Image by Toi & Moi
Unless you’re extremely married, I bet you can find two particular kinds of message in your email: the last sent to you before you finally slept with your correspondent, and the first sent afterward. They’re always so funny to read side by side, these two. They sit so close beside one another in the inbox, but they’re communiqués from different worlds. Of course, sometimes there’s no after-message, but that’s a story for another day.
I’m Very Into You: Correspondence 1995-1996 is a new volume of old emails passed between Kathy Acker and McKenzie Wark. You might know her by her silly soubriquet “literary terrorist,” him from media theory class, if you know them at all. Both of their bodies of work have retained a degree of hip obscurity. Acker and Wark are secret-society types: if you want people to think you’re smart and inaccessible you could do worse than dropping either of their names without any explanation, as if everybody should know. Kathy Acker isn’t famous, exactly, and Wark isn’t theory canon. But Acker and Wark’s niche fashionableness informs their relation to culture, and that is where this book derives its strange, urgent pertinence.
In 1995, Acker was touring in Australia, almost all of her major books already done. She was big in the way that avant-garde artists can be big: she was culty, glam, and cool. Acker embodies a lot of the things about 1990s femininity that are bang on trend right now: she was a tattooed confesser in silver jewellery and clompy boots, vocal about sex and vocal about vocalizing. In ‘95 Blood and Guts in High School and Great Expectations were selling pretty well. Wark was (and still is) a professor who thinks about screens and globalization and the way that we perceive events happening very far away via the little screens that are so close to us all the time. In 1995, Wark had just published Virtual Geography: Living With Global Media Events, a landmark achievement in media theory that made his name internationally, at least as far as such fame can go for an academic: one review was very positive, but referred to Wark as “she” throughout. Wark and Acker met in Sydney that year and, like so many human beings before them, didn’t stop at a kiss on the cheek. Two cool kids, tangled up. Plus ça change!
This book collects the after-messages following that short romance. The dialogue only spans a few weeks. Each email is timestamped, with Acker and Wark’s nerdy ‘90s email addresses repeated over and over again, page after page. They map the unwinding and rewinding and unwinding again of tension, attention, and affection, telling the story-about-nothing of the first truly great collection of electronic love letters.
“It’s So Great Coming Home To Your Message: On Kathy Acker and McKenzie Wark”, Josephine Livingstone, N+1