Chris Kraus (American writer)
|Alma mater||Victoria University of Wellington,|
|Literary movement||The Artists Project|
Chris Kraus is an American writer, filmmaker, and professor of film at European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Her novels include I Love Dick, Aliens & Anorexia, Torpor, and Summer of Hate. Video Green, Kraus' first non-fiction book examines the explosion of late 1990s art by high-profile graduate programs that catapulted Los Angeles into the center of the international art world. Her films include Gravity & Grace, How To Shoot A Crime, and The Golden Bowl, or, Repression.
Kraus spent her childhood in Connecticut and New Zealand. After obtaining a BA at a young age from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, Kraus worked as a journalist for five years, and then moved to New York. Kraus was aged 21 when she arrived in New York and began studying with actor Ruth Maleczech and director Lee Breuer, whose studio in the East Village was called ReCherChez. Part of the city's then-burgeoning art scene, Kraus made films and video art and staged performances and plays at many venues. In the late 1970s she was a member of The Artists Project, a City-funded public service venture of painters, poets, writers, filmmakers and dancers.
Her work as a performance and video artist satirized the Downtown scene's gender politics and favored literary tropes, blending theatrical techniques with Dada, literary criticism, social activism, and performance art.
I Love Dick
I Love Dick is an epistolary novel, a series of love letters to an elusive addressee, later identified as Dick Hebdige. In an introduction to the second edition of the novel, Eileen Myles writes, "Chris' ultimate achievement is philosophical. She's turned female abjection inside out and aimed it at a man. As if her decades of experience were both a painting and a weapon. As if she, a hag, a kike, a poet, a failed filmmaker, a former go-go dancer—an intellectual, a wife, as if she had the right to go right up to the end of the book and live having felt all that. I Love Dick boldly suggests that Chris Kraus' unswervingly attempted and felt female life is a total work and it didn't kill her." 
Aliens and Anorexia
Aliens and Anorexia jumps back and forth in time and location, tracing the life and activism of Ulrike Meinhof, the downtown theatre scene in late seventies New York, the drug experiments of Aldous Huxley, the paintings and writings of Paul Thek, through the narrator Chris's fruitless attempts to make and sell a feature film, "Gravity and Grace", (which takes its title from the Simone Weil volume of the same name).
A series of 23 essays written between 1998 and 2003, mostly in her column "Torpor" in the magazine Artext, Video Green is dense with the literary, the personal, and the culturally marginal. A few of the collection's notable essays not about L.A. include the elegiac "Posthumous Lives", about the performance artist Penny Arcade's loving curation of the estate of the filmmaker Jack Smith, and "How to Shoot a Crime," about Kraus's 1987 film of the same name. The volume's first essay and its lengthiest, "Art Collection" follows the idea of collecting through L.A.'s M.F.A. art scene and real estate market, ending up in rural upstate New York with the extraordinary poetry—and art collection—of the all-but forgotten William Bronk.
Torpor follows Jerome Shafir, a literature professor at Columbia, his wife, Sylvie Green, a writer and filmmaker with an inconclusive career, and their dog Lily through rustbelt New York, Paris, Berlin, and the Eastern Bloc at the dawn of the New World Order. As much a shattering portrait of a Holocaust survivor as portrait of a marriage, Torpor is also the portrait of a lady rarely found in literature: a down-and-out intellectual bearing witness to a culture in collapse. In Torpor, Kraus shifts out of the first-person narration of I Love Dick, employing a kind of free-indirect discourse. In naming her central characters Sylvie and Jerome, Kraus alludes to the hapless, interchangeable protagonists of George Perec's first novel, Les Choses. Perec, a childhood friend of both Torpor's Jerome and Kraus's real-life husband, Sylvère Lotringer, is quoted several times in the novel. Felix Guattari and Nan Goldin also make appearances, among other cultural figures, though Kraus's use of "reality" comes to more subversive effect than a simple roman à clef.
