Viewport width =
August 21, 2017 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

RE: Conceptual Romance

I was apprehensive to write about Chris Kraus. She seems to have become a bizarre receptacle for the projections of well-read white feminists. People feel compelled to mention Lena Dunham when talking about Kraus. The re-issued copy of I Love Dick resembles the opening credits of Girls. Lena Dunham gifted a copy of I Love Dick to Lorde. Women making fun of themselves used to be a sign of pathology, but “in an age of Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer, that doesn’t happen anymore,” wrote Elaine Blair in a New Yorker profile on Kraus last November, with zero irony. When Kraus spoke at City Gallery in May, a string of educated (art, literary) white women introduced her as one of their “heroes”. Later, interviewer Claire Murdoch said “one of the most magnificent inversions of this whole business, this whole accidental, extreme version of fame that your work has enjoyed, is that Sylvère Lotringer is a minor footnote in the Chris Kraus story, and quite an obscure one.” To which Kraus replied, “I would be very sad if that were the case.” We’re entrapped by the popular saturation of a very narrow idea of feminism. Is Kraus pleased that she’s now much more famous than her ex-husband? Is Paula Bennett a feminist? Are we really so fucking desperate?

Everything starts to mean nothing. So, instead, I decided to collaborate, to create with others. I asked some friends to write a letter to Dick.


Kia ora friends,

I am emailing because I think you share an interest/fascination in crushes/romance/sentimentality in the abstract (we’ve probably talked about this together already).

I am meant to be writing an article about Chris Kraus for Salient. Her only book I’ve read is I Love Dick, so I feel unqualified, and I’m not a book reviewer. Everything I have tried to write feels overwrought and reductive, and everything has already been said anyway. I’m suffocating from self-doubt and an already massive workload. So I’m outsourcing. But this isn’t totally a laziness thing. At a talk I went to in May, Kraus talked about the brilliance of an episode of the TV adaptation of I Love Dick, where three members of the support cast write their own “letters to Dick”, thus “jumping out of the book and into the phenomenon of the book.” I want to jump into the phenomenon of Dick.

To this end, I would love for you to write your own “letter to Dick”; a letter to a crush, a stranger or a close friend, past or present, drawn out or ephemeral, that was in some way symbolic or rupturous. I am really interested in particularity, and how the particular can tap into a universality (to encourage specificity, the letters will be anonymous, addressed to “Dick”). We haven’t had the same crushes, but we have felt the same. So this is not some shallow Cosmo piece. Crushes are not trivial. I am trying to do something here, with you.

If you haven’t read the book: for the Chris character, the événtal encounter with Dick sets in motion an entire re-evaluation of everything (this is a serious and vague over-simplification; the book is about heaps of things and a lot of it is quite genius). Her letters are to Dick, but, the feelings necessarily unrequited, they are really to herself. And isn’t this the essence of a crush? The person you have a crush on doesn’t exist; they are a fantasy. A crush is about you, it is not about them. A crush is objectifying. Once the person becomes real, the crush irrevocably turns into something else (a relationship? disgust?).

If this sounds like something you’re interested in: great, thank you! (If not, I understand). Let me know if you have any questions, let me know if you know anyone else who might be interested. Hopefully you will tap into some of the things I have mentioned, so there is some cohesion. But this is ultimately experimental.

I hope to hear from you soon.



Dear Dick (1),

I have been thinking about the Aenied and how Venus made Dido fall in love with Aeneas and how that was so unfair. I am really mad about it, like definitely one way to mess with someone’s life is to make them fall in love. Dido was doing so well and was so powerful and falling in love took away her power.

To be constantly heavily aware that someone else exists is so exciting and horrible, and everything becomes so much harder. I am so mad about Dido, it is one in the morning and I can’t sleep because you are online on Facebook and you might talk to me and I can’t log off in case you do.

I know you drive a red car and I every time I see a red car I get scared and I try and look nonchalant and like a dream girl standing on the side of the road. You will see me in slow motion and think, wow what a dream girl, but it is never you in the car.

I don’t smoke but when you offered me a cigarette I took it. My mouth tasted ashy the next morning and I hated it, but I liked that my mouth tasted like yours.

I almost don’t even want anything to happen. I want you be to constantly aware of my existence, I want to make out with you and then I think I want you to disappear. I think that if we sat in a room and laughed about how silly this all is, I feel like you would understand and really appreciate how self-aware I am.

I am trying to bury these feelings because I know nothing can happen. It is frustrating that I have grown so much in so many ways and my emotions have matured but when it comes to you I feel exactly like I did when I was at intermediate, like when I was in love with this boy and at the school disco I helped him hold hands with a girl who was much prettier and meaner than me. Maybe I just wanted him to be happy or maybe I was just looking for rejection. Those feelings took four years to fade.

