Kenneth Goldsmith is an Uncle Tom. The entity to which he is obsequiously servile, however, is not a racist authority, but the concept of conceptualism itself. Furthermore, he’s subservient to the idea of conceptual art not because he cares about it, but because being so benefits him personally. At the mere cost of his own artistic dignity, Goldsmith has been able to achieve impressive levels of notoriety; not only has he been invited to the White House to “read” for the president, he has even had the opportunity to be interviewed by Stephen Colbert.
It is easy to fall into thinking Goldsmith is merely a harmless academic because of his overthought fashion sense, perpetual wink, and invitational smirk. His image is one of a seemingly straightforward flamboyance, which has so far been successful in drawing attention away from his bald spot. He literally wears his hoax on his sleeve, often in the form of pink polyester. In other words, Goldsmith is tempting our gaze with his shiny surface, while at the same time connivingly creating an alibi for his vacuity by admitting that this veneer is his sole contribution to humankind. Similarly, he seeks to gain our trust by admitting his own worthlessness as a writer and apathy toward art. Though if he cares not about the quality of his work’s content, and only for the vindication of its concept, why then does he want our attention? The answer is one which can be found behind any marketing ploy: it’s a marketing ploy.
As a textbook psychopath, Kenneth Goldsmith desires only power. His goal seems to be the attainment of money and fame through proselytizing the youth by sermonizing on the worthlessness of art. Even worse, he’s being enabled by the University of Pennsylvania, Stephen Colbert, Barack Obama, Craig Dworkin, The Museum of Modern Art, an unknown gallery in Mexico, and the poetry community at large. By not actively decrying Goldsmith while using our collective will to catalyze his annihilation, we are complicit in advancing his marketing strategy. Even I am furthering Goldsmith’s agenda by being circumstantially forced to write this essay.
Marketing’s primary function is to subvert an individual’s control over his or her own thinking and therefore must be designated a form of brainwashing. It is directly antithetical to the function of art, which is to unveil the perspicuous awareness of an awakened mind. The only condition under which marketing becomes ethically acceptable is when the object being marketed helps people wake up. Clearly, this is not Goldsmith’s aim. A true marketer’s success is predicated on his or her target’s quick hypnosis and subsequent pleasant dreams. In other words, an effective marketer puts sleeping pills in your mouth and rubs your throat. Kenneth Goldsmith is the Sandman.
What Goldsmith is marketing is a masturbatory, simplistic, faux-artistic form of dickmeasuring. He is wittingly taking advantage of manipulable people in order to increase his own stature and sphere of influence. He directly benefits from a society that stifles creative thought since he has openly aligned his career with the perpetuation of willful ignorance. Can we afford to keep appeasing Goldsmith while he continues his march to systematically eradicate creativity? He is a propaganda artist, plain and simple, and he must be held responsible for his participation in an oppressive regime.
To get to the crux of the matter, I must now address the most pressing danger that Kenneth Goldsmith presents to art as a way forward. Goldsmith is being paid an exorbitant six-figure salary by the University of Pennsylvania to bamboozle young creatives into believing it is right to be—in Goldsmith’s own words— “dumb,” “lazy,” and “uncreative.” Because Goldsmith has been able to extend his reach, while those funding his experiments on our youth turn a blind eye to his vampiric practices, his presence at UPenn has become as reprehensible as Sandusky’s presence was at Penn State. In 50 years time, I guarantee that the University of Pennsylvania will be forced to offer a public apology for its years of sustaining Goldsmith’s deception.
Either the University is ignorant of his scheming, which is highly dubious and otherwise irresponsible, or they have full knowledge of his hoax and are tacitly allowing him to poison their students in exchange for the privilege of association with his brand. Kenneth Goldsmith is the reason this country is failing. He teaches at one of the most prestigious universities in America, wherein each student who registers for his class does so in response to an impulse toward true artistic expression. As their teacher, Goldsmith has the responsibility to help his students broaden their perspectives, but in reality he’s doing nothing to advance understanding, compassion, or awareness, which any teacher worth his leopard print tie knows to be the most important functions of education. Simply put, he’s a vampire, sucking the creative energy out of students in order to feed his own ego.
UPenn has hired a talentless celebrity to make them money, and I intend to hold them accountable for this egregious mishandling of power. In fact, I’ve already begun my correspondence regarding this matter with the university administration, and I will not relent until Goldsmith is removed from his position. Furthermore, I am currently pursuing all legal avenues to have him removed as the Poet Laureate of MoMA. To be clear, I am not here simply to call attention to Goldsmith’s evil, I am embarking on a crusade to stop it.
