KEEP IT DIRTY, vol. a., “Filth” (2018)
AN INTERVIEW WITH KATE DURBIN
+ AN EXCERPT FROM THE NEW BOOK: HOARDERS
Christian Hite, ed.
Repetition, when it becomes aware of itself, promotes the collapse, as it shows the cracks in the structures we have built for ourselves. In the most hopeful way, I want to promote the collapse.
CH —For readers not familiar with your work—and as an initial attempt to contextualize it for myself as well—I would venture to say that your writing technique seems similar to that perhaps first utilized by Andy Warhol in “his” “novel,” a, A Novel (1968). And I place the words “his” and “novel” in quotation marks, of course, because Warhol’s “novel” (if it is one, and if it is indeed his— and those are some of the questions radically provoked by it) was actually fabricated by his assistants who began the process of its “composition” (if that’s the right word) by simply tape-recording conversations happening around the “Factory” (Warhol’s NYC studio) during a 24-hour period and then transcribing these series of tape-recorded conversations word-for-word on manual typewriters. (And it is important to note, I think, this Warholian emphasis on recording technologies, which I hope to return to.) Now, this “novel” (a) “authored” by “Andy Warhol” (whatever all this means, all of these seemingly self-evident and naturalized notions of “authorship,” “work,” and “identity” getting called into question by a) seems to pre-date the more recent so-called “conceptual writing” (“Flarf”) of, say, Kenneth Goldsmith, whose work, for example, consists of literal word-for-word transcriptions of telephone books, traffic reports, and so on.
These “conceptual” texts (and I would hesitantly include your texts here as well ) go even further than those of someone like Kathy Acker, who, while also utilizing in a kind of “plagiaristic” sampling technique (e.g., Great Expectations ) did not practice the kind of sheer machinic Warholian transcriptions we’re talking about here, and, thus, to my mind, Acker remained—despite the “postmodern,” “post-punk” tags of her work—a rather conventional neo-Romantic in the end, i.e., in the lineage of Beat writers like William Burroughs and his famous “cut-up technique.”
So, as a first stab, does this seem like a fair (if decidedly “male”) contextualization of your work? And, second, can you perhaps speak a bit about your own “formation as a writer”—i.e., the key epiphanies, influences (writers, theorists), and/or experiences, etc., that led you to your form of conceptual writing, if that’s the right word for it (I know, for instance, in other interviews, you’ve referred to your texts—no doubt strategically—as “literary television,” thus perhaps undermining certain masculinist, high-brow connotations of “conceptual writing”). In other words, I imagine you started out—like most of us—trying to “express yourself” in some undergraduate “creative writing” workshop. If so, how did you end up at E! Entertainment (2011), or, now, your most recent book, the forthcoming HOARDERS? Is E! a response to a (Figs.1-2)?
KD — I began writing as a child. The first story I wrote, when I was about seven, was The Fish Family’s Troubles, about a family of fish who walked upright like humans under the sea. After that I wrote series, which mimicked my favorite books such as the Little House series, but with wild historical inaccuracies. I wrote because I enjoyed it and because it gave me a sense of power. I was often frustrated by my lack of power as a child. No one ever suggested to me to start writing—I was always coming up with ways to entertain myself back then, as my parents left me to my own devices a lot. I think it was good for me to begin writing in this way, as an unsupervised child simply entertaining myself, because it gave me a sense of artistic freedom I have never lost.
Of course, I grew up and took those writing workshops you mentioned, and while some of the undergraduate ones were helpful in terms of basic craft skills, the MFA ones were kind of brutal as I wasn’t doing what my peers were doing and so my work was torn to shreds a lot. And yet I think it only took some experimental poetry anthology my professor Juan Felipe Herrera assigned for me to realize that anything formally was possible in poetry and so was any subject matter. I started writing about popular culture, as I’d always found it fascinating. I remember asking my other teacher Chris Abani, who eventually published my thesis manuscript The Ravenous Audience with Akashic Books, if there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t writing these lyrical, memoir-poems everyone else was writing. He laughed and said that I was just “ahead” of them, which I don’t necessarily agree with—but I knew then that I had a different approach to writing than some of my peers. I don’t write “what I know” but rather writing is for me a process of discovery. My approach is almost anthropological in a way, except it’s not distanced or objective (quite the opposite). I’m just not very interested in my personal life as a subject for my writing. I like to lose myself when I make art, and to connect with the world around me.