I guess I will just wait for this feeling to fade and eventually be disappointed in myself for spending so much energy on thinking about you.


Dear Dick (2),

Were you the one that got away? Or is it just romantic because it never really happened? Why am I still thinking about you?

The timing was always off. When we first met I was insecure, cowardly; then, when I woke, you had moved on; our next shot came two years later, but I was with someone else, mistakenly perhaps. But this is all just another deflection.

Let me be more honest.

Have you read Tiqqun? They write that the subject is just a body affected by a particular form-of-life. Forms-of-life are fluid, in constant flux, they cannot be fixed as an identity. A form-of-life appears “in the irreducible event of its being-in-situation,” it appears in the enactment of one’s desire. “When, at a certain time and place, two bodies affected by the same form-of-life meet, they experience an objective pact, which precedes any decision. They experience community.” But, like forms-of-life, community is never fixed; it is flux and flow, constant movement. They write that “The community doesn’t exist. There is only community, community that circulates.”

Was our meeting just the experience of community, a fleeting pact between two bodies who shared a form-of-life? And is it necessary, then, that it should disappear? Or was it a missed opportunity, an instance of community not fully expressed? Did we fail to close the circle? Is that why you linger?

Or perhaps it’s that I’m more sentimental than Tiqqun. I can’t accept that theory of flux. I want to sustain community; I don’t really believe that it disappears. There is always a trace leftover,

a remainder.

Why are you still here, Dick? The same pattern has played out with others: fall, pull away, regret. “Fall” is an interesting word here, don’t you think? I “fall” for you, I lose “good sense,” am overcome with desire. But another fall comes later too: a movement that goes beyond the veil, a grand reveal that behind communion between bodies there is only void. This is the dissolution of fantasy, the dissolution of the fantasy that sustains communion.

What is this fantasy? It is the narrative that binds two bodies in their shared form-of-life, the story that makes sense of the attraction. A friend told me recently that the fantasy is always better, that, when it comes to crushes, you should keep the fantasy alive, not act. Maybe. Or maybe she is just hedging against the fall, hedging against the grand reveal.

Anyway Dick, you weren’t a crush; feelings were requited. Now, after another rupture, I find myself returning to you, returning to the thought of you.

20-year old you.

Sometimes I think I romanticise the past, those years from 15–21, years of becoming. My ex certainly thought so; she told me so. But maybe it’s just that you feel things more keenly then. And so I mourn the dwindling of those keener feelings. I mourn the loss of a sharper sensory experience.

But it goes further than that. With people, with other bodies, I imagine how I will remember them. I experience the present as I imagine I will remember it.

And I don’t buy the idea that it was romantic because it never really happened. That’s just a submission to the fear that utopia might not really exist. I’m not prepared for that,


So I think we will meet again, perhaps a different pair of bodies. But our shared form-of-life will experience that supposedly fleeting thing — community. Will we manage to sustain it? Either way you will continue to exist, love before the fall.


Dear Dick (3),

I dreamt about fucking you before I even realised I wanted to.

Starting with a dream seems appropriate. For the long, humiliating months I wanted you, I was in a near constant dream state; my dreams felt so real, while my waking life took on an increasingly unreal quality. This had nothing to do with you, though. It was my first depression. You were just a symptom.

It was best when it was just mine. I’d had unrealistic crushes before, and there is safety in pure fantasy; there is control. I just wanted to be around you, I didn’t need you to want me. I didn’t even really want you to — infidelity isn’t sexy, just sad.

But, then.

An advance and a withdrawal. You committed to neither. Couldn’t you have just let me keep it, all mine? You ruined it, the fantasy made tangible, but as an abject mutation. If you’d just left it alone it would have eventually exhausted itself. Or if you’d taken me to your dirty bedroom, clumsily taken my clothes off, by the morning everything would have shattered and we could have gone on with our lives. Or if you had just acknowledged it (whatever it was, because it was something), that would have been enough too, to end it all. It was still just mine, but your interjection alienated me from it. It wasn’t fun anymore, but it was compulsive. Empty jouissance. What was in it for you?

Now, I think we must have both been depressed. There is a double violence in a crush: the first, the unsolicited imposition of amorous feelings; the second, the eventual shattering of the fantasy. Violence towards you turned around on myself. You were never going to be the panacea for my sadness. Now, with the clarity of hindsight and emotional stability, it all makes me cringe; but I miss that thrill of desperation.

The last dream. A huge expanse of glowing white space. I was completely alone, but somehow you were still there, formless. It was warm.


