Kenneth Goldsmith is an itch I can’t scratch. That’s probably exactly what he wants to be, too. So I think I’ll try to figure out why he itches me and what about his work I need to unpack to scratch. I don’t remember where I encountered him first, whether it was UBUweb, PennSound, the Poetry Foundation’s blog, or heaven knows where else, but he’s an artist I haven’t been able to shake.
The issue, see, is that Goldsmith really does for language, for speaking, and for writing the exact same thing that Cage did with the audience in 4’33’, Eno did with a broken leg and a too-quiet record player, and Warhol did with Marilyn; and this is a very conscious effort for him. He’s reiterating what Duchamp did with the infamous urinal, Magritte did with “The Treachery of Images,” etc. The examples are countless. What I find conflicting about this is that Goldsmith isn’t really catching us up to what’s happening now. Thus, it annoys me that Goldsmith is considered so profoundly avant-garde, and not in the sense of the “anyone can do it” dilemma. Because yes, anybody can transcribe all the text of one day’s New York Times. Authenticity is not the issue, a tenet Goldsmith so conveniently founds his ideas on. He’s being blatantly unoriginal, not only in the fact that his works are direct requisitions of other texts, but that his ideas are nothing more than the past century’s theories of visual and musical art applied to text.
On the other hand, I think Goldsmith’s work is fascinating and necessary. Read the rest of this entry »