I’ve forgotten when exactly the idea for E! Entertainment came to me. I know I had a sense of what conceptual writing was at that point, but I also don’t think my work—which as you noted I call literary television—fits under that umbrella. I relate to Warhol only insofar as we both take pop culture seriously as fodder for fine art. But, unlike Warhol, the labor falls entirely on me, and E! was incredibly labor-intensive. The process of watching the reality shows is most similar to meditation, as I am practicing what I call “close watching,” and feeling a lot of emotions as I connect with the people onscreen. It took me hours to transcribe just minutes of television. And then I crafted and changed what I saw in minute detail. So, it’s all very intense and there’s no sense of pawning off the work onto anyone else. I would never have an assistant write my books.
I do have something in common with Acker—who I love—and that is that the process is as important as the end result for me. However, the end result does matter with my books, which is not the case for some conceptual writing (not talking about Acker here, but Goldsmith), which is about the idea of the book and not the actual reading of the book. And I think maybe particularly as a woman artist, this idea of someone thinking they get my books without reading them is just so appalling to me, it feels like a continuation of the whole history of women’s art being neglected and denigrated.
CH — Well, your comments make me question whether “automatic writing”—from André Breton and the Surrealists to contemporary conceptualists like Kenneth Goldsmith—is a male fantasy that can only ever be uneasily suited to women writers, given the cultural history of female transcription in the figure of the secretary (“assistant”), whose primary job, like a writing machine, was simply to copy down, word-for-word, the thoughts and ideas of her (male) master—adding nothing to the process. Notwithstanding all the skill of shorthand dictation and techniques of typewriting that actually constituted the profession, the repeated trope of the secretary taking dictation (Figs. 3-6) seems to overdetermine any notion of automatic female transcription; hence, perhaps, your allergic reaction to the idea of “assistants” writing your texts for you—with you adding nothing to the process.
And yet, transcription—while perhaps not “automatic”—is indeed at the heart of your process (as you mention above), both in your previous book, E! Entertainment, and in your new book, HOARDERS—a labor-intensive practice you call “close watching.” It’s interesting that you underscore the labor of transcription while, for someone like Warhol, becoming a copy-machine meant breaking with precisely the image of the macho (male) artist heroically struggling with their “work.” Think, for example, of Abstract-Expressionist action painters, like Jackson Pollock, sweaty, angst-ridden, alone, in contrast to the sort of cool, detached, inhuman stance of Warhol, chewing gum and drinking a Coke. Indeed, at the time, Warhol (and Pop art) was critiqued not just for being complicit with capitalism, but for being too easy. The queer gesture of Warhol (and, again, this is perhaps possible only for a male artist) was to embrace this too-easy realm of automatic female transcription, including, of course, as you mention above, “mass culture” (comics, movies, television, junk food, rock-n-roll), a realm not only coded as female, but as “trash” (worthless garbage).
Such an embrace of “trash” (“mass culture as woman: modernism’s other,” as Andreas Huyssen has called it), not only resonates with the concerns of KEEP IT DIRTY, vol. a., “Filth,” but, obviously, strikes a chord with your work as well, concerned, as it has been, with “reality TV” (a Warholian term, if there ever was one), and other pop spaces considered “shallow, commercial, irredeemable trash.” But if E! Entertainment was concerned more with what we might call the “filthy rich” (the Kardashians, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, etc.), your new book, HOARDERS, seems more concerned with what we might call “white trash,” or, perhaps, the “dirt poor.” I’m wondering if you, too, are conscious of these different iterations of “trash” (and/or “filth”) in your writing, particularly with the new book, HOARDERS, which seems, at times, more critical and satirical in tone? I know, in previous interviews, you’ve nicely nuanced your stance vis-à-vis “reality TV” away from simple “critique.” As you point out:
Critique is a part of my work, but it’s not the ultimate goal. Critique or satire suggests this separate mind reproaching something, even though it can be a loving reproach. I want to challenge myself to move beyond that to the ways in which we are not better than the Kardashians, but rather how we collude with them to create a world where Kardashians are our Queens and we their worker bees in a dazzling, dying hive.
