Intensely Productive

I’ve just finished reading I Love Dick by the American artist and writer Chris Kraus. It’s a book that fearlessly exposes a period of crises in her life when she faces up to her limitations as an artist, marriage problems and her impending middle age. She does this in a very particular way – by spending four intense days obsessively writing letters to someone – Dick – she meets at a dinner party. Her husband, a successful academic, joins her in the letter writing, intensifying the feelings and providing the driving force behind all that occurs later in the book. What they do then, extraordinarily, is give the object of her obsession all the letters – 80 pages of them, followed by another 40 pages – proposing that they make a joint art work. The act is initially met with bemused silence. The letters, interspersed with contextualising texts, cover heightened emotion, personal histories, self analysis, mental illness, philosophy, art theory and criticism, and make reference to artists working in the US at that time, the 1990s, from Kathy Acker to Mike Kelley. During the period the book recounts Chris Kraus was in contact with some of the most exciting and interesting artists, writers and thinkers working in the US at the time and the second half of the book is composed mostly of factual texts noting where Chris is at the time; New York, LA, various parties and exhibition openings, and some art criticism. What I found so interesting about this book is not only that Chris Kraus was willing to embrace an exposing and humiliating loss of dignity, but that she deliberately generated a period of emotional intensity as way to move her work as an artist forward. It started me thinking about intense circles of artists – at times Chris Kraus’ letters reminded me of Dora Carrington’s pleading letters to Lytton Strachey – and like the Bloomsbury group, how these artistic circles support and enable those within them to enter into an emotional intensity, which in turns enables them to make their best work – a heightened period of working, often at a high personal cost to those involved. I Love Dick is an important work of feminist writing, but is also extraordinary artistic achievement.

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About donnalynas

I've been Director of Wysing Arts Centre since 2005 and have worked with a lot of very talented people to develop it into a genuinely inspiring and creative place. Before Wysing I was Curator at South London Gallery (1999-2005) and Touring Exhibitions Organiser (1995-97) and then Curator (1997-99) at Modern Art Oxford. Previous to that I had studios in Reading and Dundee - I studied design at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and then spent five years making stuff and organising shows in my studio and empty shops.
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