press release

05.10.2018 - 02.12.2018
Opening: October 4, 7pm
Symposium: November 22–24

With further works by Eleanor Antin, Alan Benson, Ruth Buchanan, Pauline Boudry & Renate Lorenz, Kathy Brew, Kaucyila Brooke, William S. Burroughs, Jonathan Dawson, Michel Delsol, Leslie Dick & Audrey Wollen, Diane DiMassa & Freddie Baer, Michael du Plessis, Michael Hemmingson, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Gary Indiana, Anja Kirschner, Robert Kushner, Olivia Laing, Marcus Leatherdale, Sylvère Lotringer, Jackson Mac Low, Jo Mazelis, The Mekons, Karolin Meunier, Ulrike Müller, Lil Picard, Jill Posener, Steve Pyke, Val Rauzier, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Carolee Schneemann, Alan Sondheim, Kika Thorne, César Vallejo, Del LaGrace Volcano

Symposium November 22–24, 2018 Dodie Bellamy, Hanjo Berressem, Ruth Buchanan, Georgina Colby, Leslie Dick & Audrey Wollen, Claire Finch, Johnny Golding, Anja Kirschner, Douglas A. Martin, Jason McBride, Karolin Meunier & Kerstin Stakemeier, Daniel Schulz, McKenzie Wark

GET RID OF MEANING is the first comprehensive solo exhibition of American avant-garde writer, poet and essayist Kathy Acker (born 1947 in New York City, died 1997 in Tijuana, Mexico). Acker was one of the most important writers of the 20th century whose work continues to influence writers, theorists, and artists today. From the beginning of the 1970s to the late 1990s she wrote numerous novels, essays, poems, and novellas. A post-punk feminist and a plagiarist, Kathy Acker wrote experimental texts situated between postmodernist and avant-garde practices. Compelled by both emotional experiences and critical theory, she was a radical in both form and content, challenging conventions of gender, race, property, and narrative.

GET RID OF MEANING is a large-scale research project consisting of an exhibition and a three-day symposium with international participants from literature, theory, and art. Several manuscripts, sketches, notebooks, portrait photographs, videos, music, and audio recordings, as well as many books from Kathy Acker’s personal archive are presented in the exhibition. It examines Kathy Acker through the lens of her writing. Besides her literary work she also produced a unique supplement: a performative self, a staged persona that parallels the performative, eclectic nature of Acker’s texts. Concentrating on four texts written in three distinct periods—The Childlike Life of the Black Tarantula, Blood and Guts in High School, In Memoriam to Identity, and Pussy, King of the Pirates—the exhibition addresses questions of feminism, performance, bibliophilia, and of the connection between visual art and the literary world.

Kathy Acker’s proximity to the art context of the 1970s is reflected in the grounding of her writing in conceptual thought as well as her interest in procedural work. The artistic contributions of the exhibition are closely linked to Kathy Acker’s literary and performative work. Some of the works share similar concerns in terms of performativity and the female body or refer directly to selected texts by Acker. They examine her method of appropriation and recombining in order to address subjects such as body politics, transgender identity and strategies of empowerment. Other artists raise questions about plagiarism, writing methodology and copyright as well as the relationship between libraries and friendship.

The symposium as a second part of GET RID OF MEANING invites international artists, writers, and scholars to discuss Acker’s oeuvre through a wide range of events including talks, readings, and performances. Acker’s practice was itself originally eclectic and channeled through art, literature, philosophy, film, and music. Subjects and figures of her work spring forth—from pirates, spiders, girls, and misfits to gender plasticity, from formal stylistics to performativity, archives, ownership, and expropriation, as well as from the web of embodied thoughts to the passion of thinking bodies.

GET RID OF MEANING gives evidence that Kathy Ackers’ visionary interests anticipated current debates about gender, power, and identity. The project provides clues, fragments, and glimpses of a revolutionary work inventing new aesthetic forms that simultaneously craft new technologies of selfhood.

Curated by Matias Viegener and Anja Casser

Research assistant: Daniel Schulz
Exhibition design: Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga

In cooperation with the English Seminar I of the University of Cologne.