Kenneth Goldsmith in The New Yorker: ‘Nobody in the Art World Wanted to Read’

Kenneth Goldsmith at The White House in 2011. WIKIPEDIA COMMONS

Kenneth Goldsmith at the White House in 2011.


The October 5 edition of The New Yorker contains a profile of the controversial conceptual poet Kenneth Goldsmith in which he states that, in regards to his early text-based artworks, “nobody in the art world wanted to read, and I love language. That was the end of art for me.”

But maybe things aren’t actually so cut and dry. Later in the piece Goldsmith—who said he models his public persona on Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali, is inspired by the conceptual artist Douglas Huebler, and, when appearing on The Colbert Report, wore one green sock and one red sock, a nod to David Hockney—cops to applying some art-world strategies into the world of poetry.

The art world has become so accustomed to outrage and turmoil that it is now nearly indifferent to controversy, he said. “The art world’s been through counter-movements, counter-revolutions, and then counter-counter-movements,” he said. “People’s idea of art is infinite, whereas their idea of poetry is very limited. Poetry is such an easy place to go in and break up the house. The avant-garde loves to destroy things, and I’m an old-school avant-gardist.”

The article finishes up with a recap of the controversy surrounding a performance Goldsmith staged in which the writer read Michael Brown’s autopsy report to a live audience. Goldsmith is currently keeping a low profile, though his 1,000-page appropriated homage to Walter Benjamin, New York, Capital of the 20th Century, will be published in October. The piece ends on a somewhat ironic note.

“Sometimes I think I might be headed back to the art world,” he said ruefully. “I don’t deny that possibility. They still seem to like me there.”

Read the article in full here.

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