Kathy Acker — Subjectivity, Plagiarism as Autobiography: Disruptive Practice

Leslie Scalapino


From Dahlia's Iris — Secret Autobiography and Fiction (a novel published by FC2 Press, 2003, available from Small Press Distribution)
Talk for panel discussion on ‘My/One's Own Relation to Acker'


Acker proposes that her text is the other text.
      The connection between reading and community is continually formed by writing that's disrupting real-time events.
      “Influence” is past-tense, hierarchical. But this is as space.
      My sense of Acker's view of present time1: being held to the absolute present (change) is pain — time as it is change is pain. Because “I'm scared.”
      Acker's project is always her autobiography as completely separated from its subject. All parts in her narratives, regardless of which character is speaking are in the same speaking voice: identical, seems to come from the same person. Thus ‘character' is random, nonintentional plot — yet irretrievably formed — by violence (“art is elaborating violence”2). This ‘is' the author but only as if mechanistically recreating her autobiography continually, as if speaking to someone else while making up random events-the-future only as ‘spoken' off-the-cuff. The impression is that ‘written' (as if it were ‘speaking' only) doesn't exist there (in hers, though the narrative exists only as text). The text is thus secret as revelation of a life that is made-up (though the events are real/her life or real in the sense of being [in], rather than referring to these, events from other texts).
      That is, ‘character' and action for Acker is only imitation-of-oneself-as-if-she-is-speaking-unpracticed-monologue (an action), not in conversation (conversation is secret). The actions (events of the narrative) are connectives, go on as if spurts of whim which cause each other, cause new details thus not connected as crafted pre-formed (‘written') plot. There are only new connectives arising. The dots in the paragraph of which the above sentence is part indicate that an original exists from which she supposedly quotes, part of which is apparently omitted; proposes her writing is ‘only' appropriation (of other texts, of herself, of historical events), the text not distinguishable from ‘its' original.
      Referring to Cézanne and the Cubists, Acker makes her space in Great Expectations the same as theirs: “They found the means of making the forms of all objects similar. If everything was rendered in the same terms, it became possible to paint the interactions between them. These interactions became so much more interesting than that which was being portrayed that the concepts of portraiture and therefore of reality were undermined or transferred.” 3 “A narrative is an emotional moving.” 4 Something exists at all when it is part of a narrative.
      This is what I call (in my writing) minute movements within even tiny events which are the reality that's being undermined that's ‘baseless' because they're only interactions (not entities). Acker was a Buddhist.
      While in her oeuvre the most constant reference to action is to fucking or being fucked, fucking is evoked/takes place as social-political rather than physiological sensation (secret). Even that which is physiological is caused by the outside, done to one/ though one acts in the outside/ one does not ‘express' (be in or write) direct sensation: “After the jeeps and the lorries left, wounded on the forehead now by the rising sun, I placed my sackcloth jacket over my face.” 5
     Sensation is outside as a means of making the compressed space of psychological, physiological and landscape the same. A passage beginning “Now we're fucking”: is entirely speaking: what she wants, speaking of herself as an image of a blonde tiger all over him, speaking what's happening and isn't happening, as if radio sex. A disembodied voice is sensation. The reader, as writer also, is not able to see or feel because the text has substituted for feeling. The text/speaking is between it. Text has to be the conditions only.
      Acker's subject is subsumed in her (own) social construction in a benign, even beautiful universe. She constructs the site/sight/space (characters) of herself being enslaved because this is occurring outside in the social realm everywhere, is realistic. The surface of the writing-as-the-enslavement is not palatable (the enslavement-as-the-writing is intended not to be palatable), one can not bear to be in it (the writing destroys itself, can't be dwelled in, changes the reader).
      It is free by its nonintentional mode.
      Plagiarism is: not allusion. It is ‘the same.' The author as plagiarist: complete transformation as one's own appearance is invasion, destruction — that's continual realignment of oneself as same one. Autobiography as fiction: the same one is consuming (as being ) itself.
      If the transformation of one is continual it is the destruction of that one in only its appearance again.
      In that sloth is non-transformative, it is a relation to terror still without being changed by it.

