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ICA to celebrate the life and work of Kathy Acker

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Kathy Acker in conversation with Angela McRobbie at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1987 (Via ICA)

The life and work of Kathy Acker, novelist, playwright, and all-round firebrand fixture of New York’s legendarily fertile Downtown art scene in the 1980s, is to be celebrated at London’s Institute of Contemporary Art.

I, I, I, I, I, I, I, Kathy Acker will run from 1 May to 4 August and is set to feature work by artists and writers which examines Acker as “a still-unfolding cultural force, focusing on the uniquely diverse and disruptive character of the author’s work and persona.”

Arguably best known for Blood and Guts in High School, her metafictional novel about incest and sex-trafficking, Acker spent time living in London and formed a close attachment to the ICA, regularly performing at and staging work inside the gallery.

An array of artists including Jamie Crewe, Penny Goring, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Johanna Hedva, Caspar Heinemann, Every Ocean Hughes, Bhanu Kapil, Ghislaine Leung, Reba Maybury, and Linda Stupart will be demonstrating the influence of Acker’s confrontational and controversial body of work.

Set to be “structured around text fragments from eight of Acker’s key novels,” the exhibition then uses those texts to serve as “catalysts for a web of interconnected materials presented around them, including works by other artists and writers, video and audio documentation of Acker’s performative appearances in various cultural and media contexts.”

We are told that I, I, I, I, I, I, I, Kathy Acker seeks to "illuminate the complexities within Acker’s written, spoken and performed work, as she moved between exposing and inhabiting the dynamics of power.” Which sounds just like the sort of thing we like to explore and attempt to understand on sunny Sunday mornings.

Last year saw the publication of After Kathy Acker, a biography of the punky provocateur written by Chris Kraus, the tricksy post-postmodern writer best known for her 1997 cult classic I Love Dick. Kraus has lent the ICA a helping hand with the exhibition, but will not feature directly.

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Excerpt from Blood and Guts in High School by Kathy Acker (Via the estate of Kathy Acker)