And yet, it seems to me that a satirical—almost humorous, or absurdist—tone is established in HOARDERS, precisely through the selection and juxtaposition of certain transcribed details which, although generated by the television show itself (and thus not your own) are, nevertheless, as you note, not automatic either, but carefully composed. A similar thing seems to be happening with Dennis Cooper’s recent GIF “novels,” fabricated (in collaboration with Zac Farley) completely from found digital GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format), which he scours the Internet for. Cooper, in fact, is adamant about only using found GIFs, since, for him, GIFs form a kind of impersonal language which he then arranges. As with your texts, then, any “authorial voice” would seem to emerge only in the selection and juxtaposition of things, although, to be clear, you are not actually sampling televisual imagery (like the digital GIFs that Cooper and Farley work with), but rather transcribing TV shows into written text, inevitably filtering and mediating them for your readers (not that watching them “live” would be somehow immediate or unfiltered; the Rodney King beating tape, for example, is just one illustration of how no televisual image ever arrives immediate and self-evident). So, although you compare “close watching” to meditation above, and suggest that your practice is “anthropological” (while disclaiming the problematic assumptions of “objectivity” that have dogged that discipline), perhaps this is an opportunity to elaborate further on what we might call the “politics of close watching”?
KD — I should clarify that my concept of close watching has evolved since I wrote E! While it includes elements of transcription, HOARDERS does not remain so strictly faithful to the show in the same ways E! did. Close watching is for me about inhabiting the world of the show. It is a quality of attention more than anything else.
As for your question about the politics of close watching, I’d like to turn that question a bit and ask what are the politics of spectatorship in general? What responsibility do viewers have to the people they are watching onscreen? These are questions I consider while close watching, while writing.
My recent artwork has a more obvious element of critique or alarm in it, and I think that has a lot to do with the political moment we are in, with Trump as president. But it’s always there. With E! one critic wrote that I “forced the show to perform its own critique in a way the show alone does not.” I think that is a good way of thinking about that book. With HOARDERS it is more obvious upon first reading that I am the one juxtaposing the objects and the dialogue, and here is what I think of America, too. It felt necessary to do it that way with this book, I think in part because of the sensitivity of the subject matter.
Initially I thought that maybe E! would be about the rich and HOARDERS about the poor, as you said, but hoarding is a more ubiquitous problem than that, one that crosses class boundaries. There are rich and poor hoarders in the book. My book deals with hoarding’s roots in American consumer capitalism, exploitation of the natural world, and our history of colonization, of unhealed cultural trauma. Part of why I was drawn to it as subject matter was precisely because it is such a ubiquitous condition.
I really like that you and I share a resonance with the idea of trash, of filth. Obviously HOARDERS deals with trash in the most literal of ways, and I think this impulse people who hoard feel to rescue and redeem “trash” is one I relate to in my work. Trash is, after all, a concept, a label placed on something, it is a way of seeing. Anything that people are so dismissive of makes me feel curious and tender toward it.
CH — Yes, what’s fascinating about the supposed “filthy rich”/“dirt poor” binary (which I didn’t mean to reify in my question above—quite the contrary) is precisely the way it breaks down due to the slipperiness of the “concept”—and I’d even write (non-)concept—of “trash” (or “filth”) at its heart, so that you can have a piece of “trash” (a broken urinal—rechristened Fountain by Marcel Duchamp) become the epitome of “high art,” or even a can of the artist’s own shit (Piero Manzoni’s uncanny precedent to Warhol’s soup cans [Fig. 7]) become a “work of art,” collected in “art museums,” and studied by art students at prestigious institutions, many of whom themselves the children of the “filthy rich,” etc., etc.
Or, in a more recent example, you have the Historical Preservation Society in Los Angeles worried about saving the Playboy Mansion from demolition, a place founded on “pornography” (“dirty magazines”), and, later, of course, the backdrop of the “reality TV” show, The Girls Next Door (2005-2010), featured prominently in your book, E! Entertainment. Again, like Kathy Acker, your work—and here I’m also thinking of your online performance pieces, like Cloud 9 (2015)—seems to put into question the very distinction of “art”/“porn” in its trashy interrogations (more on this later perhaps).
