that imposition, we distance ourselves from an authoritarian realist reflexive plural position that explain the status of construction: aesthetics of self-consciousness construction.

The nominalists (meant as historicist) of art reveals a research that cannot be ignored. Nominal authenticity (object historicism) has origins in semantics of the creator and it is bond to the cannon of criticism (what does the author want to say?), but we should resist to the reading in which nominal authenticity will inevitably favor the old/original in despite the new.

“Working with a pre established plan it’s a way to prevent subjectivity (…) form itself lacks importance it becomes grammar of the whole work.[2]

Establishing nominal authenticity locus lets us understand art history and its practices as intelligible history of experience of artists and its audience and if works of art embody, characterizes situation, publics, author, then cannot be consider as merely experience objects (or would stand on mere solipsism). The “need” of holding on to extreme abstraction as the tellus on a never lost possession…

The alternative of authenticity and inauthenticity directs itself
according to whether someone decides for himself or not. It takes
its directive, beyond real states of affairs, from the highly formal
sense of belonging to oneself ... Such a philosophy need no longer
be concerned with how far society and psychology allow a man to
be himself or become himself ... The societal relation ... is
desocietalised into an in-itself. The individual ... holds on to
himself in his extreme abstractness as the last, the supposedly
unlosable possession.[3]

Framing Adorno no longer seems valuable the exclusiveness proposed by Heidegger (the deepness of a speaking object[4]). Even because in practice an abstract element can eventually be a mistake or a absolute nonsense. As a consequence, if the authentic reifies the subject (through true work) and if truth corresponds to it, we are towards the articulation of a speech that places the revelation of truth or realizations/making real (once more it becomes clear the concentration of attention that hangs on the empiric aspect, object and place of art. So the criteria of authenticity that emphasizes the value as subjective stand point must be abandoned within the exercise of critical analysis. We need existentialist restructures that proposes an expressive authenticity as a cognitive conquest and morally complex – according to the comprehension of the complexity of existential condition of each one, reintroducing the problematic of complexity of the world without compromising it.

“Men creates forms all of them fake (products) and all of them inevitable once created toward the other. As soon I show up the other has me, I’m his prisoner if I don’t impose the best way to stop him on his turn to me on its absolute right of solipsist consciousness[5]”.

Authenticity has an intense bond to the issue of territory specificity. There was always a problem focusing the core nature of art objects produced: topic of “sensibility” cannot be able to explain. Art proposals are not facts but put themselves in the realm of linguistic, express in their turn definitions on art or formal consequences of definitions of art. The work is incapable of defining itself as art from self-reference to its internal structure.

Foucault entails the subject as locus for empiric knowledge addressed to detour the fundaments that legitimates him – the agents of culture, the deviants that extend the rhetoric’s of sign systems (Foucault, 1978)[6]. The speech that involves the subject generates his appearance. On the work the corporal bias intensifies the illusion that it’s substance of something, hence nothing exists in fact outside its own existence logic but strictly on this reading.

This ambiguity between realism and illusionism of art objects questions the connection of image and its referential, its iconography and the relation with real world objects and the codes of representation. Denying works referenciality, the specificity of its speech we compromise art practices and knowledge as superficial vulgarity: the coincidence of image with work; the superficiality of communication; the coincidence of work with author and his emotion; mundane spooks… Pop art is one exemplar that intends to merge the gap between superficiality and deepness as locus of projection. This excessive emphasis reveals the nihilist nature of capitalism and the intriguing position of technique as language that replaces discursivity specific place.

This are the starting point that lead my artistic concerns, the definition of a space which matrix enables us to think the relationship between codes of signification and articulation and by extend its politic implications.

Our contemporary flaunts itself as the time of the new as always equal (culture tourism that offers a traditional and modernist glimpse). Art cannot dismiss its responsibilities as knowledge producer. This implicates it on the traditional economy of the producer; to reveal works production as to offer interferences reflects by its turn the possession of knowledge, a kind of altruist socialism of individual knowledge (sic Goffman, 1993).

As analyzing production and its symbolic implications (regard the reproductive works example) there must be an effort to understand to which degree this practices that enables recognition that solve the deferend through subjective implications. How can it interfere specially through the visual plasticity (undo the logic of consuming through a visual produced uncanny) generating instruments, resiliencies, obstacles that in first instance challenge the intimate norms of production? This deferend implies a constant renegotiation of the past symbolic representation (opposed to production logic of the obsolete) on a speech that rewrites it as imagetic narrative achieving experience of art and knowledge production in the relation with artistic objecthood. It’s necessary therefore to articulate the symbolic that approaching empiric experiences solves the deferred subjective object with its historical materialization, escaping its abstraction but enacting a link to dramatic realization of knowledge and real[7].

