Critical Writing Index

The Time of Camp, or, Camp as Ruin

by Ricky Varghese

Word Hoard, 2015, v. 1, no. 3


In this article, Varghese questions what is the time of camp, and if camp can be a response to historical trauma. The author considers Vincent Chevalier's So... when did you figure out that you had AIDS? as a case study to think through some of these questions.

So... when did you figure out that you had AIDS? is a (repurposed) childhood home-video of the artist, playing out a fictional talk show with his friends. Chevalier (a thirteen-year-old boy at the time) plays the role of a man diagnosed with AIDS. Varghese describes the clip as "both profoundly grave, for the severity of the subject matter [...] and simultaneously comical." Because Chevalier is diagnosed positive six years later and publishes this video almost a decade after this instant, the author reads the work as a campy biography of and for a future inscribed in and by a now-distant past.

Using Comay's theories on traumatic history and trauma, and Freud's understanding of the uncanny, the author argues the film should not be interpreted in the vein of nostalgia, but rather as lived experience and return, to(ward) time, "where living, dying and laughing are historicized and simultaneously anticipated."

ITEM 2015.56 – available for viewing in the Research Centre

Videos, Artworks and Artists Cited

So... when did you figure out that you had AIDS?Vincent Chevalier