Summer of Hate
Summer of Hate is the story of Catt Dunlop who, like Kraus, is an art critic and occasional professor of Cultural Studies. Emerging rattled from a dangerous relationship with a dominant sex partner she met online, Catt invests in a handful of corroding properties in Albuquerque and moves there to prepare them for rental. She hires Paul Garcia to work as her property manager, and they begin a romantic relationship, though Catt is still married to an older philosopher in New York. A recovering alcoholic, Paul is on parole after spending two years in prison for “stealing less than an art gallery spends on an after-party.” Eventually Paul is pulled over for speeding and arrested in fulfillment of an outstanding warrant, and the pair embarks on a grueling legal process involving inhumane prison practices and impossible parole stipulations. Back in Los Angeles Catt studies and teaches “all the books about symbolic violence, soft forms of control,” but the forms of control to which Paul is subject are neither soft nor symbolic. As the course of her life fuses with the course of Paul’s, Catt's relationship to class, race, citizenship and criminality become increasingly complicated, forming the basis of Kraus' novelistic critique.
Semiotext(e) Native Agents Series
Sylvère Lotringer, Kraus's husband from the late eighties to the late nineties, founded Semiotexte's Foreign Agents series, which mostly published French critical theorists, in 1980. Ten years later Kraus founded the press's Native Agents imprint to publish fiction, mostly by women, as an analogue to the French theories of subjectivity in the Foreign Agents series. In addition to groundbreaking works of fiction by writers like Michelle Tea and Ann Rower, Native Agents has published notable volumes of poetry and prose by Eileen Myles, Barbara Barg, and Fanny Howe, as well as memoirs and interviews by Kathy Acker, Bob Flanagan, David Rattray, and William Burroughs. In a 2012 piece for n+1, senior editor Elizabeth Gumport wrote "What united the Native Agents authors was the way their work combined elements of theory, fiction, and biography, explicitly refusing to identify absolutely with any single genre."
Before beginning her career as writer, Kraus was an artist and filmmaker, making a number of short films and videos, including one feature Gravity & Grace. Her films have been the focus of a number of international retrospective exhibitions and screenings, beginning in 2008 with “Plastic is Leather, Fuck You: Film and Video 1983-1993” at Galerie Cinzia Friedlaender, Berlin. In the press release for the 2011 exhibition at Real Fine Arts in Brooklyn, Kraus detailed her thoughts behind the production of these films.
The Chance Event
The Chance Event: Three Days in the Desert: Primm, Nevada, November 1996. Curated by Chris Kraus, Chance brought together Jean Baudrillard, Rosanne Alluquere Stone, DJ Spooky, Diane di Prima, the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, visual artists, garage noise bands and 600 participants to investigate the mystery of chance at Whiskey Pete's Casino. Variously described as "a philosophy rave" and "one of the landmark LA events of the 90s," The Chance Event was reviewed on the front page of the LA Times and throughout the art press. Highlights, including a performance by Baudrillard wearing a gold Elvis-inspired blazer and accompanied by the 'Chance' band, were broadcast on European television. The event was funded by the French Cultural Service and Art Center College of Design.
Though relegated to the art world for much of her career, Kraus's readership is beginning to increase. She's been referenced in the work of poet Ariana Reines, novelist and memoirist Kate Zambreno, and n+1's pamphlet No Regrets.
In an introduction to her September 2013 interview with Kraus in The Believer, author Sheila Heti wrote "I know there was a time before I read Chris Kraus’s I Love Dick (in fact, that time was only five years ago), but it’s hard to imagine; some works of art do this to you. They tear down so many assumptions about what the form can handle (in this case, what the form of the novel can handle) that there is no way to re-create your mind before your encounter with them."
