Started by artist Isabella Toledo and graphic designer Rosie Eveleigh, ButchCamp is an Instagram project launched in 2016 that identifies the lesbian camp aesthetic, which has generally been absent from theories on camp. Ahead of the Met Gala, No Man’s Land commissioned a manifesto to run alongside a photo story created by photographer June Canedo and stylist Ashley Owens. Featuring a cast of their friends as well as members of The Wing community, it’s centered around an authentic representation of Butch-identifying folx.
Below, the manifesto by Isabella Toledo and Rosie Eveleigh of @ButchCamp.
A term coined in 1964 by Susan Sontag in her seminal treatise “Notes on Camp.”
AN INEFFABLE AND PRIMARILY HOMOSEXUAL SENSIBILITY
A sensibility is our ability to respond to complex emotional or aesthetic influences.
Camp sees the world as an AESTHETIC PHENOMENON, through DEGREES OF ARTIFICE and STYLIZATION.
Camp RELISHES THE QUALITY OF THE EXAGGERATED, THE “OFF,” THE THINGS BEING WHAT THEY ARE NOT.
There are discoverable camp qualities; a camp way of looking at things. CAMP IS ALWAYS EASIER TO RECOGNIZE THAN TO ANALYZE, which is why all attempts at analysis lead to INCESSANT LIST-MAKING. POINTING OUT A RANDOM CANON OR WHO’S-WHO.
CAMP BEGINS WITH POSSESSIVE RECOGNITION AND THEN IT HAS TO BE SHARED.
A private language for those who intuit that the public language has gone horribly wrong, a commitment to the marginal, greater than the marginal deserves.
IT IS CULTURAL RECYCLING
it sees THE SERIOUS FAIL, THE ARTLESS ART, AND SHARES IT
The Camp moment is ultimately incomplete without a satisfactory response from another. It is a semaphore: A PRIVATE CODE WHICH SALVAGES CONTENT AND TURNS IT CONTINUALLY OUTWARD.
A sexual style or a type of sexual legibility that deals with embodied aspects of so-called masculine presence: qualities, aesthetics, or affects through actions and visual cues.
Butch is both a discoverable quality and an experience. Butch-as-noun is the state of being, identifying as A Butch. Butch, the adjective; a signifier of actions — walkin’, talkin’, actin’ butch — moving away from identity and wandering the realm of subtext and interference.
Butch actions and visual cues can be read as statements of non-heterosexuality, a refusal, or even an inability to pass. To make visible one’s erotic desires is a radical act.
The heteronormative is, itself, a self-obsessed pervasive nihilism, a public language gone wrong, and what is needed is the private language of a stable irony. And what is the butch if not the stablest irony?
As a discoverable quality, ButchCamp resists exact definition. Like all Camp, we know it when we see it and can point to it. The project is an attempt to find, pair, and classify things with a specific lesbian campness, and then to share the Butchcamp thrill, to turn it continually outwards.
A sapphic gist.
Gay history has been about ephemera, from private collections, occasional publications, short-run journals, diaries, letters, photographs. It’s also about misreading or overthinking mainstream hetero culture. Queer history has to arrive from this kind of mess because it’s personal; the topography is pieced together from ephemera, sideways glances, and gossip. Fragments held hostage by straight people’s indifference.
Salvaged content has the “profoundly affective power of a useful archive … which must preserve and produce not just knowledge but feeling.” In a way, ButchCamp is one big joke, winking while defining and redefining dense terms like “embodied knowledge,” or “an archive.” Keep it snappy, keep it happy …
Why Butch? ButchCamp, as a term, maintains a lesbian-specific signifier that cannot be as easily co-opted. LesbianCamp conjures an affective, homo-romantic vibe (not to mention tents), QueerCamp is too pseudo-academic, FemmeCamp already has an enormous tumblr market, DykeCamp is pretty good, but a good Butch is hard to find, and is campier than the fayest fag.