Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Friday, October 3, 2008


Chris Kraus: Plastic Is Leather, Fuck You (Films and Videos 1983-1995)
11 September – 18 October 2008

Chris Kraus is probably more known for her theoretical books than her experimental films. We have eight of the latter here - ranging in length from 5 mins to 90. Some are grainy, almost inaudible, replete with bad acting (mostly kiwi artists, cos they’ll do it for free), incoherently fragmented, and well past their use-by date. Yet there is good stuff. It is worth sifting through, but you need a lot of time. And buckets of stamina, because some of it dreadfully pretentious. It should be just literature. Being on film doesn’t help it.

My favourites are the Artaud films (Voyage to Rodez, and Fool Proof Illusion) which I’d rather listen to with my eyes shut, pretending they are radio docos. Anything to do with Artaud is interesting. He is like William Blake or Laurence Sterne – utterly astounding on all levels. “Original” doesn’t do him justice.

Of the rest, How to Shoot a Crime, with its chatty dominatrix and grisly corpses from police documentary films is a standout. Pretty good, provided you are stout hearted. And curious about when violence can go too far, when for some the pleasure/pain threshold is hard to determine.

What you should do before coming to ARTSPACE is look on You Tube at Martin Rumsby’s wonderful series of interviews with Kraus. Great material Rumsby has generously placed in the public domain. There are also sections of Kraus films online there too.

Before you leave your house though, read first the article by Sylvere Lotringer (Kraus’ hubby) on Artaud and Uccello in Midwest Five. (It should be in the Elam library). It is a good introduction to the complexities of Artaudian Gnosticism.(That and the famous Susan Sontag essay) Useful as background research.

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