Once upon a time, at a farm in Dunoon, NSW, a whole buncha kids gathered together at the loving, list-making request of a certain farmgrrl to celebrate the existence of life and one another. Or maybe they were just trying to stay away from the Lismore showgrounds. Either way, they were there, they were quare (past participle of ‘queer’, dontcha know), and I got to watch.
I am challenged by the task of saying ‘what Camp Camp was’ for those who haven’t already heard me prattle on about it. Seems to me that it was a sometimes loosely, sometimes intimately assembled group of folks who started hanging round Matiatia sometime after Christmas and stopped…well, they haven’t really stopped so far as I can tell. Seems like quite a few of them are practically living there in their heads (myself included), and that some may even make that materialise to living there for reals. But since this post is more personal and more for those who did hear me prattle or who experienced it for themselves, I won’t muck about with definitions.
Instead, as a way of debriefing myself from Camp Camp and also giving it the recognition it deserves in virtual print, I am going to use the words of Camp Camp Monstress Vee Bee as points of departure for my own thoughts about what it was and what it did and how I experienced it from my little corner of the room/farm/lens.
connect with the Difference that is living outside of the cultural centres, embrace the landscape, be here now and other platitudes which seem to fit
Over the last six or so months since I started going to the farm for various reasons, it has come to embody all that is vastness and expansion and seeing over the tops of things. It has started this big internal push for me towards geographical remoteness – it made me consider the possibility that there was life for me beyond urbanity. Many of the Camp Campers were urban folk, and I sensed this collective curiosity and relief at being out of that infrastructure. The farm is very much about what is happening right now. As a citydweller I am not terribly used to what is happening right now as I am constantly going somewhere else, planning how to strategically use each moment of rush rush rush, and so there is a challenge in that Difference. One that I gladly accept every time I get into that outdoor bath or eat something I have just picked out of the garden (I constructed many small salads of cherry tomatoes and rocket whilst standing next to the chook dome looking out over the tops of things).
I’m glad it rained.
I’m sure you all feel the same, even if you wished for sun.
I’m so pleased that you were all so intrepid, that the rain became something which created a lockdown, but such a nice one, for that period of time.
It rained. It blanketed rain for days and days and more days and we all had to be mermaids and mermen and this required a certain cooperation and collectivity. I live alone. My life is very individual. I have a Job in a Company and I do these Certain Things and someone else does their Certain Things. At Camp Camp, you do what needs doing, and everyone has a stake in that and in meeting needs and feeding the troupes and making cocktails in large quantities and mopping the grime off the floor. Of course this would have been required without the rain, but the rain made it more immediate and urgent and close. It also made me stay longer than I was planning to. I loved this. The closing of roads out, the lack of control I had over the situation, the fact that everyone else was in the same boat, all of these were presents from the rain and I was grateful.
Bee Ess, for behind camera duties above and beyond and the creation of such beauty through the eye
At Camp Camp I experienced myself as a voyeur and a documentarian. Being that the Monstress was my only pre-existing connection to this gathering, I was a bit of an outsider to the whole thing, and my main function became to sit back and watch (with a camera at the ready when it was needed). The camera has become an extension of my already well-developed voyeurism because it allows me to frame things as I observe them – with edges and borders in place where they are apparent to me as an outsider. It also lets me capture things I may not have noticed in the flurry of happening so that I can look more intensely later on. It’s become a processing tool and an apparatus of desire. Documenting things photographically feels like a piece of service to me as well – I like being the one with the camera and the wherewithal to use it. It’s a skill I have to share, and it felt good to have one of those in a situation where all of the bakers and dishwashers and table-scrapers had already been found.
I know that this is all a bit disjointed, and the more I write the less it’s for anyone but Camp Campers. Meh. There are a few more small pieces I’d like to add.
Camp Camp was Camp for a reason. Pink bodysuits and fake eyelashes, dogs in cages, bound dishponies, and Hot Apron Sluts abound. I don’t have much of a queer sphere in my current life configuration, so I was grateful for so much Big Gay Energy around me. It reminded me of this part of my life that needs more engagement and community. You know you’re in queer country when you hear the word ‘facilitation’ used to refer to the promotion of possible sexual liasons, and that makes me glow.
Also: while there was of course some intimate collectivity going on, I also felt like folks were able to use the space of Camp Camp individually as well. I think we all took something different home with us, and despite the close quarters there was room for individual experience and contemplation. I think this has much to do with the farm itself and the way things are configured and that aftorementioned Difference. Each of us inhabited that space in a different way and I think it would be an amazing project to have us all report back on that – you can bet that a thousand different thoughts were happening in these contemplative and creative minds over the course of Camp Camp and I think it meant something different but of great significance to everyone.
Thanks to the Great Facilitating Listmaking Monstress and to the Camp Camp organism as it existed then and exists now. I’m carrying it all around with me as a reminder of what is possible.