- I Love Dick, 1997 (Semiotext(e) / Native Agents). ISBN 9781584350347
- Aliens & Anorexia, 2000 (Semiotext(e) / Native Agents). ISBN 9781584351269
- Hatred of Capitalism: A Semiotext(e) Reader by Chris Kraus & Sylvere Lotringer, 2001. ISBN 9781584350125
- Video Green: Los Angeles Art and the Triumph of Nothingness, 2004 (Semiotext(e) / Active Agents). ISBN 9781584350224
- LA Artland: Contemporary Art from Los Angeles by Chris Kraus, Jan Tumlir, and Jane McFadden, 2005 (Black Dog Publishing Ltd). ISBN 9781904772309
- Torpor, March 2006 (Semiotext(e) / Native Agents). ISBN 9781584350279
- I Love Dick by Chris Kraus, Eileen Myles, Joan Hawkins; Sep 2006 (Semiotext(e) / Native Agents).
- Where Art Belongs, 2011 (Semiotext(e) / Intervention Series). ISBN 9781584350989
- Summer of Hate, 2012 (Semiotext(e) / Native Agents). ISBN 9781584351139
- You Must Make Your Death Public: a collection of texts and media on the work of Chris Kraus. Mute Publishing. 5 January 2015. pp. 135–. ISBN 978-1-906496-64-7.
Filmography and performance history
- In Order to Pass (1982), 30 minutes, Super8 film/video.
- Terrorists in Love (1985), 5 minutes, Super8 film/video.
- Voyage to Rodez (1986), 14 minutes, 16mm film.
- Foolproof Illusion (1986), 17 minutes, video.
- How to Shoot a Crime (1987), 28 minutes, video.
- The Golden Bowl or Repression (1990), 12 minutes, 16mm film.
- Traveling at Night (1991), 14 minutes, video.
- Sadness at Leaving (1992), 20 minutes, 16mm film.
- Gravity & Grace (1996), 88 minutes, Lonely Girl Films (New Zealand/USA/Canada).
- Disparate Action/Desperate Action (1980), performance.
- Readings From The Diaries of Hugo Ball (1983–84), performance.
- Longing Last Longer (1998), performance with Penny Arcade based on I Love Dick, directed by Eric Wallach and produced by The Kitchen, New York, January 1998.
- "Chris Kraus Faculty Page at European Graduate School (Biography, bibliography and video lectures)". European Graduate School. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
- Guthrie, Kayla. "Interview: Performing Is Storytelling: Q+A with Chris Kraus." Art in America. 2011 June 22.
- http://www.egs.edu/faculty/chris-kraus/biography/ Faculty biography of Chris Kraus - retrieved 1 February 2013
- New York Magazine - 17 November 1997 - Page 20 "But this first literary effort by Chris Kraus, an alternative filmmaker who is also a fiction editor at Semiotext(e), got the wrong kind of attention. Her confessional roman a clef about the mossy realm of academe and the glossy SoHo-Chelsea art scene nearly landed her in court."
- "Summer of Hate" reviewed at Full Stop. 4 September 2012.
- "Female Trouble," Elizabeth Gumport, n+1 Magazine, 14 February 2012 http://nplusonemag.com/female-trouble
- "Press release for "Chris Kraus Films"" (Press release). Brooklyn, New York: Real Fine Arts.
- "The Novelist as Performance Artist," Michael M. Miller, Gallerist, 30 October 2012 http://galleristny.com/2012/10/the-novelist-as-performance-artist-on-chris-kraus-the-art-worlds-favorite-fiction-writer/
- No Regrets, n+1 http://shop.nplusonemag.com/products/no-regrets
- "Interview with Chris Kraus,' Sheila Heti, The Believer, September 2013 http://www.believermag.com/issues/201309/?read=interview_kraus
- "Awards". The College Art Association. Retrieved 11 October 2010.
- Interview with Chris Kraus for Cultural Icons series. Audio and video
- Chris Kraus. Faculty page at European Graduate School (Biography, filmography, photos and video lectures)
- The Novelist as Performance Artist: On Chris Kraus, the Art World’s Favorite Fiction Writer
- Chris Kraus reading her essay "Greetings from LA" on 'Lectures with Lindsay' audio collection
- Interview with Chris Kraus for Full Stop. 4 December 2012.
- Jamison, Leslie. "This Female Consciousness: On Chris Kraus." New Yorker. 9 April 2015.
- "Chris Kraus." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2012. Literature Resource Center. Web. 5 Oct. 2015.