Manic Impositions

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Manic Impositions: The Parasitical Art of Chris Kraus and Sophie Calle


Anna Watkins Fisher examines the idea of parasitism- “ an operator that interrupts a system of exchange”(224) in experimental art and performance. Watkins delves into the work of artists Chris Kraus and Sophie Calle who utilize both writing and performance to exploit the Western discourses that have been repeatedly associated with the abjection of women. Through various written historical examples, we are presented with threats to feminism by form of dependence upon patriarchy. Many of these examples suggest that women are or should be dependent upon a man. Fisher believes that both Kraus and Calle utilize writing and performance to transform the idea of the parasite by applying performance tactics which exploit the host, embracing “hyper femininity and overdependence” (225) in order mobilize the system for tangible gain.  In Chris Kraus project, I Love Dick, Kraus records her romantic obsession with British cultural theorist, Dick Hebdige, a colleague of her famous husband. Through real recollections, fears, anxieties and sexual fantasies Kraus manically accumulates over two hundred confessional letters written to Dick. Through the “blunt force of her pen” (226) Kraus removes his personality and reduces him to a symbol of a phallus, “transforming Dick from subject to object.”

In Sophie Calles book project, Take Care of Yourself , Calle casts 107 women to read and analyze a break up email. Through the lens of women from diverse skill sets, the artwork takes the form of both formal and conceptual critique of Calles ex lover’s parting words. Reinterpreted, manipulated and performed, the final result reveals the insensitivity and arrogance of her ex in ways that are serious and also humorous. Through the exploitation of these men, they begin to loose their significance. The reinterpretation and publication of these works act as the artists “conceptual weapon.”(230) Ultimately Kraus goes to extreme measures to feed off her host, creating little disparity between performance and reality. Eventually her persistence drives her husband away while Calles more subdued approach has boundaries.  Fisher calls to question the implications of these acts, pondering what will happen when Kraus looses her host, wondering how far Kraus will go for the sake of her parasitical performance and whether or not the crisis drives her work.  Both artists feed off their host and in turn alter “the ideological territory of the host who is suddenly dwarfed by its parasite.” (233) However, Fisher closes with a warning about repercussions; they are unclear and cannot guarantee survival or escape.



Chris Kraus photo by Reynaldo Rivera




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