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Chris Kraus - Biography

Chris Kraus is a Los Angeles based author and filmmaker. Kraus received her BA from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.  She teaches creative writing at UC San Diego and teaches at the European Graduate School. Chris Kraus is well known for her role as an influential film and video maker in the New York Downtown scene of the mid eighties. Since 1990, she has directed the Native Agents new fiction series for the visionary independent press Semiotext(e), publishing such overlooked writers as Kathy Acker, Barbara Barg, Fanny Howe and Eileen Myles. Kraus’ firm attention to specifically women writers is responsible for Semiotext(e), Native Agents Imprint to be a platform for groundbreaking avant-garde work. She was nominated for the 2005 Frank Mather Prize in Art Criticism and is presently the Writer in Residence at Colombia College of Art in Chicago. Writer and filmmaker, Chris Kraus has explored a variety of different subjects ranging from feminism, gender politics, sex workers, philosophy and love.  Her publications include Trick (2009), Catt: Her Killer (2009), Visualizing the Tragic: Drama, Myth, and Ritual in Greek Art and Literature (2007), David Wojnarowicz: A Definitive History of Five or Six Years on the Lower East Side (2006), LA Artland: Contemporary Art From Los Angeles (2005), Torpor (2006), Video Green: Los Angeles Art and the Triumph of Nothingness (2004), Hatred of Capitalism: A Semiotext(e) Reader (2001), Aliens and Anorexia (2000), More & Less (1999) and I Love Dick (1997).

Chris Kraus spent her childhood in Connecticut and New Zealand. Chris Kraus graduated with a Bachelors of Art from the Victoria University of Wellington, in New Zealand. Chris Kraus then worked as a journalist for five years. She then made a detour to London, England where she had a failed attempt with political theatre. In 1978 at the age of 21, Chris Kraus moved to New York City to chase her artistic ambitions. She first moved into Tribeca living poorly among poets and artists in the city’s blossoming art scene. Chris Kraus met Jeff Wright during this period and through him was introduced to the St. Mark’s Poetry Scene. Chris Kraus began to really make a name for herself at this time. Chris Kraus showed her film, video art and staged performances at multiple venues across the city.

Chris Kraus’ writings often work with the personal, most famously her first novel I Love Dick (1997) serves an example of the closeness of her work in relation to biography.  A series of love letters to an almost entirely absent man, Dick, guides the reader through Kraus’ exploration of, failure, feminism, the institution of marriage, and the nature of privacy.  In Eileen Myles’ forward to the novel she writes:

I Love Dick is a remarkable study in female abjection and in its fashion it reminds me of Carl Dreyer’s exhortation to use “artifice to strip artifice of artifice," because it turns out for Chris, marching boldly into self-abasement and self-advertisement, not being uncannily drawn there, sighing or kicking and screaming, but walking straight in, was exactly the ticket that solidified and dignified the pathos of her life’s romantic voyage.

I Love Dick (1997),  is an autobiographical novel. The novel challenges boundaries between private and public. This challenge is not only to the individual but also to the activist, the artist, and the philosopher. As Chris Kraus says:

I was at an incredibly low point in my life, I was 38, and I saw no future. I’d been living in this kind of traditional monogamous marriage with Sylvere. So when we had dinner with Dick and he flirted with me, I saw a door open and just walked right through it.

While Chris’s work deals with autobiography she disagrees with labeling her work “confessional". Chris Kraus instead sees her work as providing spaces where woman designate their own subjective positions. All her work is dealing with issues of subjectiviting in some manner. In Aliens and Aneroxia Chris appears to be focusing on destroying the subjective position itself. "If the 'I' is the only thing we truly own, we must destroy it," Kraus writes, quoting Simone Weil. "Use the 'I' to break down the 'I'."  "In Torpor (2006),  the melding of fiction and non-fiction is continued. Torpor follows the characters relationships through New York and Europe. The characters bear an uncanny relationship to Chris and her husband.

Chris Kraus’s film and performance work includes: Disparate Action/Desperate Action (1980), a performance piece. In 1982 Chris Kraus created the 30 minute video In Order to Pass. From 1983-1984 Chris Kraus performed, Readings From The Diaries of Hugo Ball. Chris Kraus directed the short film Terrorists in Love in 1985. The film was five minutes long. 1986 was the year Chris Kraus introduced her short film Voyage to Rodez to audiences, the film was 14 minutes long and was shot on 16 millimeter film. In 1990 Chris directed the 12 minute, 16 millimeter film The Golden Bowl or Repression. Traveling at Night, is a short 14 minute video that Chris created in 1991. In 1992 Chris Kraus created the 20 minute, 16 millimeter film Sadness at Leaving. In 1998 Eric Wallach directed, Longing Lasts Longer Performance with Penny Arcade. The performance was based on Chris Kraus’s first novel, I Love Dick, and was produced by The Kitchen in New York. Gravity & Grace (1996) is a narrative feature film produced by Lonely Girl Films. Chris Kraus – Film Retrospective. was an art show looking back at the complete works of Chris. The show was held at Cinzia Friedlander Gallery in Berlin, May - June 2008.

Chris Kraus curated The Chance Event: Three Days in the Desert, the event was funded by the French Cultural Service and Art Center College of Design. The event took place in Primm, Nevada. The event happened in November of 1996. The event brought together Jean Baudrillard, Rosanne Alluquere Stone, DJ Spooky, Diane di Prima, the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, visual artists, garage noise bands and 600 participants to investigate the mystery of chance at Whiskey Pete's Casino. The Chance Event was highly popular in the press and was reviewed on the front page of the LA Times. Highlights, including a performance by Jean Baudrillard wearing a gold blazer, reminiscent of Elvis. He was accompanied by a band and the footage was seen across European television.

Chris Kraus is a Professor of Film at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, where she conducts an Intensive Summer Workshop.