Richard Kraft - In this wildly irreverent collage narrative, Kraft reassembles a Cold War comic about a Polish spy infiltrating the Nazis to orchestrate a multiplicity of voices into joyous cacophony. Like an Indian miniature painting, each comic book page is densely layered, collapsing foreground and background, breaking the frame and merging time
Richard Kraft, Here Comes Kitty: A Comic Opera. With interpolations by Danielle Dutton and a conversation with Ann Lauterbach. Siglio, 2015.
In this wildly irreverent collage narrative, artist Richard Kraft reassembles a Cold War comic about a Polish spy infiltrating the Nazis to orchestrate a multiplicity of voices into joyous cacophony. Like an Indian miniature painting, each comic book page is densely layered, collapsing foreground and background, breaking the frame and merging time. An unlikely and enormous cast of characters emerges as Kraft appropriates images and texts from an extraordinary variety of sources (the Amar Chitra Katha comics of Hindu mythology, Jimmy Swaggart’s Old and New Testament stories, the 1960s English football annual Scorcher, and underground porn comics like Cherry as well as images from art history, outdated encyclopedias, and more).
Proceeding from Thoreau’s observation, “Yes and No are lies. A true answer will not aim to establish anything, but rather to set all well afloat,” Kraft subverts all certainty to reconstruct a world constantly in flux, rich with dark humor and its own revelatory nonsense. Author Danielle Dutton’s set of sixteen interpolations punctuate the book using similar strategies of appropriation and juxtaposition to create texts that sing in the same arresting register as Kraft’s collages. Here Comes Kitty also includes a wide-ranging conversation between Kraft and poet Ann Lauterbach.
In which: a little boy wearing a red and gold batik dress asks us if we really want to know, and a rabbit yelps with alarming delight about the pussy ahead. Mid-leap. In this book like the best kind of fairytale: the kind that takes a dark turn by the middle of the first paragraph. “There was a woman in a fur coat with the face of an ugly bird,” we learn, understanding that things could go very wrong. There are poets, astrologers and narrators in “tailored pantsuits.” Poland and Illinois might inhabit the same sentence, as territories of doubt and birdsong. In this book that is also a “map for getting lost, for becoming a legend, a girl.” In which you might be presented an “ice-cream cornet,” or offered a cigarette recently removed from a sock. In Paris! There are sarcastic maids, who take one look at the party and announce it “fucked.” Yet you cannot look away. Or leave. Here Comes Kitty is a dark circus of the very best kind: bright “damage” on every page. It pierces the heart with its mixture of love and going. I am honored to speak in support of such an extraordinarily brilliant book.
When Richard Kraft asked me to collaborate on Here Comes Kitty: A Comic Opera (forthcoming from Siglio next March), I hadn’t seen any of the collages that would make up the bulk of the book; he simply told me about them over the phone. I jotted: “menagerie,” “alchemy,” and “putting heads on bodies.” Then, in the spirit of Cage and Cunningham, we worked together apart. Thank goodness, too, because if I’d seen these wild, bewildering, hilarious images beforehand I might have been stunned into silence. Kraft takes Kapitan Kloss, a pre-perestroika comic book about a Polish spy who infiltrates the Nazis, and bombs the plot with elephants on bicycles, white rabbits, Hindu goddesses, bugs, birds, a smattering of porn, and other interruptions. Yet amid the cacophony of collage, there is also, here, a baseline of story marching on: again and again the soldiers, the trucks. Isn’t it a natural impulse to want to follow that line? Soon we feel that even Kraft’s interruptions are gathering narrative force: again and again that rabbit, the goddesses’ hands. Yet as one page compels us to the next, each simultaneously becomes a universe of its own. Subverting becomes telling, bombs become themes, and narrative turns itself sideways, upside-down. As Copernicus said on his deathbed: “It moves!” Here’s a little peek.—Danielle Dutton
RICHARD KRAFT is an artist whose multidisciplinary works often use public spaces (library aisles, sides of buses, city streets, cow pastures, abandoned airforce bases) as well as converse with the literary (many of his works use language, book pages, and appropriated narratives as material). He is co-editing, with Joe Biel, the first complete volume of John Cage’s Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matter Worse), to be released by Siglio in fall, 2015. Previous publications include In the Air, a collaborative chapbook with Peter Gizzi, published by Manor House 2013, as well as work featured in Stonecutter, Short Fiction and BOMB Magazine, among other literary journals. His work has been shown nationally, including most recently a ten-channel video installation at the Laguna Art Museum. The City of West Hollywood has commissioned the largest iteration of his Walkers series to date: “100 Walkers, West Hollywood” will take place in April 2015. Kraft was born and raised in London, England and now lives in Los Angeles.
DANIELLE DUTTON is the author of SPRAWL (Siglio), Attempts at a Life (Tarpaulin Sky) and editor of Dorothy, a publishing project. Her work has appeared in Bomb, Harper’s, Fence, The Brooklyn Rail, Noon, jubilat, among other journals and magazines. She holds degrees from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of California-Santa Cruz, and the University of Denver where she was Associate Editor of the Denver Quarterly. She is currently a professor in the English Department at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri where she lives with her husband and son.
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