THE CONCEPT OF UGLINESS, LIKE BEAUTY, IS RELATIVE, NOT ONLY IN DIFFERENT CULTURES BUT ALSO IN TIME.
WHAT WAS CONSIDERED UGLY OR HORRIBLE IN THE PAST, IT’S BEEN OFTEN WIDELY RE-EVALUATED BY CONTEMPORARIES, JUST LIKE CONTEMPORARIES ARE OFTEN UNABLE TO APPRECIATE DARING PROPOSALS FOR THE FUTURE FROM AVANT-GARDE ARTISTS AND DESIGNERS.
Camp taste was born as a sign of recognition of an intellectual elite, so sure of his own refined taste to decide the redemption of yesterday’s bad taste, based on the love for the unnatural and excessive.
Indeed the camp is measured by the artificiality and stylization degree, and is defined as the ability to look at the others style. Camp is also the experience of the kitsch for those who are aware that what they sees is kitsch. A sort of contemporary-mass culture dandyism, the fulfillment of which comes through the experience of the most coarse and common pleasures in the mass arts: the ultimate camp statement is “It ‘s nice because it’s horrible …” [Susan Sontag, Notes on Camp, 1964].
The camp canon is erratic and time can enhance what today seems repugnant just because it’s too close to us. In this sense, camp turns yesterday’s ugly into an object of aesthetic pleasure – creating an ambiguity where it’s not clear whether the ugly has been redeemed as beautiful or beauty is reduced to ugliness.
However it’s essential to specify that not all the ugly (past and present) can be seen as camp: It becomes that only when the excess is innocent and not calculated. So camp can’t be intentional, it’s based on the candor with which the artifice is realized.
Camp is a style of art that has great importance in understanding John Waters contribution to the art world. His work sexualizes the unsavory, glorifies the abject, yet it is done in such a manner that laughter ensues. “The whole point of Camp is to dethrone the serious. Camp is playful and anti-serious. More precisely, one can be serious about the frivolous, frivolous about the serious”.
John Waters is best known for his accomplishments as a filmmaker and director in films that just push the envelope far enough to upset many people’s idea of normality by likening the absurd to the normal, treating the normal in turn as other. He accomplishes this through the medium of Camp, which he continued to utilize in his art making and collecting. Following in the footsteps of Andy Warhol, he applies similar tactics in finding desirability in persons and items not readily associated with beauty per se.