‘The Senseless' — and the Senses

      In this version, Robespierre was not guillotined and later in life is a conservative . Yet adhering to the same views and actions as before that were to root out the self of others.
       They're not to be given (allowed) attention or to practice attention (which implies a self who is in attention — seeing itself as in a transitory action).
      The figure of Robespierre is puritan so stringent there is no father — and as one form of patriarchy: only there is no love, only tyranny.
      The present: U.S. convention stemming from puritan: the elect are successful, if we're suffering this means we're not God's elect. A corollary is the elite fashion that ‘reification of self' is an evil; it is applied to Other only (authority's hypocrisy): as Other is seeming to reify by seeing being at all — as if they (Other) should not want to apprehend, or as if there were not any causing of any thing. We're not to see what causes or to be flesh, sensation, action. The sense of puritans (God's elect) a sense by being unknown (empty, as culture) is for Robespierre singular power. In the same fashion one sees a moon orbiting outside? When?, physical and sight and conceptual (the same as each other). Puritans hate the outside. They are not realistic.
      He can't/won't see the relation of reification of self and causal , which is reification of self. What is mind action (reification) of self (self being only mind action, in sensation, in theory...)?
      The outside is empty as the inside in his language — has no relation to phenomena, action. Empty except for hatred. Only his. Because Other's feeling is self.
      The language is empty, we don't know what we are. Not even logic.
      Acker therefore had to empty the language. She separates him from his language. The senseless.
      We're animals who miraculously can hate. Acker's run-on sentences (with phrases separated by commas) are not many actions of others held together in one Woolfian ‘moment of being'; but rather are sensory input to (of) many at once — are the same as actions outside — are not controlled by one. “I want: every part changes (the meaning of) every other part so there's no absolute/heroic/dictatorial/S & M meaning/part the soldier's onyx-dusted fingers touch her face orgasm makes him shoot saliva over the baby's buttery skull...” 6
      I have to make physical, sight, and conceptual the same as ‘reification (motions) of self' in order to see phenomena. I am the time being. There is no influence, only present, hearing or reading.
      Description of my text The Tango : “The text's internal debate is the author's comparison of her mind phenomena to exterior phenomena, laying these alongside each other actually — such as the mind's comparison to dawn, to magnolias, to color of night, as if these are manifestations of mind phenomena, which they are here . Placing one's mind-actions beside magnolias (words). The same figure repeated everywhere, a line or passage may recur exactly as slipping out of, returning to, slipping out of, a frame of concentration and sound.”7
      Differentiate Acker. Acker empties the language by plagiarizing one self (source) and substituting in that same place or spot (at that self) another self (another source) which she's plagiarizing. In Great Expectations , she's plagiarizing Dickens, but in the pages of it's being Dickens it's de Sade and Proust, Keats, Japanese poetic diaries, and The Story of O at once but only as (as if it is , and by displacing ) Acker. 8 Her same speaking and her ‘life' (only her events).
      My sense is his tyranny is to have only doctrine, rather than, and therefore obliterating, the motions of phenomena. (Acker says “interactions”.) He replaces outside. Whereas motions-as-only-there are phenomena, doctrine is merely description. Whereas, Acker rejects having any theory-base that is not its disruptive practice. See a person's mind phenomena as a shadow, only motion of apparent objects and events, cast on that person's language, backlit. Acker does that via plots?
      Acker's self can only be there then (as Proust and de Sade's literary events there). By only reifying theirselves at once. That are empty by being their plots as interactions with (in) her real time and space. They're just repeated plots, so the self/same-as-text is outside actions even. Even actions are past-tense only — there is no present. That is the struggle, to be the present as all of it.
      Robespierre can't dictate us. We take the place of theory-tyranny by substituting the (one's) motions of struggle. Taking the place of it with aping, there's only illusion-that-text-is-self.



      Now she's mad. He has no beliefs. Robespierre, the director, has replaced her when she did the motions. In this version, Robespierre the glittering purity makes strawmen functions to grovel take the hit for him before him while he secretly which everyone sees is a mamma's boy with ladies lying to him whom he enlists/stings, one carried in a sedan chair, but he appears to glitter because no one can bear to feel/comprehend that they would, or could, allow themselves to be bullied only, therefore he must be of high ability they have to feel. This is a relief. It shows people feeling and similar. She stops crying.
       At once Bush the outside, slack-mouthed so eyes squint as he yaps a jackal at killing, which he can't even envision apparently carried by bestial robots who strategize war everywhere that's unprovoked by recipients. The old frightened by death of everyone, there are no senses.