What seems for granted is the fact that works cannot be otherwise but the impossibility of transparence because says something at the same time it hides (Prada, 2003). By not being constitutional in the order of speech (its truth it’s not the objecthood mirror) the artistic proposal must reflect the problematic nature of thinking and knowing.

The definition of art shall be that task of understanding the (uncanny) unreachable real trying to decipher art configurations as a riddle (and not the dissolution of the new) – crypt according to Perniola. This site of art as knowledge flatters the opinion as starting point (denying the utopia value of apparatus) denying as same the absolute nature. In a certain sense retaking reversibility and plurality – modern premises – status of an art that insights repressed social consciousness. That same social consciousness is implicated at the process of production of visually in art: it’s imperative to position art as medium using image. This visually-knowledge rehabilitation process recalls Benjamin and its effort to position the artist intellectual among the process of “revelation” (production) through which occurs a fundamental transformation of the oeuvre. And if Greenberg affirmed art as a strict effort of experiences – and not principles – there’s the obligation of criticizing that focus on experience. (De) intensify the experience by building up a resistance platform as object. Art as object-site of enigma-real.

Hence shall use a concept placed on the analysis of imagehood and the mechanisms of culture - Camp as a consideration focusing specially the authenticity of the real and the artificiality discourse as object-knowledge of real at the (re)placement of the production axis (new visualities axis).

“You are not free if you can do everything, but only if you are set to fight against who/what limit your freedom[…] The same way in which [...] freedom of people is essentially a fight, then we should now affirm that freedom of thought is fight itself too: fight against prejudices, against superstitions, against "cultural trends.[8]

Camp’s core based about the translation of an inner value –based on the stigmatic experience of homosexuality – and as evidence of authenticity (of that stigma) which is to pass by as. Gay stigma is singular on the sense that is not immediately apparent – there is the possibility of avoiding sanctioning since its information flux is liable of being controlled. This inherits the problematic of a common link with an inner value – we use life we are not aspects of it. The most relevant aspect on Camp pops from the deconstruction on the notions of authenticity and cultural production: ego production as merchant on a world of indistinctive images of reality. Plurality of (every) things implemented itself on a subtle way reducing all to matters of mere style: on a single move incites the construction of other and alienates him.

“Fiction (…) is beautiful, false and useless, a profoundly unnatural art, conceived strictly to pleasure.

(…) No one can be blamed (…) to be unnatural, I said its to be civilized, to vindicate the right to intellectual self consciousness that is the only genesis of art. [9]

Camp aims to inscribe itself as element of aesthetical domain, the ephemeral abs superfluous a sort of manière that favors the exaggeration, artificial and the extreme between popular and commercial cultural and cultural consuming. Primordially on camp there’s the concern to increase a permanent state of doubt, a sensation of wondering throughout different sensations: the hesitation that signals the “horror” that arises from not being able to explain that uncertainty. On this unsettling certainty is set the political tool. Even its political aesthetic constitution marks an oxymoron[10] since the refusal of essentialism as identity engendering speeches of the constitutive experience of signification.

Etymologically Camp is the mise en scene that isn’t se camper (posture) anymore, campeggiare (to show up on set), K.A.M.P. (known as male prostitute) or campus (from Latin battle field, and Greek garden). Definition of Camp matches the element that distinguishes original from copy. And that element as Queer is a process that in terms of social construction endorses signals – an ontological challenge that breaks up bourgeois notions of a unique and continuous self – replacing instead a performative improvised self, discontinuous and edified by stylized and repeated acts[11].

“It is through Art, and through Art only, that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual existence (…) Wilde’s epigram points to a crucial aspect of camp aestheticism: its opposition to puritan morality” (Babuscio, 1977, Cap. 7)[12].

Queer investment doesn’t centre itself on gender but on the semiotic structures, and that reversal on the axis of the power of representation attempt to restore originality to Camp as a specific discourse. Transgression on Camp is set upon the privilege of the secondary, derivative, matching kitsch to Pop, serial reproduction over the original. Camp as vision of the world in terms of style (we may consider it as concept defining dandyism on the mass-mediated/late modernist cultural panorama), the love for the exaggeration and out – a mannerism for the things that are what they are not (incongruence and paradox – resembles Lord Alfred on “the love that dare not to speak its name”). But setting apart morality from tradition, the profound vanguard believe on the moral passion (that art can produce an independent reality) and aesthetics (the believe on the presentification of art as truth – note the North American formalists believe through Greenberg’s voice) lead onto an unquestionable victory of style over content, aesthetics over morality, irony over tragedy. Camp is set upon those premises of aesthetical understanding.

