Kenneth Goldsmith


Kenneth Goldsmith (b 1961) is a poet, artist and founder of UbuWeb, a compendium of experimental music, avant garde film, and sound poetry. His is a technological, media-driven oeuvre. In his book, Day, Goldsmith transcribed the entirety of one day’s edition of the New York Times. In 2011 he published Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age and in 2013 he attempted to print out the entire Internet with the aid of whoever was interested. He teaches Uncreative Writing at the University of Pennsylvania and in 2012, was named the first poet laureate of the Museum of Modern Art.

For the past 8 years poet and artist Kenneth Goldsmith has been rewriting Walter Benjamin’s unfinished seminal tome The Arcades Project, set in New York City called Capital. He has used Benjamin’s identical methodology to write a poetic history of NYC in the twentieth century, just as Benjamin did with Paris in the nineteenth. Goldsmith has taken Benjamin’s original chapter headings (convolutes) and, reading through the entire corpus of literature written about NYC in the twentieth century, has selected what he considers to be the most interesting parts, sorting them into sheaves identical to Benjamin’s. Major figures and themes in Benjamin’s book have been updated: Benjamin’s Baron Haussmann is Goldsmith’s Robert Moses; Baudelaire is now Robert Mapplethorpe; the Paris arcades, New York’s World’s Fairs. In Arcades very few words were actually written by Benjamin himself, and Goldsmith has taken this to the next level: nowhere in Capital is a single word of his present, instead – reflecting contemporary concerns – Goldsmith has appropriated, cited and transcribed from his book-based research. What emerges is an act of conceptual writing, a compendium of fleeting impressions.

Capital, which is due to be published by Verso in Autumn 2015, will be the same size as Benjamin’s original: 1,000 pages and half a million words.

‘The next natural step seems to me to combine the brevity of Twitter’s word count with an app that invites participation from the casual wanderer, observer and reporter of street-life in a modern city, its cue, Benjamin’s convolute M: The Flâneur.’ Kenneth Goldsmith, 10 Nov 2014.

Goldsmith will take a year to rewrite Capital in the form of clips comprising 140 characters that will be published via Capital App and Twitter at regular intervals throughout the year. Capital App will allow users to explore and add to the content published by Goldsmith.

Capital App will be available from Apple App and Google Play stores.