Acker was no stranger to the ICA, having developed a longstanding relationship with the institution throughout the course of her career. She appeared there regularly, in talks, interviews, and performances—so it only feels natural that her legacy returns there once more. Opening its doors to a multi-vocal milieu of varying artists and mediums, London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts will host what is set to be the largest exhibition centered around Acker’s work to date. The show comes at a time when her relationship to the art world has become increasingly documented and appreciated, as her influence as a cultural force trickles down into all corners of culture, continuing to amplify as the years go on.
Before the exploration of taboos and counterculture became millennial marketing material, they were topics which sat at the vanguard of postmodernism, and the heart of Acker’s legacy. Hers drew much of its inspiration from that of the great—now, considerably sexist—William Burroughs; and of course others like Jack Kerouac and Marguerite Duras. A student of poetry, Acker studied the prose of American greats to propel herself into the American literary canon as a great in her own right. She was borne out of the point at which plagiarism, autobiography, and “porn” intersect, but today, would perhaps be better recognized for some of the greater feminist and transgressive fiction of the 20th century.
With that in mind, you would think that a show of this scale would be difficult to fuck up. But, in fact, there was a part of me which expected the walls of the ICA to be cluttered with nostalgic of-the-moment nods to yesteryear as a means of getting bodies through the door. Naturally, as you would be when you see a name of Acker’s ilk appear everywhere over the course of twelve months, you become skeptical. In ways which echo the way Sally Rooney’s overloaded, oversaturated press appearances have sprawled the internet far and wide; too much, can in fact be, just too much.