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The Sun King, gender benders and feathers

By Zhao Xu in New York | China Daily | Updated: 2019-06-15 10:18
Victor&Rolf upside down dress (behind).[Photo by Gao Tianpei/China Daily]

These include a cauliflower headpiece by the British designer Deirdre Hawken, whose green swirling leaves and white curd are immaculately realized by silk satin and chiffon, as well as by hundreds of tiny synthetic pearl beads. Beside it are the words of Jack Babuscio: "Camp aims to transform the ordinary into something more spectacular."

This total erasure of the line between the high and the low, the serious and the frivolous has not only endeared camp with pop culture (On view is also a dress printed with Warhol's famous Campbell's tomato soup tin), but also inserted in its heart the spirit of democracy.

"The experience of camp is based on the great discovery that the sensibility of high culture has no monopoly upon refinement," Sontag wrote.

While the French in effect invented camp with a flourish and a flight of imagination, the British, with their signature waywardness, abducted camp and initiated it to the underside of culture. Yet with the advent of pop culture and the resulting dethronement of high art, camp was back to the mainstream, whose acid sweetness has put smiles on more than a few faces.

"To perceive camp in objects and persons is to understand Being-as-Playing-a-Role," Sontag wrote in her 1964 article. "It is the farthest extension, in sensibility, of the metaphor of life as theater."

If life is indeed theater it's not too bad to make an entree in a dress of millions feathers.

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