By Harry Dodge
Camp is a Tender Feeling will be a 80-minute performative video about a nomadic band of desert lice-creatures—“campers”—engaged in odd anti-authoritarian struggles. Using dubbing, subtitling, perverse costumes, a literary script punctuated by bouts of non-sequitur, the work explores themes of materiality, connectivity, translation, naming, and provisional locale in a mediatized world.
The work’s title derives both from Sontag’s seminal 1964 essay “Notes on Camp” (in which camp is an affect associated with homosexuality and defined as functioning on two trajectories at once: artifice and earnestness) and philosophical writing by Arendt and Agamben about refugeeism and “the camp” as a locus outside of nation, and therefore beyond the strictures of conventional human rights as outlined by the state. The video aims to weave together these heretofore unrelated ideas of “camp” to create a space in which—through a combination of humor, pathos, and flesh—the zygote of a new ethics is conjured: one that allows for a statelessness or namelessness or dispersion (but never placelessness or absolute formlessness) to be foregrounded and celebrated.
Direct political action and artistic creation serve distinct purposes. That said, I have become increasingly convinced of the political value of the kind of psychic restructuring and world reimagining as explored by Deleuze and Guattari, or, more recently, the philosopher Catherine Malabou or theorist Fred Moten. Camp is a Tender Feeling will conjure, depict (and infect a viewer with) such a space: a locus of resistance and autonomy; a self-replicating, interregnum, pocket space; a folded space most easily described in terms of cyber-relation, but that is actually ecstatically matter-based. I hope to redefine what might be meant by the words, provisional, parasitic and place.