Flamboyant Gestures: Camp expressivity.
To camp is a mode of seduction - one which employs flamboyant mannerisms susceptible of a double interpretation; gestures full of duplicity, with a witty meaning for cognoscenti and another, more impersonal, for outsiders. (Susan Sontag, Notes on Camp, 1964)
This is a summary of Martin's seminar topic in his own words:
"Camp is a term that has a variety of meanings and that suggests, eventually, the uncertainty of meaning-making. The word ‘Camp’ is grammatically flexible, has a disputed etymology, and conflicting histories of usage. In addition to this slipperiness it is often used to describe something that is non serious and is not to be taken seriously. We will take this elusive phenomena or sensibility as the starting point for our interest in gestures which seem to express one thing but also say another.
We will look at Victorian hysterics and drag queens, butch/femme dynamics and political speeches, tracing how the performance of gestures produces affective relations. Central to this will be the notion of the copy as either inferior to the original and as a perpetuation of a style. The citation and the quote are central to camp and we will consider these as choreographic tactics. This workshop explores flamboyance, duplicity and a theatricality which invites multiple interpretations."
The two days were packed with references to an eclectic mix of artists across different generations, and the discussions that evloved around their practices. It was great to look at so many different artists, and to get a sense of how historical events and political climates at the time are reflected in their work. Yet the works themselves don't change very much, but seem to maintain their identity. Karen Finley stuck with me. I was captivated by the humour within all the urgency that flows through her work and acts like a form of protection from being pinned down into the predictable. I was also fascinated by Ryan Trecartin. His digital video work is so dense and fast paced that it invites you to watch it over and over, and discover new detail and meanings each time. I thought he was exploring an obsession with manipulating and sharing images of ourselves made possible through the easy access to new technologies. By embracing the 'fake' and the 'over the top acting' as an artistic strategy he seems to uncover new potential to understand and reinvent oneself outside of conventional mainstream representations. Yet at the same time he is using new media to influence and perhaps subvert conventional aesthetics. I saw this as a confident desire to communicate openly with audiences on many platforms. It was also difficult to not immediately make connections to one's own cultural background, and interpret all in relation to that. I am adding below some videos of interviews and acts by Polittunten from Berlin in the 1990s, which have influenced my own perspective. Judith Butler's writing was a good point of reference providing a way of questioning and challenging assumptions about gender that are perhaps more common place than expected, and giving her support to the LGBTQ rights movements through her philospophical enquiery.
Some thoughts from the workshop participants include:
'I wasn't 100% sure of what to expect with Martin and in someway it felt like going back to study in school. I'm guessing it being a lecture gave me this feeling. I don't think having the memory of studying in school as a bad thing but it has been a long time since I've approached work in the way he does. There is something very beneficial about re-establishing this way of connecting to work. My main thoughts at the end of the two days were; how much is consciously constructed when a work is being created and how much do we project or read into things as an audience? Also, how open does a work need to be to allow the audience to project their own feelings onto the work. I don't think that these need to be answered but I feel keeping this in mind will aid me as a creator and performer.'
'I hadn't researched Martin and I think that was a good thing. He enlightened me.'
Led by Martin Hargreaves
DANCEEAST // For invited artists
Fri 27th & Sat 28th May 2016, 1 - 6pm
About Martin Hargreaves
A former editor of Dance Theatre Journal, he currently is a lecturer in Fine Art at Goldsmiths and in New Performative Practices at DOCH, Stockholm.
Participants: Lucy Blazheva, Corinne Wright, Aaron Markwell, Sarah Lewis, Mary Davies, Sam Moss, Pam Challis, Stephen Moynihan, Fearghus O' Conchuir, Reetta Rauhala & Stephanie Schober