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Pilot Press:
Kevin Killian’s Argento Series
Institute of Contemporary Arts
A collage of three men wearing colourful underwear stearing at a cave shaped like a gaping skull, on a red lake inside a cave
From Argento Series (Pilot Press 2023). Image: Hedi El Kholti

Please join Pilot Press, Dodie Bellamy and special guests to celebrate the republication of Kevin Killian’s AIDS-era poetry collection Argento Series.


Verity Spott
Clay AD
Shola von Rheinhold
Sophie Robinson
Martin O’ Brien
Tariq Alvi
Lee Ann Brown
Dodie Bellamy
Diarmuid Hester

Following readings from Argento Series, Bellamy will be in conversation with the writer and academic Diarmuid Hester.

Reprinted for the first time in over twenty years, Kevin Killian’s first book of poetry is an audacious, operatic dive into the darkest recesses of the AIDS crisis.

In 1991, Killian reported he was ‘frozen, unable to think of a way to write about AIDS crisis.’ A year later, his friend Kathy Acker suggested the ‘films of Dario Argento as a prism through which to take apart horror of living and dying in AIDS era.’ The result is Argento Series, framing Killian’s real-life experience of losing his friends and lovers to the disease through the camera lens of Italian horror filmmaker Dario Argento. Here, AIDS is cast as the horror film monster, wreaking cold, unfeeling chaos and destruction wherever it finds itself.

Blending a chilling, impersonal observation of death with Killian’s typical high camp, tenderness and O’Hara-like wit, the poems use unflinching honesty and gallows humour to devastating effect. In Argento Series, Killian finds expression for a crisis, and moment in history, that changed everything, forever.

'At once tender and terrifying, Argento Series is a dispatch from the end of the world. Moving through Italian horror, memories of lost friends, and the long shadow of the AIDS crisis, Killian finds a language for the impossible. This collection is as urgent and vital as ever, seeing the light of day after being unobtainable for far too long.'
– Sam Moore, author of All My Teachers Died of AIDS

‘High weirdness, thorny beauty, cruel loss – it's all here, in Kevin's voice, and always will be. We will never stop needing this book.’
– Anne Boyer, author of The Undying: A Meditation on Modern Illness

Kevin Killian (1952 – 2019) was a San Francisco-based poet, novelist, playwright, and art writer. His most recent books include Fascination: Memoirs and the poetry collections Tony Greene Era, Tweaky Village and Argento Series. He is the co-author of Poet Be Like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance, the first biography of the important US poet. As one of the innovators of the New Narrative literary movement, with Dodie Bellamy he coedited Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative Writing, 1977 – 1997. He died in 2019.

Argento Series will be available from the ICA Bookstore
Dodie Bellamy’s writing focuses on sexuality, politics and narrative experimentation, challenging the distinctions between fiction, the essay and poetry. With Kevin Killian, she coedited Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative 1977 – 1997 (Nightboat Books). Her most recent work Bee Reaved, published by Semiotext(e) in 2021, is a collection of essays selected by Bellamy after the death of Kevin Killian, her companion and husband of thirty-three years, and is a meditation on, among many subjects, disenfranchisement, American working-class life, aesthetic values, mortality and death.

Diarmuid Hester is a radical cultural historian, activist and author of Wrong: A Critical Biography of Dennis Cooper and the forthcoming Nothing Ever Just Disappears: Seven Hidden Stories.  He has held research fellowships at Cambridge University, the University of Oxford, New York University, the Library of Congress and the British Library. He is a BBC New Generation Thinker and regularly contributes to BBC Radio 3. Diarmuid teaches at the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge.

Pilot Press is the imprint of British multidisciplinary artist Richard Porter. It was started in 2017 as an attempt to a recover a philosophy of publishing lost to AIDS and capitalism. It has a non-profit model, investing any income into printing more books. Recent titles include the anthology Responses to Untitled (Eye With Comet) c.1985 by Paul Thek, My Dead Book: A Novel by Nate Lippens, Solitary Pleasure: Selected Poems, Journals and Ephemera of John Wieners and a reissue of A Book of Music by Jack Spicer.
06:30 pm
Wed, 06 Sep 2023
Cinema 1

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