Text as Delicate slate forest the water-desert
(Pal Mal Comic)

      Half of the ocean in sight/being (mid ocean in the Pacific) is delicate slate that is at the horizon. A horizontal slab of surface of mid-ocean is delicate slate.
       Rough delicate slate forest the water-desert. Yet there it is divided in the middle half mid-ocean before us is heavy black moving. But we are on the surface (of the ocean).
      (At 4:00 in the morning calling up outside in the city of people who homeless wake up, I thought in flashes I'd be homeless there if it were not for one thing now.)
      Slate or onyx black plowing on the ocean surface (can't be beneath, except a submarine) is divided but without boundaries. In the Pacific it's middle rough delicate slate forest heavy the water-desert. I lived on the ocean on freighters crossing it. There is nothing that is the sensory there. It doesn't exist, hasn't even.
      Onyx charges of heavy midst of banks ocean not memory is its lines, for instance. On this surface.
       The man first attacks and replaces me with a younger woman who is to only replace my words. (Nothing in her self, either.) Then, he says about Daniel Defoe that his character who's Moll Flanders committing illegal actions which are simply absorbed flattening as bringing onto one space, which is the space occurring I make in a work called Defoe in which the character, the Other, is Moll Flanders — the man saying Daniel Defoe did this space (where I had written on surface of Daniel Defoe's writing as its/outside's actions [interior/exterior/ ‘neither of these' being/is ‘there' also ] absorbed on one space flattening space but it is what's unknown/not there) claims this as his own but as critical idea /exterior (‘about' something else; so it is past and not an action), omitting a one and present time.
      In this version, Robespierre is not guillotined and is later a fake. Robot theory become that, which is now ‘any theory is lies'. Direct observation has become: removed by him. No One can keep up.
      Alfredo Jaar refers in three columns of texts (on the wall) 9 to mines and to air sight. Nelson Mandela and his fellow inmates on Robben Island in isolation for forty-one years, in summer 1964 were taken, chained together, and at a limestone quarry in the center of the island, put to work breaking rocks and digging lime. The lime was used to turn the island's roads white. At the end of the day, the black men had been turned white with lime dust. As they worked, the lime reflected the glare of the sun, blinding the prisoners. Their repeated requests for sunglasses to protect their eyes were denied.
       Another column of his texts refers to U.S. air strikes on Afghanistan, carpet bombing from B-52s flying at forty thousand feet, more than fifty cruise missiles President Bush said would avoid civilian causalities. Before launching the air strikes, the secret Defense Department bought an exclusive contract from Ikonos Space Imaging Inc. to all the air images of Afghanistan and neighboring countries. Although having satellite imaging of more than ten times the power, their possessions of the images produced a whiteout preventing western media from seeing the effects of the bombing. No one here can verify or refute Bush's claims. The CEO of Space Imaging Inc. said, “They are buying all the imagery that is available.” There is nothing left to see.
      After is — Alfredo Jaar's blinding light panel in room; and in a room, vault with slit of blinding light captured crack, which opens every six minutes as blinding light.
       Here any life has the value of nothing as people accept, or look forward to — doing away with others, one people after another, being Armageddon.
       Bush a single individual who is the outside now, can't see anything as real.
      And neither can Robespierre, the inside-private, whose minute enmeshed delusions are finer and finer. For destruction of others only. Yet a mesh of X is not either on or in onyx waves of mid ocean, yet there.
      One carried in a sedan chair (who apprehending the gestures of others, themselves erased because no one reads, has translated their gestures as ideas only, rather than there being their movements, which in her work she says are her ideas to have credit for these) (academizing motions).
      While one by one, before them, he erases other women. (and others) But then, she has to consider that they (carried), not the others erased, want this, while being duped at once.
      There are birds before or forest — oneself is the view. Who only sees outside before one. The birds have no space that's the birds-trees behind them. no Delicate slate forest — delicate space forest is in front of them, only one.


1. Don Quixote , Kathy Acker, Grove Press, New York, 1989, pp.51-52

2. Great Expectations , Kathy Acker, Grove Press, New York, 1989, p.123

3. Empire of the Senseless , Kathy Acker, Grove Press, New York, 1988, p.25

4. Great Expectations , Kathy Acker, Grove Press, New York, 1989, p.81

5. Ibid ., p.58

6. Empire of the Senseless , Kathy Acker, Grove Press, New York, 1988, p. 26

7. The Tango , Leslie Scalapino, Granary Books, New York, 2001

8. Great Expectations , Kathy Acker, Grove Press, New York, 1989, p.8

9. Alfredo Jaar's installation, ‘Lament of the Images,' Galerie Lelong, New York, November, 2002


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