I originally tried starting this with a quote from Kenneth Goldsmith quoting Douglas Huebler but, as you pointed out, we ended up trying to start at a dead-end. Misquoting it, re-opens it: the world is full of objects, more or less interesting.1
An updated notion of genius would have to centre around one’s mastery of information and its disseminations. (Marjorie) Perloff has coined another term, ‘moving information’, to signify both the act of pushing language around as well as the act of being emotionally moved by its process.2
A last hurrah for modernism and subsequent in-jokes.
The Wilhelm scream is a sample scream used in some 200 films.3 I imagine Tarantino uses it as a joke, a nod to cinematic history. In Reservoir Dogs, where the example of his usage can be found, no one is falling. His clever quotes have an effect that is different to the same scream being used, say in the Star Wars trilogy or a Disney movie because the same self-reflexivity is not present.
Here’s a nice interaction between Kanye West and Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen:
Kanye actually sent us a sample of his tunes, and frankly, Walter and I listened to it, and although we’d love some of the income, neither of us particularly liked what he had done with it. We said ‘No,’ at first, and then he wrote us a hand-written letter that was kind of touching, about how the song was about his father, and he said, ‘I love your stuff, and I really want to use it because it’s a very personal thing for me’. My mind doesn’t work like that—I would never use someone else’s stuff if I was writing something personal, but I guess that’s how he was thinking about it. It was such a good letter that we said, ‘All right, go ahead,’ and we made a deal with him.4
Shifting the space of reading: Kenneth Goldsmith runs a class at Harvard where he asks students to submit writing that is either appropriated, plagiarised, patch-written or stolen. What is clear, though, is that, in the attempt to eradicate the subjective emoting self, and to destabilise the category ‘Literature’, the category ‘Author’ becomes oddly affirmed.5 You may not have written the text but you take responsibility for it. Tarantino’s use of the Wilhelm scream makes it obvious, returning it to its author: both are elevated.
Release the grip of your cold dead hands: Kenneth Goldsmith’s uncreative pursuits revive productive rigor mortis by breaking the weight of originality through teaching and promoting the unoriginal as a valid mode of making. I guess it’s liberating to steal, well, when it widens the productive spectrum. Ownership becomes a problem when its effect disables the potentials and benefits of reincarnations and sharing. ‘Second comers might do a much better job than the originator with the original idea.’6
The cardinal difference between gift and commodity exchange is that a gift establishes a feeling-bond between two people, whereas the sale of a commodity leaves no necessary connection… Art that matters to us—which moves the heart, or revives the soul, or delights the senses, or offers courage for living however we choose to describe it the experience—is received as a gift.^7
HL: For me, this shifting of information touches on thoughts concerning distribution and the way that popular images in circulation that then might be found by a Google image search are in turn affected by your projects. lmage-searching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air DVD brings up some of the images you generated in your project among the others one might expect to find. This blurs the provenance and hence potential meaning of those images. What I am referring to is this moment of occupation that is a part of appropriation.
SD: Totally. This is again somehow the lay of the land, just how things are now. Occupation of images is a naturally tricky topic when it’s so much a part of the fabric of life. Or conversely it could be seen as nothing, not tricky at all…8
Kenneth Goldsmith says something like, ‘I don’t demand a readership. I assume there is no readership’. What he is presenting as work assumes this because the assumption is that it has already been read.
3. This is an outdated idea
It’s an old issue or seems like a timeless one. Where things rise to the surface and others fall away when something new comes into play. Copying and its variations play a fundamental part in learning, creativity and development, which, for the most part, I imagine is a benefit to people. When a new piece of technology such as home computers and the internet come into use, we begin to see the shaping of the user by its tools and vice-versa. It was in the early days of heavy computer use that issues such as Naspster (which had lawsuits in 2000) popularised file sharing and the surrounding problems that faced distributing industries. Information management, shifting materials from one platform to the next has become commonplace. Every man and his dog is now trying to be a part of this migration.
