Text - Design Research -Workshopping

camp reading practice

Existing within the realm of How To Subvert the Straight-Line, I designed the critical reading method of the Camp Reading Practice: a transformative approach that invites the reader to delve into the depths of camp aesthetics and its political implications. The Camp Reading Practice involves identifying the labor involved in producing queer objects and messages, as well as detecting the camp message in contemporary representations of queerness. Through group discussions and analyses, you can disidentify and disentangle the visual language surrounding queerness in mainstream fashion media. By comparing commodified materials with original subversive sources, such as zines and liberational queer practices, you'll gain insights into the transformation of subversive objects into commodities of exchange value.

Through a Camp Reading Practice, you can actively resist the normalization and commodification of queerness in mainstream media. By injecting critical analysis and liberational, subversive texts into the current representation of queerness, you open the door to utopian thought processes and promote queer thought creation.
‘How to practice a Camp Reading Practice’ poster, as included in How To Subvert the Straight-Line

‘Camp Reader’ booklet, as included in How To Subvert the Straight-Line

camp Reading Workshop 01

On Queer Communes and Chosen Family

The first Camp Reading Workshop, held on December 16, 2022, entailed a group reading of an article titled ‘Calvin Klein celebrates chosen family with 'This Is Love' Pride campaign starring John Waters, Sasha Lane and more’ by Dani Maher, featured in Harper Bazaar (May 24, 2022). Additionally, we examined excerpts from Calvin Klein's website and pride collection, as well as the Gay Liberation Front Manifesto (1971). This camp reading session specifically focused on the concepts of queer communes[i] and chosen family, which offered a tangible example of how queerness has been co-opted for commercial gain. During the workshop, participants raised numerous thought-provoking critiques through a campy lens. One observation was the lack of contextual information provided and the excessive use of empty and superficial language in contemporary fashion articles. Participants pointed out how Maher's article employed terms like inclusiveness without explaining why Calvin Klein's campaign and collection were indeed inclusive. Paradoxically, Calvin Klein's website still categorized the collection under traditional gendered categories of womenswear and menswear, exposing the emptiness of their inclusiveness claims. Furthermore, participants noted how the article, through its choice of words and lack of context, portrayed Calvin Klein as the originator of the concept of chosen family, completely erasing the history and origins of this queer concept. The article and corresponding campaign were primarily centered on celebrating Calvin Klein's brand and sales narrative, rather than queerness, chosen family, and pride, as participants astutely observed.
In fact, some participants even discerned that the target audience for both the article and the collection was a wealthy demographic, specifically middle-class individuals who attend pride events and feel the need to purchase ‘seemingly queer goods’ as a form of conspicuous consumption. This insight shed light on the co-option of queer visual language and the depoliticization of queer subversion, where once revolutionary ideas of chosen family and queer communes, as described in the Gay Liberation Front Manifesto, have now been reduced to mere marketing strategies. As such, the reading of the Manifesto also provided participants with historical context, elucidating how these terms originated from subversive locales and were once radical concepts that challenged mainstream societal and capitalist norms. However, it was striking to note how these subversive ideas have now been repackaged and commodified in contemporary fashion articles and campaigns.

[i] Queer communes were envisioned as spaces where individuals could explore their sexuality, build relationships, and create an alternative culture based on freedom and equality, free from the oppressive constraints of the capitalist world. These communes represented a vision of a new kind of society, rooted in mutual support and shared resources.

camp Reading Workshop 02

Imagining a Collective Body of Queer Futurity - On Pride Flag Manifestations
The secondary Camp Reading Workshop was hosted on the 25th of January, 2023, and delved into the manifestation of pride flags in contemporary fashion media, utilizing readings sources such as ‘How the rainbow flag found its way onto the catwalk’ (2018, June 1) by British Vogue, ‘Wear the colors of the Pride Flag Like A street styler this weekend’ (2022, June 25) by American Vogue, and an excerpt of the GLBT Historical Society website on the origins of the rainbow flag and its designer Gilbert Baker. These materials sparked engaging discussions, ranging from copyright concerns surrounding the rainbow flag to the interpretation of queerness in mainstream fashion media. One participant interestingly, and quite campily, put out that “queerness is relations between names and brands and the acknowledgment of them. It is political by donations. It is an aesthetic. It is an inclusiveness that is achieved by wearing a product.” (Yu, personal communication, January 25, 2023) In this sense another definition of the term queerness was formed. A definition that cleverly identifies how, in the capitalist world system, queerness no longer only refers to nonnormative sexualities and gender identities of disorientating nature. The term queer now also calls upon a straightening device that employs the once-subversion of queerness to attract a wider variety of consumers that wish to be included. It refers to all the capitalist apparatus that utilize queer identities to promote their product; a tool used by capitalism to attract a wider consumer base that seeks inclusion. Contemporary fashion media plays a role in this phenomenon as well, portraying anything rainbow-colored as queer, regardless of the designer's original inspiration or intention. For instance, we discussed how a collection by Dolce and Gabbana was categorized as ‘queer’ and ‘pride’ due to its visual resemblance to a rainbow, despite being actually inspired by Italian folklore dance. This led us to realize that the commodification of queerness may not necessarily lie in the garment itself, but rather in how fashion media frames it. Hence, queerness is not only shaped by brands and designers, but also by the portrayal of fashion media. It's intriguing how contemporary fashion media outlets can influence the perception of brands and their garments, often straightening out the original subversive nature of queerness to fit marketable narratives. It's a complex interplay between fashion, capitalism, and media, and our discussions shed light on the multifaceted dynamics at play in the representation of queerness in contemporary fashion.

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