|Seven American Deaths
Goldsmith is a proponent of "uncreative writing" that retextualizes, reframes, and recycles existing material. He has added nothing to the content of Seven American Deaths and Disasters, which was recently published by New York-based powerHouse Books. His contribution is the concept itself plus careful selection and editing.
"What constitutes the act of writing is rapidly changing in the digital age," Goldsmith explained to The Committee Room. "Skills that we used to consider outside of the scope of writing — word processing, databasing, recycling, appropriation, intentional plagiarism, identity ciphering, and intensive programming, but to name a few — are now the ways we routinely construct literature."
The transcriptions in Seven American Deaths and Disasters offer an inadvertent sort of poetry as commentators repeat phrases and add bits of information (some of which we now know was inaccurate) as it comes in. "From the time JFK is shot until the time he dies, about an hour elapses. Over the course of that hour, very little new information becomes available to the broadcasters, so they keep saying the same thing over and over again, just like they do today on CNN, when they keep showing the same video clip on an endless loop. Warhol identified this model early on and it's still the repetitious method we cleave to today," Goldsmith told TCR.
|Goldsmith at a White House poetry reading, 2011.
The spirit of the times in which the different events occurred is captured in the transcriptions. On Dallas radio station KLIF, a teenage love song by The Chiffons and a cheerful commercial urging listeners to buy a meaty Armour Star turkey for their upcoming Thanksgiving dinner are followed by a vague report that shots were fired on President Kennedy's motorcade. Repeated use of the word "pandemonium" to describe the scene in the hotel kitchen where Robert Kennedy lay dying reflects the social upheaval of the late 1960s. On air personalities losing their slick composure as the World Trade Center towers fall echoes America's shock at finding its comfortable isolation destroyed.
|Goldsmith reading in front of Andy
Warhol's "Orange Car Crash Fourteen Times,"
MoMA, 2013 (photo: courtesy
Goldsmith, who in 2013 was named the Museum of Modern Art's first ever poet laureate, started out as a visual artist. Some readers may wonder whether Seven American Deaths and Disasters, which borrows it name from a series of paintings by Andy Warhol, is text-based art rather than literature.
|Goldsmith on TV's The Colbert Report, 2013.
|Goldsmith among Printing Out the Internet pages,
LABOR Gallery, Mexico City, 2013.
"I love the John Lennon piece," Goldsmith told TCR. "It was transcribed from some guy who was just spinning the radio dial on the night of [Lennon's] murder and taping the whole thing. It's a beautiful, haunting, and very moving audio document of a lost moment in time."
Here's more information --
"Being Dumb." Essay by Kenneth Goldsmith. The Awl. 23 July 2013.
"Conceptualism as Affect: or, a Defense of Both at Once." Essay by Susan M. Schultz. Tinfish Editor's Blog. 27 July 2013.
"Interview with Kenneth Goldsmith." The Colbert Report. Comedy Central TV. 23 July 2013.
"Interview with the First Poet Laureate of MoMA." Hyperallergic. 3 September 2013.
"Plagiarism: Maybe It's Not So Bad." Interview with Kenneth Goldsmith. On the Media. WNYC Radio. March 2013.
"Proudly Fraudulent: An Interview with MoMA's First Poet Laureate, Kenneth Goldsmith." The Awl. 6 February 2013.
The Committee Room. Time Spent with TCR is Never Wasted.