Kenneth Goldsmith, I am here to awaken you from your dogmatic slumber. Do not think I’m out to slander or defame you, for I am not. I am embarking on this crusade because it is time to put an end to your brand. Don’t fool yourself: You are no better than a terrorist or rapist. Your oeuvre is garbage. Your concepts aren’t heightened enough to have primacy over their content. You’re trapped by conceptual writing, an endeavor that you long ago hit the ceiling of. I do not wish to cause you harm, Kenneth; rather, I am here to help you reach an awareness of both your wrongdoing and your failure within the conceptual mode. If you accept my advice, I’m certain you will find peace within yourself.
Since Snoop Dogg, by printing a book on rolling papers, developed and executed a conceptual project superior to anything you’ve yet come up with, I feel deep sorrow and empathy for you. As an offering of help, I have come up with fifteen conceptual projects better than anything you’ve ever thought of. Please feel free to use as many of them as you need to save your career.
Fifteen Conceptual Poetry Projects Better Than Printing the Internet
1. Handwrite the Internet: I suggest you start with www.tedhashberryman.com.
2. Publish a Sealed Book: Create a hardcover book that’s sealed along both spines. Include a different title on each face. Since you aren’t interested in your books being read, and since the only reason to own a book is so it looks good on a bookshelf, this is a win-win.
3. Sell a Blank Book: Market and sell a book of blank pages. This book should not only have a blank cover, it should also include several invisible blurbs on the back. Alternately, publish a book that consists solely of blurbs written about you.
4. Write an Infinite Poem: Begin transcribing all possible combinations of every word in the English language. Since you will die before you are able to transcribe all permutations, you must sire a child, whom you will raise to embody a single-minded determination toward continuing this poem when you die. Your child will then sire a child of their own to continue the process ad infinitum.
5. Write Everything You Don’t Think for a Week: By this I mean, only write the things that you aren’t actively thinking of in every given moment, and write all of them. For a week.
6. Delete Your Persona: Stop altogether pretending to write. Begin burning every copy of every book you’ve had published. Eliminate any digital writings or creations of yours that exist in cyberspace. This will require a methodical, collective effort. At the time of your death, your entire life’s work will be nonexistent. This is the only way that you can truly exist conceptually.
7. Rape Someone’s Mind: Go to your local bar, and strike up a conversation with every person until you find the most creative/perceptive individual there, henceforth referred to as “the subject”. Administer a roofie, and bring the subject to an auditorium; while they’re unconscious, strap them to a chair on a stage. Obscure the subject’s view of the brimming audience with bright lights. While the subject is still unconscious, conduct an exquisite corpse using the members of the audience, which you will type upon completion. Print the poem in a microscopic font on a loaded tab of acid, and then administer it to the subject’s tongue. Tightly strap the subject’s wrists to a computer keyboard, and wake them up; when the subject comes to, written on the screen in front of them is the phrase “keep typing or you will die”. After several hours, administer another roofie to the subject, and drop them off in a dark alley. Go home and enjoy your new poem.
8. Write an Encrypted Poem: Write a poem using a cipher that can only be decoded with a single encryption key. Set a failsafe countdown timer that will automatically release the key on the internet in 50 years.
9. Write the Most Offensive Book Possible: It must offend everyone on earth in at least one regard.
10. Publish Decoy Books: Publish 10 books of poetry in yearly succession. These books will be decoys, and in order for someone to buy book 2, they must first own book 1, and must own both 1 and 2 to purchase book 3, and so on and so on. Once all 10 books have been released, you will release the real book, which can only be acquired by exchanging the original ten books, one at a time, via mail. Plot twist: the real book is actually good.
11. Make a Racist Book: Write a book that only white people are allowed to read.
12. Write a Burning Poem: Write a poem on a scroll of paper that’s burning down from the top.
13. Publish One Copy: Write a book, and fix it to one location, never to be moved. Make people pay to read it and also to use the bathroom while they’re there.
14. Commit Suicide with a Poem: 1. Begin Writing. 2. Don’t stop writing for any reason. 3. Don’t stop writing for any reason. 4. Eventually you will die. The poem you have just written is your suicide note and an eventual New York Times Bestseller. Congratulations.
15. Stop Being Conceptual: Writing conceptual poems is no longer conceptual. Transcription is too creative an act. Any physical artifact is antithetical to conceptualism, which must reside entirely on the psychic plane. In order to be actually conceptual, conceptual poetry must remain merely a concept. There must be no physical manifestation or utterance of conceptual poetry, for they would annihilate the concept altogether. Stop being conceptual.