May 31, 2017

Chris Kraus with "I love Dick" and "Lost Properties" at AWF17

Thanks to Amber from Parnell Library for this spirited (as befits its subject) post relating her best Writers Festival experience.

Chris Kraus (photo Reynaldo Rivera)

For me, Chris Kraus was definitively the highlight of the Auckland Writer’s Festival this year. However, it wasn’t the Saturday “I Love Dick” session that won it for me. It was the free event “Lost Properties” that left me feeling like I’d really *encountered* Chris Kraus and which was engaging, inspiring and funnily enough, valuable.

Saturday’s talk was fine. I thought Kevin Rabalais was a total let down as chair - painfully well rehearsed to the point of being robotic, though truthfully in itself this was fairly entertaining. The questions were fine (standard) and Chris was great (obviously) but I felt like she deserved a less stiff counterpart!

Nevertheless, there were highlights: Chris read a piece from her novel Torpor that was spectacularly uncomfortable and witty and strange. She talked a lot about her life as a filmmaker (average successes) and how she pretty much accidentally began to write for a living, following these average successes and after instigating the bizarre correspondence that makes up I Love Dick. She mentioned the influence of commedia dell’arte, which immediately had me drawing parallels between the extravagant archetypes in I Love Dick and those of Aphra Behn, The Country Wife, etc (for those that may have studied Restoration era theatre at university!). As she basically writes theory-heavy, intellectual soap operas, these comparisons deeply enriched my appreciation for her work (if I can say ‘soap opera’ and ‘deeply enriching’ together in a sentence).

There was mention of a phone-based BDSM affair that made it to the pages of her novel Summer of Hate, her Kathy Acker biography (I can’t stand Acker but I’m excited to read it) and the pilot for the television adaption of I Love Dick – which, starring Kevin Bacon as ‘Dick’, may seem dubious but nonetheless boasts an all-female writers room.

And then there was the discussion of all the other things that are great and infinitely relatable (as an arts or humanities student, as a woman, as a person who dates) about Chris Kraus’s work: living and breathing theory but feeling isolated by academics and “intellectuals”, the abnormalities of romantic relationships, really deeply loving the terrible adolescent art of men you’re interested in. And, most pertinently: the idea that by ignoring you, it’s possible for a person to become “the perfect listener”, an audience for which you can perform perpetually. Obviously, the whole “lonely girl phenomenology” thing means a lot to me.

However, I maintain that Chris’s “Lost Properties” session was even better – if you can imagine such a thing!

It was an uncommonly informative lecture with a unique perspective, encompassing living creatively (ardently, critically and innovatively) whatever it is that you’re doing, especially if what you’re doing is dealing with the “certainty of hopelessness” that haunts any arts or humanities graduate, ie serious debt.

Kraus discussed why it is exactly that there are so many arts and humanities graduates nowadays, why the hell we think we need four years of formal training to write about or create art, and what we’re supposed to do when we find ourselves “overeducated and underpaid”. If you’re not completely cynical, there was a lot to give you hope and a lot to inspire you, as well as a lot to concern you - for example, threats to student loan forgiveness schemes.

If you couldn’t make it to her sessions, don’t worry – she’s as compelling on paper as she is in real life, and as accessible to those who live by theory as she is to those who are vehemently anti-theory. Read some of her writing and experience her for yourself! While the book which lent its name to the second session, Lost properties (produced for the 2014 Whitney Biennial), is out of print – you can (and should!) borrow many others from Auckland Libraries here.

Ditulis Oleh : Karen Craig // 22:00
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