Charlie Hailey


On his book Camps: A Guide to 21st-Century Space

Cover Interview of September 01, 2009

In a nutshell

Camps are unavoidable functions of our contemporary moment, registering local and global forces at their earliest stages and thus signaling trend, crisis, and identity.  These malleable spaces conform to our desires but might equally be constrained or manipulated by external forces.  Some camp to escape, while others set up camp to approximate return to a home that is inaccessible or does not exist, still others are forced to camp.  This functional range is unprecedented.

Protestors.  Artists.  Boondockers.  Dreamers.  Survivalists.  Hackers.  Detainees.  Refugees….  The book covers a lot of ground – from festival camps to disaster relief camps to man camps.  I have sought to make sense out of this vast network of provisional and semi-permanent sites with a guide that affords opportunities to “see” situations that are far and near, fleeting and fixed.  The book design underscores this immediacy and utility with open binding and simple paper stock, recalling both tourist handbook and military manual.

I have also sought to tell the story of camps – their full range of experiences and conditions and the forces that shape them.  Each type of camp becomes a story within larger global narratives of autonomy, control, and necessity – categories that correspond to the book’s three parts.  “Autonomy” focuses on camps of choice, “control” investigates camps regulated by structures of power, and “necessity” explores transient spaces of relief and assistance.

At one level, this story can be read cover-to-cover as a continuous, though not necessarily linear–chronological, narrative.  Or, a reader may choose to sample different cases – which one might traverse through the book’s cross-referenced structure – to find his or her own way through this contemporary camping life.