Dear Dick (4),

The other day I saw an Instagram story with you in it. It was on my friend Kathleen’s Instagram story. You were in the US singing a karaoke version of “All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem. There was nothing incidental about this moment. It engulfed me with both shame and sadness. I felt like sinking into my bed like I was in Videodrome. Suddenly I had the thought that the world seems so structured by money, sadness, and shame. I thought about something you messaged me, “…Just you weren’t the only one being intense and projecting onto this situ maybe!”

I thought about the time differences between us. I was looking at this at 2:28:35 Wellington time, while it was 22:28:35 East Coast time. It’s interesting the way time situates our bodies. I can see your body thousands of miles away, across oceans, but you can never see mine anymore. I’m sorry I blocked you on social media, it seemed like the healthiest thing to do. My irrational desire for validation from you, the “great” American-based “curator” who “made it”, blinded me from the reality of my unhappiness. Perhaps you were unhappy too?

I feel like you saw right through this immediately. Maybe you found my unhappiness comforting? I keep thinking about this quote I read by Simone Weil, “All human beings are bound by identical obligations, although these are performed in different ways according to circumstance.” Time binds us or tricks us into following a particular mode of social embodiment don’t you think? The more I age the more my body seems less like my own. I read somewhere once that being on the pill is like being a cyborg; you are literally controlling your biology. I always think about the way we use medications to manipulate our biological makeup. I take a Zoloft therefore I’m chemically balanced. I thought a lot about the process of my body’s cyborgisation. I remember watching a documentary about anorexics (while severely anorexic), where they drip fed them, forcing them to eat, because they refused. Their illness had taken hold of their bodies. I wonder often if they were trying like I was to absolve the body of all kinds of embodiment and sink out of their body and transcend. Have you ever heard of Saint Catherine of Siena? She stopped eating to be closer to God. She was told to eat but couldn’t, and described her inability to eat as an infermità (illness). She had had a vision where she took Christ’s foreskin as a ring and they were married.

It’s weird how our use of time is designed to follow a very chrononormative pattern and is organised towards maximum productivity.  I think often about time in relation to chrononormativity, or the notion that our paths unfold in a timely pattern that’s obviously completely prescribed to us by the dominant monoculture. Is the chrononormative conception of reproduction the only way to progress through life? At times it’s difficult to relate to the idea of simply popping a baby out, getting the right job to go onto the next right job to buy the house. If I ever had a child would they experience the same kinds of alienation I had in terms of intergenerational trauma? Would I pass my sadness on to the baby? Would colonisation hurt the baby like it’s hurt me? We seemed set up to fail, but you don’t even have a student loan so how could you possibly relate to me?

I read this essay you wrote on the overinflation of the “importance of curatorial labour.” I largely agreed with it, but then struggled with the notion that these social ecologies appeared “formless.” Perhaps they are in terms of the ecology of capital and labour within our specific industry, but they are still tied to the Western monoculture, thereby to structures of power and oppression or the intersection between colonialism and capitalism. They are pretty transparently linked to power. I still think about the power imbalance in our series of online communication. I remember the trickles of sweat that poured down my body when I sent you a voice message over Facebook. What would you think of my voice? I have always been ashamed of how deep it is, perhaps you found it endearing? Would it sound cyborgised?

It’s obvious to me though that there is never “just power.” I love what Weil says about power, you should read her, you’d like her. “…There is never just power, but mostly a race for power, and there is no term, no limit, no proportion set to this race… Thus the race for power enslaves everybody, strong and weak alike.” It’s a race. It’s a game and who you are really matters. It’s like being an athlete, or rather an aesthlete.

I saw this quote once where this character named Sylvie wondered whether who you were at six is who you are destined to always be. I’m jealous of your whiteness and of your maleness, but also of the mobility embedded within your class; you can escape, while I am trapped desperately trying to escape the cycles of unhappiness that have chased me all my life. I still resent you over this, but I was always just projecting and I’m still very sorry.



About the Author ()

Comments are closed.

Recent posts

  1. VUW Halls Hiking Fees By 50–80% Next Year
  2. The Stats on Gender Disparities at VUW
  3. Issue 25 – Legacy
  4. Canta Wins Bid for Editorial Independence
  5. RA Speaks Out About Victoria University Hall Death
  6. VUW Hall Death: What We Know So Far
  8. New Normal
  9. Come In, The Door’s Open.
  10. Love in the Time of Face Tattoos

Editor's Pick

Uncomfortable places: skin.

:   Where are you from?  My list was always ready: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, puppy dogs’ tails, a little Spanish, maybe German, and—almost as an afterthought—half Samoan. An unwanted fraction.   But you don’t seem like a Samoan. I thought you were [inser

Do you know how to read? Sign up to our Newsletter!

* indicates required