Camp semiotics therefore sets on stage a policy of (de) territoryalization and recontextualization through irony, mimicry and parody, invading not only the issue of representation of subject on Camp but the representation of subject on it-itself[13].

Camp’s obsession with images of power or as such the sensuous power of cinema divas (…) may be assumed as mythological parody producing a deviant and negative structure of knowledge.

Sontag refers that the apparent contradiction of Camp might be its more valuable key-work tool since camp implies a profound seriousness (i.e. Baroque was largely Camp with religion, ballet is largely Camp with love – sic Sontag, 1964, Chap. 2).

Throughout a split-up with Culture, Camp aims to enact a key-work tool (not only among the politic sphere) at historical aesthetical categories which had neglected the avant-garde critical (task) recognizing dissident sexuality among the historical project. Not that the notion hadn’t been eschewed. Addressing Camp implies a less evident relation than the mere themetization of a practice.

The avant-garde production may be considered as a radical answer to the reorganization of every day life under capitalism economic policy (latent left wing relation) in order to question and demystifying the reformulation of everyday life under the shadow of capitalism. Therefore the avant-garde cannot uncompromise the relevant role of dissidences as permanent critique to (neo) bourgeois culture. Burger reminds us that the avant-garde has more power if it’s understood as a set of institutions that extend the notion that art is autonomous from capital procedures on contemporary life. Burger poses avant-garde (against pop popular) despite he suggests that the apparent autonomy of avant-garde is an illusion. Regarding Adorno’s demanding that it’s impossible to conceive arts autonomy without shelter the work, Burger suggests that as public sphere art is a bourgeoisie category that simultaneously reveals and obscures an actual historical development.

A specific aspect of some avant-garde projects was to pay attention to the product and social relationships they embodied – a shared point with camp. Attempting to face the exciting experience of having (on capitalist age) Benjamin’s impulse was to consider dream as metaphor for the confusion of products. Here we find a fundamental contradiction of industrial-capitalistic culture. A way of production that privileges private life and is based on isolated individual which has created new ways for social existence, that (en)genders identities and conformities on people’s life but no social solidarity no level of social consciousness of community, and this way, no tools to awaking the dream in which we’re involved. Benjamin alerts us to pay attention to the artificial objects proliferation where we can find the reification of capital historical development. What Benjamin couldn’t preview was that the artifact articulation might insight them at social parameters that could (re)define how and what those artifacts mean.

Camp works inside industry critique as a sort of critical opposition – suppresses and denied – embodied on the practices that constitute (processualy) queer identity. I think Camp explanations are more attached to the productivity ofs from bourgeois representation that built up/forging a new critical episteme. In fact, if camp is strictly instrumental as part of the formation of a new identity, there would be less to say. It´s more relevant to explore ways on Camp where capitalist social organization is criticized on the behalf of a analysis of the work involved on representation productivity that exclude the desire of the same sex subjects, to the fact that energies are devoted to permanent (re) inscription of gay taste on the circulation and consume of imageries.

Warhol i.e. commented the cultural production processes and its dissemination and the processes of cultural appropriation working on both sides of production and critique: but if Warhol uses icons and mainstream methods to explore the margins of its expectation it is a matter not time that inside mass cultural production dynamics his work dissolves itself. Warhol confused image with publicity. Instead of an uncertainty culture – causing an unstable economy - he explores itself as a product for contemporary publicity absorption. Such a set up proximity transforms extreme figuration not in abstraction but as a pastiche surplus. How could Warhol be taken as “cultural subversive” can only be answered by the own changes produced at art world ecosystem: reveals that art is a artistic market article similar to other specializes markets. This way Warhol, destroyed the secular tension between serious/genius artist and majority culture. Any way, Warhol’s premises – on Camp as on art field – reducing to formal apparatus what is not symbolized (and if real as Lacan refers is what is irreductable) Warhol might be involved in the problematic of trying to ironically communicate what is incommensurable. But I believe his work as an attempt to formalize the real emptiness (that is, the incoming real) attempting a rehab of experimental art, might achieve on art and Camp field something that traduced more than an appearance. Duane Michaels always looked for a reflection bond to a common sense vision, intensifying an ambiguous feeling between existence and non existence

“I don't believe in the visible...Truth for me is intuition, imagination[14]

The consciousness that experience is failing because it’s being restrained on the level of instant (regarding a temporal reading) emerges on Camp as shock absorption on Baudelaire and Benjamin concepts, but perpetrating endlessly that shock.

