The talk called “The Third Act” is a spontaneous mediation/talk poem, focused around Goldsmith’s trajectory as an artist for the past 40 years, and how he might end his artistic career in the relatively few years he has left on this planet.
Few living American poets have so thoroughly absorbed, and cleverly responded to, the avant-garde traditions in visual art and poetry – including Dada, Futurism, Concretism, Fluxus, and Conceptual Art – as Kenneth Goldsmith. With influences ranging from John Cage and Andy Warhol to contemporary hip hop and internet artists, Goldsmith has pushed the limits of late twentieth century poetics to both reinvigorate and pioneer aspects of visual poetry, sound poetry, the list poem, and digital poetics. If it is true, as Brion Gysin once remarked, that innovations in writing lag 50 years behind those of visual art, Goldsmith has steadfastly worked to bring the form up to date with the accomplishments of conceptual and performance art.
In addition to explaining his concept of uncreative writing, which is also the name of his popular course at the University of Pennsylvania, Goldsmith reads the work of writers who have taken up this challenge. Examining a wide range of texts and techniques, including the use of Google searches to create poetry, the appropriation of courtroom testimony, and the possibility of robo-poetics, Goldsmith joins this recent work to practices that date back to the early twentieth century. Writers and artists such as Walter Benjamin, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and Andy Warhol embodied an ethos in which the construction or conception of a text was just as important as the resultant text itself. By extending this tradition into the digital realm, uncreative writing offers new ways of thinking about identity and the making of meaning.
Kenneth Goldsmith is the author and editor of over twenty books. He teaches writing at The University of Pennsylvania. In May 2011, he was invited to read at President Obama’s “A Celebration of American Poetry” at The White House, where he also held a poetry workshop with First Lady Michelle Obama. In 2013, he was named as the inaugural Poet Laureate of The Museum of Modern Art in New York. His most recent book is “Wasting Time on the Internet,” a meditation on digital culture.