Quantum Camp

Quantum Camp: The Genealogy of the Postmodern  Membrane January 10-Saturday, 2015-5


Marcel Duchamp reified Oscar Wilde’s notion of celebrating the ordinary with his iconic sculpture “R Mutt” in 1913 when camp emerged as the sensible membrane filtering capital “A”  from all other art.


“The camp sensibility is one that is alive to a double sense but this is not the familiar split level construction of a literal meaning on the one hand and a symbolic meaning on the other.  It is the difference between the thing as meaning something, anything and the thing as pure artifice.” -  “Notes On Camp-#16 ” - Susan Sontag - 1964


Camp  celebrates that which is required to swerve from the philistine-straight zeit however that might manifest,  past, present and future.  The definition is always in flux.  When the straight world has it ingrained,  the rules change, swerving as required.  New manifestations in painting, opera, film, fiction, methods of scientific and all cultural inquiry will entice with a superficial reading and lose you with a deeper one. In any event you remain subject to the membrane’s power to restrict entry.


Susan Sontag spelled it out to widespread effect in her “Paris Review” essay “Notes On Camp”- 1964 and  her 58 theses stood  nailed to the door of contemporary culture for 50 years: The rules of the road.  Anderson Cooper is the new camp, mainstream to the max.  Gay sensibility has been completely assimilated in 2015.  Sontag’s camp has dissolved as an avant garde idea.  All 58 of her criteria for camp are now  water we swim in, not the spear tip of the avant garde as they were in 1964, when camp was the membrane separating .01 percent from the uncool.   Her 58 theses now separate blue states from red,  a hundred million people  on a side, a broad brush, however, the inside scoop of 1964 remains the all-purpose membrane for any art aspiring to capital A status in any city around the world - now a given, not an insider code.


Architect-philosopher Robert Venturi proposed a feature of the Postmodern ethos he called “Both And” - a  quantum notion of a thing being in two places at once, being two things at the same time, a quality that, under the jurisdiction of The Descended Grid aka Modernism,  was denied, corrected, rejected, straightened, glossed, denied, derided or ignored but now acknowledged, with a PoMo permission slip, embraced, allowed by the expansion of our zeit, our new late 20th and 21st century rules formalized in academic PoMo texts by the four frogs of the new apocalypse: Derrida, Baudrillard, Deleuze and Foucault in the mid 1960s.  A building, a scientific experiment, an idea, emotion and or their components  may be simultaneously BOTH interior AND exterior.  Stasis IS data.   The dialectical, rhetorical membrane separating interior from exterior, up from down, good from bad, slick from rough has dissolved.


Membranes are selective barriers allowing some things to pass while stopping others.  Barriers may be physical as in orbiting electrons separating the inside from outside of an atom on up the taxonomic ladder to human emotions- manners allowing certain people into one’s social orbit while excluding others, the psycho-editorial board manifest at the nucleus of a neuron, a molecular modification to a peptide stored in the fastness of the hippocampus.  It is all “Both And” now.  We  sail in a fully postmodern ocean now. Membrane navigation is the key to success. The molecule is the message.


Membranes are boundaries, without a membrane one could become the adjacent, a neo-parent, a star-clone or float around indiscriminately without definition.  A gift that dissolves or penetrates  membranes is to be nurtured.  All things have their cherry,  pop the Abrams tank with an armor-piercing sabot.


What’s in? What’s out? What’s up? What’s down? What’s cool? What’s hot?  Membranes are gatekeepers.  A cell membrane comprises a landscape of lipids. Protein molecules are interspersed throughout this barrier allowing passage of the specific.  A work of art is analogous to a molecular port.  A work of art is a channel into the heart, a gate at the membrane of your soul.  To understand a thing locate ports of entry, explore the nature of its membrane.


Where is the membrane when a single fish in a school influences the direction of 1,000 individuals. Is the reaction of a single fish  an external cause or an internal cause?  Consider termites, birds and humans with their gangs and social classes  flocking, feverishly clustering - where is the membrane?  does it surround the entire school of 1,000 or is it at the level of the single organism responding to imminent threat?  An individual sees the shark, endures the sensible experience as all the rest respond to a meme as they change course.  The connector individual acts as the entry molecule for the social membrane - the human gatekeeper. In Gladwellian terms, cool Freddie in his role as connector to his crew  gets new shoes and voila, a new footwear line gains traction all over the world.   Martin Luther King was in the street breathing tear gas and living with direct threats to his life for many years sending a message to many eventually initiating a widespread change of course for a society.  The key fish.


“A living thing is a deterministic unfolding of inherent potential under internal biological principles” - Plato


“Variation is undirected” - Darwin - Variation turns out to be VERY directed


Is there a membrane separating the different levels of the taxonomic hierarchy?  The inanimate, the living, the ecosystem,  the species, the individual, organ, cell, nucleus, protein molecule, atom, atomic nucleus, ad infinitum.  Is there a membrane separating a species from its ecosystem?


Each taxon is affected by evolutionary forces primarily from its adjacent levels and secondarily from other levels.  There is causal flow in both directions up and down the taxonomic ladder.  When and how do levels of causation skip levels?  When might a genetic mutation erase an entire species? or a bolide erase an entire kingdom of life?  What happens at the biotic / abiotic membrane?


  1.  What comprises a membrane?
  2. orbiting electrons
  3.   Hydrophobic/phylic molecules
  4.   skin
  5.   manners
  6.  religion
  7.   weapons


Humans are educated to give substance and strength to their social  membranes.  Math and science are bone cells, art is marrow, manners are motion.


Enzymes-membrane penetrators:


The protein that forms a gateway through a cell wall

How many different proteins fill this function?

Is there a different gate protein for each of 1,000s of cell products travelling out into the body?

What are the gatekeepers in the cells of the adrenal gland?  the pineal gland?  the kidney cell?  Liver cell?


How many different types of liver cells?


Protein evolution:  3.5 BYA,1.5 BYA, 250 MYA, 20 KYA last year, ten minutes or ten seconds or ten nanoseconds ago - proteins evolve relentlessly.


In science:  Stephen Jay Gould struggles for 1,343 pages in the chaos of adjacent paradigms.  He shifts away from the Modern zeit exemplified by Charles Darwin, notions of forward progress, the prevailing doctrine of the scientific method etc. toward   the Postmodern exemplified by Einstein and Picasso, S-holes and A-holes the validation of negative space.  In Gould’s terms “Stasis is data’ i.e. no data is data.  The void defines the solid.  Gould, due to strictures of his scientific milieu pays obeisance to Darwin while surrounding himself with the tools of postmodernism to make his grand point re: the true nature of evolution.

New paradigm means a new membrane to filter new attitudes comprising species wide behavior, skin, cell membrane, electron orbit.  How deep does the new zeit penetrate?


Can a new frame be consciously created by a small group or an individual or is a new frame simply a response to a general mood held by millions?  Mood shifts-cell divides, new membranes are formed.  Cell grows, decays, gets subsumed, ejected, recycled, trashed, killed, disrespect is the first step toward oblivion - no wonder it launched duels to the death.