But with HOARDERS, now, there’s the added issue of what we might call the pathologization and/or criminalization of certain forms of “collecting.” Thus, “hoarding” is to “collecting” what the “alcoholic” is to the “wine connoisseur” (sommelier)—it’s as if something has gone excessive and out-of-control in the former, while the latter continues to enjoy a certain prestige and cultural capital. So, while Manzoni’s Artist’s Shit (1961) becomes a treasured “artwork,” the rancid bottles of piss and buckets of shit overflowing the home of “Hannah,” in the poem of the same name from your collection, HOARDERS (based upon the A&E “reality TV” show of the same name), becomes a public health crisis and grounds for psychiatric intervention. And yet, at the same time, the very ubiquity of “hoarding, as you point out, would seem to call much of this into question. For example, isn’t Trump (or any millionaire) a “hoarder” of money? And what is a “library”? or an “art museum”? So many cultural institutions, as you suggest, are the by-products of colonialization as a history of “hoarding” artifacts. So much so that Walter Benjamin—a notorious “collector” (“hoarder”) himself—once wrote: “There is no document of culture which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.”
Which leads me to my question: Do you consider writing a form of “hoarding”? And, if so, what does this do to our image of “the writer”? I gave the example earlier of Dennis Cooper scouring the Internet for GIFs, and the promotional poster for the TV show, HOARDERS, explicitly links “hoarding” to a certain materiality of textual production and consumption by featuring stacks and stacks of indistinguishable texts (books? newspapers? litter? junk mail?), piled up as if in some mysterious order (a “collection” of texts?) (See Fig. 8).
In his essay, “All Power to the Pack Rats! Ikea and Apple’s War on ‘Hoarders’” (2015), Ian Svenonius takes this linkage a step further, arguing that the “sleek and clean” ideologies of Apple and Ikea promote a hygienic image of the future free of all “attachment and clutter.” Adopting a mock-conspiratorial tone, Svenonius asks:
Why would one have a bookshelf when Google has taken all the book content in the world to be dispersed through its beneficent magnanimity? Books are heavy, dirty, dusty, and disintegrate into your lungs. Why should there be encyclopedias when there is the wiki-world? And so on. Why should there be record stores [ . . . ] The cyberlords want it all destroyed. The library must be cleaned of nasty old books and filled with computers. The record collector must renounce his or her albums and replace them with an iPod.
And those who violate this regime are publicly shamed: “The hit TV show HOARDERS (A&E) identifies people with things as socially malignant, grotesque, primitive, dirty, bizarre” (CN 44), writes Svenonius. Yet, in the end, even Svenonius finds redemption in the “hoarder”: “a burp of resistance. A clue to a way out. A signal that life doesn’t actually depend on high-speed Internet access” (CN 47). When you speak of an “impulse to redeem” (above) is this what you have in mind? Is “hoarding” really a “problem” that needs to be “cured”? “redeemed”? Or, as in the epigraph I chose for this interview, is there perhaps in “hoarding” a kind of repetition that, in becoming aware of itself, promotes the collapse?
KD — Of course the people on the show HOARDERS are in real crisis and need help. That is its own issue. But I think through repetition in my artwork—which is not same thing as the show— we as readers can see larger patterns emerge. We can maybe consider how hoarding is a trauma-response, and how those traumas are not simply individual, but collective and cultural. I am a fan of David Smail, who took a social materialist approach to psychological distress. His basic premise was that depression and other forms of mental illness are deeply rooted in society’s structural problems and inequities and at least partly caused by these problems. It’s not a coincidence that many of the people who hoard are veterans, with PTSD. Are we collectively not partly responsible for their hoarding? I think we are.
It is particularly meaningful to me as a US American to deal with collective issues in my work, to focus on larger social patterns, because we are such an individualist country. We don’t want to see ourselves as collective, or interdependent. We are more interested in our differences. But our differences are only one part of the picture.
Also, I think you’ve said something very important about wealth hoarding, in the case of Trump (or other millionaires/billionaires like Jeff Bezos). The problem of excess, of never having enough, is one that permeates our culture in a lot of forms, some socially acceptable and others less so. But it is deeply embedded in the American way of life and really none of us get away from it and its effects.
CH — Yes, there’s a kind of radical complicity to “hoarding” (we’re all involved), and yet, when it comes to “art” and our image of “the writer,” we are perhaps more likely to valorize, say, the “writer-as-curator” more than we are the “writer-as-hoarder,” precisely because of a certain pathologization of the latter (the museum “curator,” for example, does not carry the same baggage of “trauma”). Which reminds me of the work of Mike Kelley, and particularly his “collection” of thrift-store stuffed animals, often piled-up on quilts (Fig. 9).
