Excess, Artifice, Sentimentality: Almodóvar's Camp Cinema as a Challenge for Theological Aesthetics

in Journal of Religion, Media and Digital Culture
Open Access

Camp is defined as a style that is characterised by excess, artificiality, theatricality, exaggeration, sentimentality. What could this possibly contribute to Christian theological aesthetics, the study of God and theological issues through the aesthetic, art, beauty? This paper proposes, through a discussion of camp in its “incarnation” in Pedro Almodóvar’s cinema, that it has several aspects to offer. Camp uncovers and challenges the categories of truth and reality in theological aesthetics as well as the artforms in which this truth can be discovered. Its embrace of the superficial and material can be seen, in theological terms, as an incarnational aesthetics that offers redemption through the affirmation of the material, not its disruption or negation. Camp underlines the subversive power of pleasure and laughter against tendencies that dismiss pleasure as escapism, and challenges theological aesthetics to acknowledge the wisdom that lies in emotions and affects. It criticizes by fostering solidarity and empathy, rather than antagonism. Thus camp represents a challenge to self-critically reflect on processes of exclusion on an aesthetic and a social level, and challenges us to imagine a different world, a world of beauty, love and passion.

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