Chris Kraus remembers the late writer, in life and in death.
Kaucyila Brooke, Untitled #94 from Kathy Acker’s Clothes, 1998/2005, color photograph. From the cover of After Kathy Acker.
Like everything in the past, everyone remembers it differently, and some of the people involved hardly remember at all. We’re talking about something that happened more than seventeen years ago. But on January 23, 1998, which was a Friday, friends of the late writer Kathy Acker drove from San Francisco to Fort Funston, about twenty-five minutes away, to scatter her ashes. She’d died two months earlier at an alternative clinic in Tijuana, where she received palliative care for late-stage, metastasized cancer.
The ash scattering—like the wake at Bob Glück’s house on December 13 and the memorial reading at Slim’s Bar where Michelle Handelman was booed off the stage for no reason she can recall—devolved into a kind of black comedy, the way these things often do. I remember Cookie Mueller at Jackie Curtis’s memorial, standing up on the stage of La MaMa halfway through an evening of readings and monologues, blinking back tears as she faced the dark auditorium. She had no speech prepared. “I thought this was supposed to be a funeral,” she said to the room. “Not a variety show.” Speaking to Sylvère Lotringer, the artist Steve Brown recalled how the elegantly planned Nembutal suicide of Danceteria emcee Haoui Montaug among a small group of friends ended with a plastic bag over his head. He was a large man, in the late stages of AIDS, and whoever arranged for the pills had underestimated the dose. Before time accelerated, deaths among friends in the art world were like salt to a sting, bringing unresolved feuds to the surface. Now we care less, or are nicer. Read More