Emotional Technologies 
Q&A #4: Chris Kraus

Cover of I Love Dick by Chris Kraus
(Semiotext(e) / Native Agents), 1997

Reading Chris Kraus, notably I Love Dick (1997), was like an electric shock for me. Her writings have been at the heart of many of the discussions I have had, especially with my artist friends. This questionnaire has the same kind of title as one of her texts: “Emotional Technologies.” It’s important for me to know that she writes, that she makes films, that she teaches, that she is a publisher (Semiotext(e)) – she keeps all those balls in the air at the same time.

Les écrits de Chris Kraus, et notamment I Love Dick (1997), m’ont fait l’effet d’une décharge électrique quand je les ai lus. Ils sont au cœur de beaucoup d’échanges que j’ai – avec des amies artistes notamment. Ce questionnaire est intitulé comme l’un de ses textes : « Emotional Technologies ». Il est important pour moi de savoir qu’elle écrit, qu’elle fait des films, qu’elle enseigne, qu’elle est éditrice (Semiotext(e)) – elle tient tous ces fils en même temps.
Clara Schulmann

1. In her autobiography, Kim Gordon reproduces a text that she wrote in the 1980s about a Sonic Youth tour and her place in the band. “I like being in a weak position and making it strong,” she said. How would you describe your position as an author and as a filmmaker or as an artist making films?

CK I always feel weak and uncertain at first when I’m writing, then, if things go well, later on, strong. I approached film with a combination of ignorance and arrogance, and only later came to see them in as pathetic. That is: weak but maybe somehow endearing. I think everything under the surface somehow manifests on the surface of film.

2. In general, writing is a solitary experience and making films is a collective experience. Is this difference important to you?

CK There was too much lonely time spent fundraising and planning in the filmmaking process. The intensity of the shoot, that’s something to miss, but that was only a tiny percentage of it. I came to writing immensely relieved that the only thing needed was me, a quiet place to be, and a notebook or computer.

3. In an interview, the poet Lisa Robertson writes: “…as a very young reader, in the 80s, I constantly felt affronted that I could not find a point of recognition in the extreme masculinist philosophy and literature I was reading. To discover feminist thinking and writing was a recognition that gave me the will to write. That was a very relevant kind of pleasure.” Do you share her position? How did you discover feminist thinking and what difference did it make to you?

CK No, I think I line up more with the anti-mom school of feminism. I always more wanted to be one of the guys, and was heartbroken to realize I couldn’t. This in itself was a revelation – and led me to seek out the work of women who’d done heroic, inspiring things that had more or less been written out of art history.

4. This question concerns the link between your artistic activity and gymnastics. What kind of exercises do you need to do in order to write or to make a film?

CK Film, I don’t remember. Writing, it varies according to where I am in the process. The farther along, the easier it is to dive in. It’s the beginning that needs fetishes.

5. Can you describe the family tree showing your sources, resources and references in both fields?

CK Too vast to go into here, and it varies from project to project. Film for me started with watching movies by Michael Snow, James Benning, Godard. When I first arrived in New York, someone took me to a screening of a James Benning film where the camera held for 20 or 30 minutes continuously on a Midwestern industrial smokestack. I’d never seen anything like that before. I hated it, then thought about why. It forced me to learn something.

6. Are cigarettes or other kinds of addiction part of your creative process with writing or moving images?

CK Yes.

7. Writing, like cinema, summons or awakens ghosts. Who or what haunts you?

CK Can’t talk about it.



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