Magpies, comics, paradoxes, and the spirit of disruption.
DANIELLE DUTTON AND RICHARD KRAFT IN CONVERSATION
Leaps—the kind that ask you to embrace the sense in nonsense, to surrender, to let go of what you might expect in favor of what you might discover. There are few other artists and writers capable of the extraordinary leaps Danielle Dutton and Richard Kraft make both in their respective works and in their collaboration Here Comes Kitty: A Comic Opera. In this book, Kraft reassembles a Cold War-era comic book about a Polish spy infiltrating the Nazis, densely layering each collaged page with material from Amar Chitra Katha comics of Hindu mythology, Jimmy Swaggart’s Old and New Testament stories, the English football annualScorcher, and various images from art history, encyclopedias, and so forth. Frames are broken. Time collapses. The world is in flux. Dutton meanwhile, with masterly command, renders this ever-mutating world into language. Her sixteen “interpolations” punctuate Here Comes Kitty, and they are marvels of nimbleness and imagination. Here collision and juxtaposition may very well be more revealing than logical causation.
Danielle Dutton Where are you right now?
Richard Kraft I’m in my studio, downstairs. It’s the nicest I’ve ever had, pretty big, quite palatial by my standards.
DD Is it underground or …?
RK No, it looks out to the east, to the San Gabriel Mountains, with the city in the foreground.I’ve loved living in Los Angeles—it’s been fourteen years—but I’m ready for another move. I would love to live on the East Coast again, or even go back to Europe for a while.
DD I know you’re from England. How did you come to live in America?
RK I’ve moved around a lot actually. I lived in New York for five years and went to school there, then went back to England. I went to Ann Arbor for two years for graduate school, then moved to the Pacific Northwest. I like being a foreigner, particularly here in Los Angeles. I regularly look up and think, Wow, how did I end up here? It’s so alien. The landscape is completely different, so dry. You drive almost everywhere. It feels improbable to me. And I really like that sense of being on another planet somehow. I think it enables me to see both the place where I live and the one I’m from with fresh eyes.
DD I always feel, in Los Angeles, like dinosaurs might crawl out of the hills. Since I was little I’ve been obsessed with the La Brea Tar Pits. So what made you want to leave England?
RK I’m not even sure I knew I wanted to leave England. I just wanted to study art and photography, and my dad suggested I go to New York. This was in the early 1980s. At that time there were not many photography programs in England, and it was also very difficult there. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. Unemployment was high, the miners went on an epic strike, and the decade began and ended with huge riots. It was amazing to be eighteen years old and living in New York City. It was a great time to be there, but also weird. It was the beginning of AIDS.
DD And you came to study photography? Do you think of yourself as a photographer?
RK Not really.
DD Did you for a while?
RK I did, definitely. That was my way in, and it opened doors to many other things. I still teach photography, so I feel really connected to it, but over time it’s become part of my wider practice. I use it primarily as a way of collecting.
DD Collecting ideas?
RK Ideas, things. I think a lot of my work is rooted in things I collect that can be organized into taxonomies and then recontextualized. Here Comes Kitty is filled with them. So photography, for me, is a way of collecting the world really directly because it demands that one look at things in a very focused way.