Kathy Acker: Pussy


12 Apr – 2 Jun 2013

Produced in 1994 by Simon Strong for Brighton based publisher and label CodeX, Pussy contains two parts: O and Ange and Pussy, King of the Pirates: Her Story. Both parts are included in the exhibition in full. 

On his encounter with Acker, Strong writes the following:

'In September 1994 I was living in a dilapidated English seaside town called Brighton, the UK’s San Francisco if ya like. I used to enjoy hanging out at a local spoken word club and getting ignored by the hip kids. Do Tongues (aka the Twat Club to we un-hipsters) put on writers I didn’t like such as Douglas Coupland, Dennis Cooper or that sad Oxbridge junkie who likes to try and sound hard. The problem was that the hipster kids had no inkling that I was really an incognito underground impresario with a successful label under my belt (it said '28inch real leather'). Furthermore, I had just set up a publishing imprint on the premise that I could publish books by musicians and records by writers.

So I was stoked when I heard that Kathy Acker was coming. Kathy Acker was the most shoplifted female author in the world! Here was a chance to give some five-finger discount options to the kids on the street. I got in touch with her booking agent and asked if she'd cut a disc for CodeX, since that's what the label was called. When she hit town I invited her for a curry but I said I wasn't hungry even though I was but I didn’t have the cash to spring for both of us. My mind has long gone somewhere else and I can't remember anything of what we talked about, except for that bit about the legendary warehouse (in Paris?) that was still full of Olympia Press volumes, and also about a distro deal I was putting down that would potentially land our product in High Street chains like Woolworths and Boots Chemists. The balance will come back in my dotage. Did I give her a copy of my novel? I must have...

So the next day or so, Kathy went into a local studio and read pretty much the set she did for the spoken word club. I think it was mostly early versions of stuff from a forthcoming work titled 'Pussy'. I remember I was laid up with shocking flu. I commissioned our fave local artist to do a portrait for the cover and Kathy was kind enough to send some photos by Michael Delsol. The disc came out in 1995 and sold out pretty fast.

The gist of it is that I have no idea how I come to have a signed copy with a comment about Woolworths on it. Maybe I got that done when she played again in Brighton with the Mekons in 1996. I don't know. I mean surely I would've gone and seen the fucking Mekons! Nah… It's all gone in the fog of lager. I can't explain any of it. What a lady. Wouldn't it be great if we had three times as many books? But we don't. Oh yeah! She gave me the slop of the suppression of 'Young Lust' too... hahahahahaha!'

Kathy Acker was born in Manhattan before dividing her working life between New York, London, and California. She was the author of numerous novels and anthologies of her work including the following publications on Grove Press: Pussy, King of the Pirates (1997); Empire of the Senseless (1988); my mother: demonology, a novel, (1993), Blood and Guts in High School (1989); Great Expectations (1989);Literal Madness: Kathy Goes to Haiti/My Death My Life by Pier Paolo Pasolini/Florida (1989). Others include: Bodies of Work: Essays, Serpent's Tail(1997); Portrait of an Eye: Three Novels-The Childlike Death of Black Tarantula by the Black Tarantula/I Dreamt I Was a Nymphomaniac/Imaging, the Adu, Grove/Atlantic, (1998); Hannibal Lecter, My Father, Native Agents Series/Semiotext(e) (1991). Acker was also a lecturer, playwright, performer, screenwriter and journalist. Among the many journalism pieces she wrote during the last year of her life (including interviews with the Spice Girls and another with William Burroughs) she wrote The Gift of Disease, an article chronicling her experience with breast cancer for the Guardian (Jan 1997). Kathy Acker died within eighteen months of the beginning of her quest for alternate treatments for her cancer. Her last days were spent in a cancer clinic in Tijuana, Mexico.

Pussy is presented in The Stairwell, a new gallery housed in an abandoned stairwell tucked behind SPACE’s main galleries. SPACE would like to thank Matias Viegener and the Kathy Acker Literary Trust for various permissions relating to this exhibition. We would also like to thank Simon Strong for his support.