Kenneth Goldsmith’s Deviation // Reid Passmore // Blog Post #10

Goldsmith’s deviation from his normal work, or Goldsmith’s foray into the actual art of poetry with his reading of “The body of Michael Brown” at Brown University brought so much controversy that he requested Brown University not make it public. The poem was a remixed version of Michael Brown’s autopsy report. Nothing too strange, Goldsmith doesn’t create his own work, he appropriates other work and puts it on a pedestal to be viewed by all. Except…

“Male Genital System: There is foreskin present near the head of the penis. The remaining male genitalia system is unremarkable.”

He did the extra work; he rearranged Michael Brown’s autopsy report explaining that it was for “poetic affect”. But Kenneth Goldsmith is not a poet, he is a text artist “disdainful” of poets according to Brian Kim Stefans from UCLA. This quote was largely the source of controversy, although Kennith Goldsmith’s timing was not ideal either since Michael Brown’s death was still fairly recent. Instead of reading it in the middle of the autopsy report like he should have done if he were merely transcribing the text like Seven American Deaths and Disasters, he opts to shift it to the end, emphasizing it for unknown reasons.

It is Kenneth Goldsmith’s choice of putting that quote at the end that strikes me as strange. Almost as if it was Goldsmith’s attempt to actually elicit a response out of his audience. Merely reading the autopsy report was not enough, because unless emphasized the comment about the male genitals wouldn’t stick out nearly as much. Why else would Goldsmith choose to this?

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