Aha Moment: Kenneth Goldsmith & John Cage
Friday, August 09, 2013
Kenneth Goldsmith trained as a visual artist at the Rhode Island School of Design. In the 1980s, his work became wildly popular with collectors and was shown at some of the best galleries in New York City. But he grew frustrated with the byproducts of that success. “What I had become was a businessman,” Goldsmith says. “And I did this so I wouldn’t have to become a businessman!”
Goldsmith quit the art world. Looking for his next move, he remembered a book from his college days: Silence, the 1961 collection of lectures and essays by avant-garde composer John Cage. “I began seeing that there was a whole other way to be an artist in the world other than that which I was taught,” Goldsmith says. “Cage gave me license to become an artist by doing less and saying less and fearing less.”
He turned to poetry, transcribing and reframing a year of radio weather reports into a narrative of the four seasons. Although he served as the first poet laureate at the Museum of Modern Art, Goldsmith admits he hasn’t been able to make a living off of his poetry alone. But he has no regrets. “When we give up things, we get something else — and I think that’s Cage’s message.”
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