Subjectivity cannot be a transport (visual and essential presence) but an unavoidable misplacing and locus for incompleteness. The identity of the work – the supposed identity – because it’s an identification process is necessarily incomplete: the perception of the other makes me vulnerable and precarious. Identity on Camp since it’s not based on the authenticity argument – which is suggested as corruption element that interferes in the constitution of the alienated other – is set upon an adverse position to the work identity. But both positions conceive that there isn’t an identity who doesn’t presupposes time and space. There is no identity that isn’t a self narrative mise-en-scene – as personal memory and history.

This incompleteness, this nature of the represented drags it onto the interior of the field of the work (on Camp the interior of the subject). What becomes important is the context and utility of these attempts as refusing autonomy. What’s regressive or progressive is determined by the maker of its reception. And since the signs aren’t steady, the only option for the work is to ground the formation of the speech on the receptor – the “word” – that because of this becomes an undeniable political tool. On Camp there’s an immediate assumption: there’s no thing such as original. An image is a space overlapped by several other images. The aim of it is a starting point where the artificial affirms itself as most natural relation with real.

“We point out (…). We can only imitate an interior gesture but never original, since the plagiarists base themselves on the immense encyclopedia of the world they absorb.[15]

On Camp we assist the violent presence of the subject as a direct attack to ideologies in view of the fact that (tries to) translates an empty representation: what matters it’s the real as a lie. For according to this thought the referent is understood as a problem and not as given. This game reveals the clear position between what you need to reveal and what you need to conceal. Visible and verbal are two connected fields as place for the struggle between image and text –the power of image to resist or incorporate text. It’s not possible to theorize power from outside and because any effort to do it implicates reference to its own images and nature, its effects… and examples of its attempts.

The spectator it’s not supposed to be under the power of representation but using representation in a way to have power over the world. The problem it’s all about when what’s presented is delusive with the purpose of deceiving, impress the spectator, when occurs on them a realism associated to the capability to reveal the truth over things. Then it’s undeniable to speak about a paradox on political identity. A work is a social fact not only on what concerns its material condition but mostly because of the representation it embodies. The category of identity itself implicates the fragile line that distinguishes me from the other. Camp cannot distance itself from political speech (even though main theorists affirm it as strictly aesthetical provocation), cannot refuse a speech which illusive presentation implicates permanent problematization of power and realism relations. On the same way aesthetics cannot refuse this relation when it’s one of the aspects that mark its own temperament.


1 This framing can be read in different ways: as opposition between old/new, as opposition or as something that lingers from a temporal rout in a way it deviates from the regular (notion of difference), or as something that suspends the typical connections with the world to explore other forms of facing an changing him (Foster, 1996).

2 Sol Lewitt, 1976, Paragraphs on conceptual art, pp.822.

3 Adorno, 1973, cit. pp. 115

4 sic Adorno ibidem

5 Witold Gombrowicz, 1995, [Up]Arte#1, cit. pp. 15

6 On art the new “that deviates of what is usual or familiar” – remissive reading from time to space (Luhmann, 1995, cited on MArte nº1, pp.05.

7 Dramatic realization referred as space of art that proposes to resist homogenization, conformism of contemporary massive production procedures. A hybrid space that adopts the dimension of what blocks reality (counter-cultural techniques) revealing the violent experience of the real (Perniola, 2002).

8 Ludovico Geymonat, 1988, pp.62.

9 Patrícia Duncker, 1998, cit. pp. 31

10 Perhaps it could be useful to regard Kristeva´s concept abjection.

11 One of my references is Glenn Ligon, an artist which makes language a physical aspect seeking a kind of (none) analogy with the real.

12 On the contrary, that sarcasm is a supreme expression of puritan morality. Wilde simply redefines a way out in aesthetical terms.

13 Elmgreen & Dragset question social and architectonic structures reorganized in a way to investigate the Desire underlying daily objects and ideological control mechanisms. Emphasizing (deconstruction and reconstruction) meaning through predetermined institutional spaces, the artists intend on an analogy with societal panoptic control (Foucault).

14 Duane Michal in

15 Sherrie Levine, 1981, pp. 379.

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