Kelley explicitly notes that he began “hoarding” these objects in the 1980s—but, when exhibited in the museum, critics interpreted this work as a product of “trauma,” specifically childhood sexual abuse. As Kelley explains:
When I first started buying craft objects it was because they were, obviously, gifts. I was interested in gift-giving. Artists were going on about this in the art world at the time—the artwork, as gift, was supposed to be an escape from the commodification of art. So I began buying things that I recognized were made by hand . . . . I started hoarding them . . . . [But] people went on about how the work was about child abuse. What was my problem? Why was I playing with these toys? Had I been abused? Was I a pedophile? I didn’t understand what they were talking about.
It’s not simply that Kelley hoarded objects, however, but that he hoarded “cute” objects: “[s]uch objects have signifiers of cuteness—big eyes, big heads, baby proportions” (MK). Similarly, your work (including your public persona) has been saturated, if I may say so, with a certain “cuteness.” From Hello Kitty to Disney. Photos from your recent Hello Selfie performances (2014-2015), for example, reveal Hello Kitty stickers, iPhones, and (if I’m not mistaken) allusions to The Little Mermaid (Figs. 10-11). Perhaps it’s less risky for a woman artist to negotiate with “cuteness” (toys and dolls) without being called a pedophile (Kelley), but certainly girls in the US seem to be more embedded within a “regime of cuteness.” One would think that this aspect of your work (“cuteness”) might disappear with your new book, HOARDERS, and yet perhaps it’s just differently inflected. In the poem, “Shelley,” for instance, from HOARDERS, we encounter thousands of Barbies—from Swan Lake Ballerina Barbie to Astronaut Barbie (and the list goes on), piles and piles of them. Here it’s as if “cuteness,” through repetition, through excess, discloses a dark ambivalence that was perhaps always already “there.” Indeed, in her work on “The Cuteness of the Avant-Garde (2005), Sianne Ngai links this ambivalence of “cuteness” to an aestheticization of powerlessness. As she puts it:
Cuteness is a way of aestheticizing powerlessness. It hinges on a sentimental attitude toward the diminutive and/or weak, which is why cute objects—formally simple or noncomplex, and deeply associated with the infantile, the feminine, and the unthreatening—get even cuter when perceived as injured or disabled. So there’s a sadistic side to this tender emotion . . . . Cuteness is also a commodity aesthetic with close ties to the pleasures of domesticity and easy consumption.
In fact, in HOARDERS, “cuteness” is often embodied by a (disabled) diminutive, domestic object —a “ceramic Christmas tree with a jagged hole at the top”; a “dusty ceramic bunny with one paw in the air”; “an upside down rocking horse”—but more often than not this diminutive, domestic object is also smeared with shit—a “rat piss stained, lace-fringed, heart-shaped pillow”; a “Cabbage Patch doll with mouse droppings in its yellow yarn hair”; a “filthy Olaf the snowman oven mit.”
So, I’m wondering to what extent you see HOARDERS as a break with your long-standing interrogation of “cuteness” (Disney, Hello Kitty, etc.), or, perhaps, more of a continuation, or something else? In Ngai’s essay on “The Cuteness of the Avant-Garde,” she focuses particularly on the Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami. And it was a Japanese company, Sanrio, of course, that also invented the iconic Hello Kitty and its massive cultural apparatus of “cuteness.” Obviously, Hello Kitty has become a complex signifier for you—the “Kitty,” connotating “Pussy,” is often placed over your crotch (Fig. 11), etc. So, perhaps along with the “aestheticization of powerlessness” (Ngai), we should also speak of an “eroticization of powerlessness”?
KD — Hello Selfie is a very cute work. Maybe even gruesomely so, with all the stickers like growths on our bodies. I like how Ngai draws a connection between cuteness and violence, though I don’t see cute things as inherently powerless, necessarily. Cute things being violent is unnerving to people. They expect them to be powerless, but they are not, they just have a different sort of power. They have the power of revenge. I’m thinking here of Annabelle the haunted doll, or Chucky. I don’t see the Hello Selfie girls as powerless. Other people might interpret the piece differently. The girls are practicing the female gaze in public. Are they just doing it for clicks and likes? Does it all lead back to the male gaze ultimately? Maybe, or maybe they don’t give a fuck.
