Chris Kraus


— Thursday, August 7th 2008, Punta Banda. Quiet this summer on the peninsula – bad US ‘economy’ plus weekly TV reports about car-jackings and kidnappings around the border. “You take your life in your hands going down there,” someone told me. In fact it’s much riskier here for the middle class Mexicans. Miguel Pabloff, who owns the campo I stay at, resigned from his post as mayor of Maneadero because of threats to his family, and there are regular kidnappings of local business owners. The guy who owns two Pemex gas stations in Maneadero was kidnapped and ransomed for $100,000 by his family … the owner of a local flower farm was kidnapped and murdered. “It’s the Colombians,” everyone says, “they are crazy.” The common belief is that Mexican narcos would stop short of murder – mutilation, okay, but symbolic, not fatal. During last year’s assembly election, the incumbent’s campaign manager was seized outside his office, bound, gagged and blindfolded, and finally released with his boss’s nickname cut into his face with a razor.

La Jolla Beach

Still, for us summer residents, it’s blissfully quiet. There are still a disturbing number of jellyfish washed up on the beach, but not as many as last year. And no red tide this year, no sting-rays.

Miguel Pabloff with his father Alejandro Pabloff

Working on a novel about states of mind in underclass Bush America, I’ve been trying to learn more about psychoanalysis and therapy … the disciplines that, presumably, directly address daily forms of personal pain, numbness. I ask a few friends in this field what the new treatments are. Has anyone in the last 20 years undertaken transpositions of theory to clinical practice on the order of R.D. Laing’s Kingsley Hall or Felix Guattari’s Le Borde? The answers that come back surprise me. I’m referred to a website for Social Dreaming ™, a group of mostly-British psychoanalysts who contract “dream workshops” to large corporations. They claim to have successfully resolved a labor dispute at an Italian factory by having bosses and workers (they don’t use these terms) pool their dreams … This seems truly innovative, a great advance on the Blackberry. From 40 hours a week to boundary-less time to the unconscious … although, as a more cynical friend points out, the unconscious has been pretty much drained of its content.

I’ve been watching Louis Malles’ remarkable documentary, Phantom India, on DVD. Malle spent several months in India during 1969 with a small crew making this seven-hour film for French television. It’s a beautiful artifact of 20th century humanist generalism. Malle, then 35, resolves to keep an open mind about India, allowing impressions to float as they travel. Coming from the ideologically-steeped era of barely post-’68 Paris, Malle is not unaware of the political struggles then being waged between the National and Communist parties, but as an outsider he’s free to also consider the intractable beauty of folk religions whose meanings are reaffirmed in primitive daily routines. As an amateur ethnographer at the end of ethnography, he’s aware of the battle of time taking place in front of his eyes between urban and rural. And yet: caste has morphed into class, and this gently sanctified daily routine occurs within a grossly exploitative framework. He draws no conclusions. I think about Malle’s later life, his marriage to Candice Bergman, how naive this work might have seemed retrospectively. And yet: unrepeatable. The film seems to be having a small revival – a Michigan friend, former pedophile activist – is screening it publicly. (The friend never exactly recanted – his “boy” just got older.)

Jon Isaacs tells me he’s recording his music this summer on cassette, not CD, because it’s harder to upload. “One reason,” he emails, “for the music industry’s downfall is that music is too readily accessible. I remember seeing lines of people at record stores in the early 90s when an album came out b/c that was the only way you could hear the music.”

Chris Kraus is the author of three novels, most recently TORPOR, and a collection of art essays. She is presently working on a new novel about American justice and flawed reciprocity called SUMMER OF HATE.

All photos by Iris Klein