When Dmitri Prigov explores the relationship between the book as material object and endlessly repeating copy, he anticipates a similar interest in the relationship between copy and singular material instantiation in Anglophone conceptual writing. One of the leading figures in conceptual writing, Kenneth Goldsmith, began his artistic career, like Prigov, as a sculptor. Among his early work, Goldsmith’s iterations of Steal This Book illustrate his interest in the book as both copy and unique material object. His two versions or copies of the book are both monumental copies of Abbie Hoffman’s 1971 counter-culture classic. One was made of lead and weighed 150 kg, the other was seven feet tall — both were too big to be stolen.
Goldsmith has since then produced a number of works that explore the iterations of the book through conceptual writing. For example, in retyping the New York Times and publishing the result in book form, Goldsmith transforms the disposable newspaper into a monumental brick-sized book on a par with the largest of the modernist long-poem masterworks, such as Pound’s Cantos or Olson’s Maximus Poems.
On December 9, 2004, Al Filreis brought together two very different Cageans — Jena Osman and Kenneth Goldsmith — for a conversation with the students of his Modern and Contemporary American Poetry course. This was the first time that Osman and Goldsmith were recorded together, for beyond their shared interests in John Cage’s aesthetic and documentary poetics, they are very different poets. Osman is known for her disruptive, experimental poetics — collaging and intervening in existing texts — while Goldsmith’s works are defined by their uncreativity, where the texts are presented whole.
Stefan Sagmeister (1962-) is among today's most important graphic designers. Born in Austria, he now lives and works in New York. His long-standing collaborators include the AIGA and the musicians David Byrne and Lou Reed.
I am writing a review of Kent Johnson’s Day although I haven’t read a word of it. That’s not a problem, since Johnson’s Day is identical to Kenneth Goldsmith’s Day, which is itself a transcription of an entire issue of The New York Times from left to right, ignoring the divisions between columns, articles and advertisements. In fact, Johnson’s Day is an actual copy of Goldsmith’s Day, with stickers of Johnson’s name covering Goldsmith’s name, as well as some jacket blurbs from Juliana Spahr, Christian Bök, and “Kenny” Goldsmith himself. Not surprisingly, the blurbs from Spahr and Bök were originally for Goldmith’s Day; the blurb attributed to Goldsmith is Johnson’s riff on various comments Goldsmith has made on Flarf and conceptual poetry.
However, I haven’t read Goldsmith’s Day either. Although I consider myself a big fan of his work, I’ve read almost none of it. (I made it through about 50 pages of Soliloquy, his transcription of everything he said over the course of a week, and thought it was brilliant.)
A few years ago Darren Wershler-Henry visited us from Toronto. His book of 2000, The Tapeworm Foundry, was being celebrated by an exhibit in the KWH gallery ("KWH Arts," we called that ongoing project then — now The Brodsky Gallery). Kaegan Sparks commissioned a number of Writers House-affiliated people each to make art from an instruction of the sort that fills Darren's book. I wrote about this at the time of the exhibit.
One artist dipped her long hair into calligraphy ink and dragged it across long rolls of paper (this is actually a classic Fluxus piece). Another person created an inky footprint and then ran it through an OCR (text-recognition) program and printed the “language” that resulted and put the two up on the wall, side by side. Another pair of artists counted all the periods (at ends of sentences) in all the books on a Writers House bookshelf, then printed out the periods on 8.5 x 11" paper and wrapped the bookshelf in the paper.
While Darren was in the house, I gathered him, Kaegan and Kenny Goldsmith in my office, and the four of us talked about Darren's book and the exhibit, and about conceptual poetics/concrete poetry generally. This is the newest in the series of "PennSound podcasts", and please have a listen.
1. Links to works produced for the exhibit. 2. Video recording of the opening program. 3. Photos of the event. 4. Text of Tapeworm available at UbuWeb.
Kenny Goldsmith's The Weather by Charles Bernstein was published on May 6, 2006 as part of the "Unreadable Writing" series of the Institute for the Study of Dysraphic Phenomena (now disbanded). Technical problems delayed the release of the fifth anniversary, second edition until today.
In his Thursday, May 12, 2011, Daily Show, Jon Stewart satirizes the appearance of poets at the White House. Along the way, he takes a shot at the jacket Kenneth Goldsmith wore to the reading. Click here for a video recording of the segment, and scroll forward to 1:02 on the counter in order to get to Goldsmith. And here, as a bonus, is reactionary talk show host, Michael Savage, referring to Goldsmith's presentation as a sign of the downfall of western civilization as precipitated by Barack Obama.
Click here to watch a video recording of a poetry "workshop" held yesterday at the White House. At around 46 minutes, Kenneth Goldsmith explains "uncreative writing." Joining him are Elizabeth Alexander and Allison Knowles.