HOARDERS is grotesque and cute at the same time. The people on the show had a lot of cute stuff in their homes, and most of it was covered in dirt and shit. The poem you mentioned about Vicky, she collects Victoriana, buying cute and pretty things because they are comforting. She imagines a past era that in her mind was perfectly ordered, and committed to beauty. Of course the real Victorian era was not really like that; it too was quite gross particularly with hygiene and illness, ironically. But Vicky’s had a hard life and she dreams of a better one, a world that made sense. Cuteness can be a balm for the soul. But all her trauma can’t be held at bay by the cute things. So the shit comes through.
Interview conducted June-July, 2018.
* * *
The following poems, “Vicky” and “Shelley,” are taken from Kate Durbin’s book, HOARDERS, forthcoming from Gramma.
 “The Rumpus Interview with Kate Durbin,” by Lauren Eggert-Crowe, The Rumpus (October 31, 2012). Online. http://therumpus.net/2012/10/the-rumpus-interview-with-kate-durbin/
 On the new “conceptual writing,” see Vanessa Place and Robert Fitterman, Notes on Conceptualisms (Brooklyn: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2009). See also, Brian Kim Stefans, Conceptual Writing: The L.A. Brand (Los Angeles: Area Sneaks, 2014), a text whose focus on contemporary Los Angeles-area writers includes several paragraphs on Kate Durbin. As Stefans notes of her second book, E! Entertainment, “Durbin maintains [a] practice of close viewing while deleting her authorial role nearly entirely. Most of the chapters, with titles like ‘Wives Shows,’ ‘Kim’s Fairytale Wedding,’ ‘Anna Nicole Show,’ and ‘Dynasty,’ are transcriptions of the events and dialogue of reality TV shows involving female celebrities rendered with an artless simplicity and obsessive devotion to what, in this Möbius strip of ‘reality’ and ‘fiction,’ can only be called the ‘facts’” (12).
 [See Kate Durbin, The Ravenous Audience (New York: Akashic Books, 2009). -Ed.]
 I have written about this elsewhere. See Christian Hite, “The Art of Suicide: Notes on Foucault and Warhol,” October 153 (Summer 2015): 64-95. .
 See Andreas Huyssen, “Mass Culture as Woman: Modernism’s Other,” in After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), 44-64.
 “Fame and Feminism: An Interview with Kate Durbin,” by Lindsey Davis, Art21 Magazine (July 12, 2016). Online. http://magazine.art21.org/2016/07/12/fame-and-feminism-an-interview-with-kate-durbin/#.WwyYHC_MxmA
 See Durbin, E! Entertainment, 46-56. See also Beatriz Preciado, Pornotopia: An Essay on Playboy’s Architecture and Biopolitics (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014).
 See Walter Benjamin, “On the Concept of History” , trans. Harry Zohn, in Selected Writings, Volume 4 (1938-1940), eds. Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2003), 392.
 Ian Svenonius, “All Power to the Pack Rats! Ikea and Apple’s War on ‘Hoarders,’” in Censorship Now!! (New York: Akashic Books, 2015), 45-46. Hereafter cited in the text as CN.
 [See, for example, David Smail, Power, Interest, and Psychology: Elements of a Social Materialist Understanding of Distress (Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books, 2005); and How to Survive Without Psychotherapy (New York: Routledge, 2018). —Ed.]
 See Sianne Ngai, “Our Aesthetic Categories: An Interview with Sianne Ngai,” by Adam Jasper, in Cabinet 43 (2011). Online. http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/43/jasper_ngai.php. See also Sianne Ngai, “The Cuteness of the Avant-Garde,” Critical Inquiry 31.4 (Summer 2005): 811-847, republished in Sianne Ngai, Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Interesting, Cute (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2012), 53-109.
KATE DURBIN is a Los Angeles-based artist and writer. Her books include HOARDERS (Gramma, forthcoming), E! Entertainment (Wonder), The Ravenous Audience (Akashic Books), and the collaboration ABRA (1913 Press). ABRA is also a free, interactive iOS app that is “a living text,” which won the 2017 Turn On Literature Prize for electronic literature. The project was partly funded by an NEA grant from the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago. Kate’s novella Kim’s Fairytale Wedding (Cute Killa Press) was recently translated to Spanish and published in Mexico/Spain. In 2015, she was the Arts Queensland Poet-in-Residence in Brisbane, Australia. In 2017-2018 she was a Digital Studies fellow with Rutgers-Camden University.
Currently, she is a Visiting Professor in the English Department at Whittier College.