The question at the heart of Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick is “who gets to speak, and why?” “A Short History of Weird Girls,” which is the most experimental episode of Soloway’s adaptation of the novel, is also the one closest in form to Kraus’ original text. Each of the women in Marfa addresses the camera directly, moving through their relationships with art, desire, and, of course, Dick. They are brought together by the question: “Dear Dick, what if we all started writing you letters?”
These letters cover everything from a crush on Michael J. Fox, to exploring gender identity and desire, to pornography through the lens of art history. Like Kraus’ novel, this episode manages to be dense with ideas while also being approachable; you don’t need to understand every reference made or artist name-checked in order to have the confessions and experiences of these characters resonate with you.
The great power of the episode comes from the stream-of-conscious narration that Soloway presents to us: as characters talk about relationships, in a mixture of voice-over and direct address, they walk through and inhabit past experience as they are in the present; discussions of the female nude in art history are accompanied by powerpoint slides that show those nudes. By bringing together words and image, past and present, Soloway shows a powerful understanding not only of the power of art, but the ways in which it can inform individual experience, how the past and future of artistic theory and practice can inform the ways in which we see the world.
“A Short History of Weird Girls” uses stream-of-conscious modernism, postmodern collage, and vital pieces of female-made art in order to answer Kraus’ question: those on the fringes get to speak, and through explorations of art and self, can find a voice. It’s no wonder that the episode ends with a declaration, a call to arms: “Dear Dick, we are not far from your doorstep.”
Sam is a critic, essayist, poet, and playwright. His work has recently been published by Little White Lies, i-D, and other places.