SCREENING | Ten Slotte 4: The Blue Tape

Het Bos | Ankerrui 5-7, 2000 Antwerpen (BE) |

21 DEC. 2019, 20:30


THE BLUE TAPE (1974) Kathy Acker & Alan Sondheim


In 1974, twenty-six-year-old writer Kathy Acker met poet and musician Alan Sondheim through a mutual friend in New York. Acker, visiting from San Francisco, went to Sondheim’s home for dinner. They spent twelve hours talking, “mainly about certain gestural and mental similarities we had both noticed that existed between us,” said Acker.


Back in San Francisco, she wrote to Sondheim proposing a collaboration: she wanted them to get to know one another, to explore intimacy as a conceptual project, to establish “complicated feedback relations.” Three weeks later, Acker was back in New York filming a series of scenes in Sondheim’s downtown loft that would become the fifty-four-minute black-and-white video Blue Tape.


As Chris Kraus describes it in her new biography of Acker, Blue Tape enacts a highly charged psycho-sexual drama. If Sondheim thinks they’re making a sex tape, Acker wants to explore her desire and her early memories. She wants Sondheim to play the role of her father. Sondheim protests: “You put things in a control situation so much of the time.” He tells her: “It’s very hard to know what are decisions about myself or what have been decided for me.”


A power struggle plays out. Between monologues, they bicker. Sondheim reads aloud from his philosophical work General Structure of the World. Then he massages Acker’s vulva. “You’re a very powerful person at this point,” he tells her. “And God knows, if you’re powerful now, what you’re gonna be like in a couple of years…. You’re gonna burn people. You’re gonna kill people, baby, you really are.” The piece ends with Sondheim struggling to deliver a coherent discourse while Acker gives him a blow job. It’s as if Acker’s enacting an alien takeover or daemonic possession of a host situation: a raid on the logical-philosophical masculine realm.