The first sensibility, that of high culture, is basically moralistic. The second sensibility, that of extreme states of feeling, represented in much contemporary “avant-garde” art, gains power by a tension between moral and aesthetic passion. The third, Camp, is wholly aesthetic.
Camp is the consistently aesthetic experience of the world. It incarnates a victory of “style” over “content,” “aesthetics” over “morality,” of irony over tragedy.
Style is everything. Genet’s ideas, for instance, are very Camp. Genet’s statement that “the only criterion of an act is its elegance” is virtually interchangeable, as a statement, with Wilde’s “in matters of great importance, the vital element is not sincerity, but style.”
Camp – Dandyism in the age of mass culture – makes no distinction between the unique object and the mass-produced object. Camp taste transcends the nausea of the replica.
It was Wilde who formulated an important element of the Camp sensibility – the equivalence of all objects – when he announced his intention of “living up” to his blue-and-white china, or declared that a doorknob could be as admirable as a painting. When he proclaimed the importance of the necktie, the boutonniere, the chair, Wilde was anticipating the democratic esprit of Camp.
Jews and homosexuals are the outstanding creative minorities in contemporary urban culture. Creative, that is, in the truest sense: they are creators of sensibilities. The two pioneering forces of modern sensibility are Jewish moral seriousness and homosexual aestheticism and irony.
Susan Sontag, Notes on Camp