KATHY ACKER 1947-97
Kathy Acker grew up in New York in the seventies. She has published 12 novels, several plays, film manuscripts, an opera, a musical, as well as a stream of essays and articles, mostly through the American underground publishers.
Kathy Ackers literary universe is...violent, bold, shocking, funny and sexy. Her themes are identity, language and power. And sex. Her literature is often explicit and pornographic. With her portrayals of incest and sadomachochistic sex, she has got not only the average American puritans against her but also the radical feminists.
For Acker, the breaking of taboos, is a weapon, against political control. In 1986 her novel "Blood and Guts in High School" was banned in Germany. Not only was the novel deemed damaging for children due to its pornographic content, but it was shocking that it was written in such a ways as to be impossible to separate which parts were made up and which not (!): "It's impossible for the reader to know if the action takes place in the authors mind or if it is happening for real".
This brings us onto the crux of Ackers main theme: deconstruction and subjectivity. When Acker began writing she was given the advice: "You have to find your own voice. Then you'll be able to write good books." But she couldn't find her own voice. And she didn't know if she was that interested in finding it either, as she says: "I would rather be in a room with lots of voices." So she created several "I" voices, "false" and "real" ones. She wanted to see if she could deconstruct the identity.
Do "I" have to be just one size? asks Acker. Is it at all possible to look at people as one whole, collective person? She found that subjectivity was not something fixed or agreed upon before hand, but something which can be actively created. This became her experiment in her writing; she could create as many personal stories as she wanted. Any number of stories which exist and functioned, through mutation and creation, in a stream of anti-memory anti-genealogy. By putting her own texts together with authentic biographies and false biographical material, she could build on and moderate her own subjectivity, experimenting with schizophrenic possibilities.
What constitutes ones own personality, asks Acker, and answers: to a great degree stereotypical images of gender.
According to the philosopher Bataille, who Acker is influenced by, society is exclusively preoccupied with preserving its own survival; not for the individual, but for the institution. To guarantee their survival, society created a whole range of historical and social arrangements, among them: the taboo. Bataille believes the most sacred of them is not "thou shalt not kill" but rather "Thou shalt not kill the King".
Who is the "King"? The King is the law which at each moment defines a set of values which constitute societies immune system: normality.
Kathy Ackers fight against political control is done through literature. She announces together with William Buroughs: "I write to weaken societies immune system. Language is a virus".
Desire is perhaps one of the last places to continue to attract political control. During Ackers childhood there were two places she could escape her parents control; one was writing, the other was sexuality. For Acker this is why these two areas are tightly linked. She states: "language is a body and the body can't lie. In the same way as a lie can't exist in the body, I want to make a lie impossible in language".
Acker knows that we must kill the King in order to find new stories to make the world from.