Camp for David Mook

The romantic, gendered, sexual and aesthetic aspects of my life have always been a big, shimmering mystery that I tend to tuck away for quiet days.

Some days the questions surrounding the aforementioned topics are not so easily ignored. Sometimes, you get an email that makes you confront yourself (or more specifically, the construction of your self).

Here is such an email, which I received from David Mook.

Dear Artist,

I have recently been reading Susan Sontag 1964 essay  Notes On Camp. In this essay Sontag rigorously interprets what camp is.  

I will try to explain to you what I think camp is. 

David Mooks definition of CAMP:

It is an affection and appreciation of taste for the extravagant and unnatural. It’s popularity, vulgarity, banality mixed with a little bit of innocence. It’s theatrical, it’s show stopping, it’s over the top and it’s mixed with love, studiousness, rigger and humour. It can be the masculine hijacked by the feminine without even knowing, but then finding out, embracing it, and then amplifying the feminine. Its men exuding floppy wrists and masquerading in sassy neck ties. It exudes style and glamour. It’s amusing and binal but never boring. It’s sophisticated and charming. It’s ostentatiously flamboyant and humorously tantalizing. It’s fabulously fashionable yet full of odopulance which hides and overlooks one’s foibles or exposes them and then celebrates them.

I have hand picked you to take part in a little survey as I love your taste, style and opulence. I have attached an image or video that Sontag’s describes as  a “random examples of items which are part of the canon of camp,”  found on pages  (5 and 6) of her essay.

Could you please examine the image and send a critique of what the image is, why you think it is camp and what might make it camp? Please do not be afraid to excused campness in your response. 

You can respond either by writing or a video message. 

I have attached an example of what I am looking for. I chose to do a video message.

For my video I wore a wig and glasses but please note, costumes are not necessary, but are a welcome addition if desired It dose not need to be long at all keep it simple and have fun.

For my example Michelangelo have given myself this image of the statue of David by Michelangelo.

All responses will be added to MAFAzine Blog witch is viewable by the public but has zero following! Your participation would be so invaluable, but if you cannot participate at this time I somewhat understand.  If you cannot participle please let me know and I shall send your image on to someone else. Please send your response as soon as possible. The cutoff deadline is May 29, 2020. 

Thank you so much for your participation. If you have any question please don’t be afraid to ask. 

Much love,


Olivia can you please critique the 1920tys photo.

Originally, I was confused by what to look for in the image. I know how to apply the term camp to most glitzy, glamorous, gaudy, atrocious things, but more broadly, the response required some work for me. I also know that I was inspired by those who exhibited camp, yet I realized how little I really knew about the word.

David did not ask me to re-evaluate my sense of self in constructing this response, but I felt as though I needed to. I see myself in the woman and in the aesthetic of camp. Even now, I want to justify why, but David provided the non-judgmental space I needed to play within the broad parameters to create a fun and engaged response.

In determining my response, I looked to a piece of work that’s currently hanging front and centre in my bedroom – “Poise” by my friend Reilly Knowles.

Funnily enough, the work is all about the 1920s – the decoration, the design, the fashion. I remember we chatted about how that period of fashion was slightly ubiquitous when it came to gender. This shaped how I thought about the specific image I was offered. I realized that the style of dress breaks all of the rules! The fabrics, the cut, the colours… none of it is as it should be.

Next, I thought of camp as a broad, overarching theme. I wondered when I had exhibited camp by intention, by accident or by nature? This was important because I really wanted to dress up as David did.

I revisited a photoshoot that I had done with my friend Marisa Casini, who is an extremely talented MUA. The look is not necessarily camp, but it was edging onto the amount of glam and glitter that I wish I could incorporate into my everyday life. It was shortly after this time, that I began dreaming about being a bio-queen.

So I determined, is there anything more camp than drag? (Duh.) Yet, I was crestfallen when I had come upon the answer, because I had no skills when it came to makeup – and that is a big part of dressing up. I reeled in my thoughts. Isn’t camp actually a bit about failure? – at least, that’s how it tends to live in the normative world. So I decided to try anyway, and to fail hard.

My evaluations led to two conclusions: the 1920s was all about camp, and if I wanted to respond to David’s prompts, I would need to don something interesting.

I ended up looking like this:

And responding like this:

To be honest, I wish I didn’t try to fit my thoughts in a minute, or not change out of my t-shirt. The making was daunting and embarrassing all on my own, but I felt totally and completely empowered looking like this (is that the power of camp?). I took this farther than I know I needed to (and was very unsuccessful in the process), but I really enjoyed myself.

I realize now that this small exercise has provided me with a lot of fodder and thoughts and things to think about. For that, I am immensely grateful.

Dear David,

Thanks again for including me. I really enjoyed digging deep to figure this out.


P.S. If you’re curious just how little I know about makeup, I put the eyelash glue on my actual eyebrow. I also ripped it off like wax when I was finished. Looks like I have a lot to learn before I end up at the Met Gala.

P.S.S. To see all of the other incredible responses curated by David, please check out the compilation here: https://mooksblog.myblog.arts.ac.uk

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