PRINT December 2018


Dodie Bellamy

In The Assassination of Kathy Acker (Guillotine), artist and writer Matias Viegener chronicles and grapples with Kathy Acker’s death as well as with her legacy. Viegener, who was close to Acker but never lived in the same city as she did, attended to her on her deathbed and agreed to become her literary executor. Acker’s dying consumes Viegener. Of sitting beside her in the hospital he writes: “She is so absolute to me. Every pore of me reads every pore of her. I read her with a passion beyond sex. I see everything. We’re merged.” The two enter into a sort of spiritual marriage. Although he’s gay, Viegener loves Acker so intensely he fantasizes cannibalizing her or—through some high-tech Frankensteinian procedure—harvesting her eggs and fertilizing them with his sperm, creating duplicate Kathys who would go on to write more texts, thus assuring her survival.

Viegener doesn’t skimp on the terrible materiality of Acker’s cancer, her heartbeat so erratic that the monitor is turned away from the bed so as not to frighten her. Horror, beauty, and desire meld, and Viegener enters a state of wonder in which linear time and logic hold little sway. He rethinks Acker’s notorious penchant for lying, and realizes that the rational pales before the larger truths of her mythic vision. He considers the relationship between executor and author to be a commitment rich with categorical crises, as are all great romances. He also notes that executor and executioner share a common root: Only by giving away his beloved can he stave off Acker’s obliteration.

Dodie Bellamy is the subject of the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts’s 2018–19 On Our Mind program. Her most recent collection of prose, When the Sick Rule the World, was published by Semiotext(e) in 2015.