Maybe every man and his turtle. Turtle F2F is a ‘not being developed’ peer-to-peer sharing network (Friend 2 Friend). Not being developed feels like a kind of latent monster, sleeping spy or empty block—a space with not engagement.
Goldsmith removes the readymade from contemporary art and inserts it into another discipline, this in itself is a form of sampling.
I remember reading about Goldsmith talking about many of his works resembling artists’ books or works, and that they would fit rather snuggly in the shelves and online catalogues of Printed Matter. He didn’t do that, instead he opted for a publishing house and the whole book thing. Making that shift adds the entire weight of the literacy world to what he has done, and to great effect. Obviously realising the distinction and or exposure his work would have in this semi-alien environment, whilst also exposing the potential of the medium through his rural-pinko mentality.
The reason the fax refuses to die is because people, once they adopt a method, tend not to change. It’s the inertia of least effort, aka laziness, aka efficiency of thought. Granted, there are good reasons for this approach. Most people have bad experiences with moving to new systems. How many times have you spoken with someone who blames a new system for slowing productivity, missing features, or for making the effort of using those features far more complex? People therefore tend to distrust new technology, again because in their experience—and this is correct—new technology fails and established technology works. The reason for that truth is quite simple: only good technology sticks around to become established; bad technology is abandoned.9
So I guess my question is something like: is it the change of platforms that sheds light on the origin, where the process is somewhat re-invented and the source re-returned?
I think what we’re interested in now is the accumulation and the re-shaping and the re-building of this once fractured vessel. Because, after Modernism, there was no more work to do. Language has been pulverised and atomised so much that there was really nothing else to do. What are you going to do, take a grain of sand and chop it up even further or are you actually going to forget about deconstruction and begin some sort of re-construction acknowledging and re-building this vessel? Acknowledging the cracks in it. We’re not going back but instead we have to, kind of, look at wholes again. I’m not interested in rips. I’m actually interested in wholeness. I’m interested in an articulated sentence that is, uh, uh semantically correct. I’m interested in, in semantic intactness. I’m not interested in atomisation.10
4. boring boring
Unboring boring is a voluntary state; boring boring is a forced one.11
The relationship between boredom and what is produced out of boredom raises interesting questions about quality and what may be considered good, and if indeed this qualification is necessary. Boredom’s formalism is its own subjectivity. By taking a well-worn art world gesture and placing it in another economy, it became a scandalous gesture: Playing one sport by the rules of another.
Pattern recognition and/or attention/awareness. I am reminded of that McLuhan business explaining that an individual resorts to pattern recognition when the information that is flooding in cannot be absorbed. Repetition is key really, being pummeled by material and all you can notice are the similar shapes going by, or the reoccurrence of things. Is boredom when you are detached, or is it that you don’t recognise the value in something?
Boredom is a function of attention. We are learning new modes of attention—say, favouring the ear more than the eye—but so long as we work within the old attention-frame we find X boring… e.g. listening for sense rather than sound (being too message-oriented). Possibly after repetition of the same single phrase or level of language or image for a long while—in a given written text or piece of music or film, if we become bored, we should ask if we are operating in the right frame of attention. Or—maybe we are operating in one right frame, where we should be operating in two simultaneously, thus halving the load on each (as sense and sound).12
As revealed in the recent furore over Instagram reserving the right to sell users’ images (a proposal quickly redacted by the parent company Facebook), control over online cultural production often doesn’t lie with the producer. These artists seemed to be highlighting the economic logic of Google or Facebook, not by critique but by imitation: we’ll sell you the platform but reserve the rights to the artwork.13
Kenny once said; ‘Last week when I read at the Brooklyn Public Library, during the Q&A session, a woman claimed to be disappointed because I didn’t bore her. Somehow she felt that the self-appointed ‘most boring writer in the world’ was obliged to live up to his title. I told her that if she really wanted to be bored, then she was quite free to try to read my books in her own time. Call me a sellout, but I feel some sort of an obligation to an audience trapped in a room.’ 14
Simon McGlinn and Lisa Radford are both artists.