Individual Work

“Soliloquy” is a clever kind of provocation, as it is a web version-of a book edition-of a gallery installation. It is a week’s worth of the artist’s spoken language captured in a veiled database. Kenneth Goldsmith's "Soliliquy" is a glimpse of the way that words shape our sense of selves and our place in the world. Goldsmith is reflective of his “bound” subjectivity through expendable words. He provokes us to consider the self consumed and disposal aspects of the words we use. In exploring this idea, he documents of every word he utters during the week of April 15-21, 1996, from the moment he woke up that Monday morning to the moment he went to sleep on Sunday night. The reader opens the text by clicking on the prologue quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein: “Don’t, for heaven’s sake be afraid of talking nonsense! But you must pay attention to your nonsense.” By clicking on the quote you gain access to his web catalogue of a week’s worth of spoken words, all in chronological order, but what is striking upon entering the text is the encounter of the blank screen of white. In order to reveal his lost words, you must mouse over the screen and a sentence of the carefully transcribed lexia appears (and disappears) as soon as the mouse moves on. The provocation is in the transient disposal of our words, as well as the utter banality of so much of what we say. Words are lost to the world as quickly as they are uttered, and what is left is like an empty canvas with a haunting afterlife. Words are rendered in “Soliloquy” like fleeting ghosts or traces that can be glimpsed but not captured. The title of the piece lends further comment, with it’s dramatic allusion to the inner life as a kind of performance. Ultimately, this piece elicits a deeper reflection about the dynamic world of our fleeting words as they shape our human subjectivity.

Author statement: 
Soliloquy is an unedited document of every word I spoke during the week of April 15-21, 1996, from the moment I woke up Monday morning to the moment I went to sleep on Sunday night. To accomplish this, I wore a hidden voice-activated tape recorder. I transcribed Soliloquy during the summer of 1996 at the Chateau Bionnay in Lacenas, France, during a residency there. It took 8 weeks, working 8 hours a day. Soliloquy was first realized as a gallery exhibition at Bravin Post Lee in Soho during April of 1997. Subsequently, the gallery published the text in a limited edition of 50. In the fall of 2001, Granary Books published a trade edition of the text. The web version of Soliloquy contains the exact text from the 281-page original book version, but due to the architecture of the web, each chapter is sub-divided into 10 parts. And, of course, the textual treatment of the web version is indeed web-specific and perhaps more truly references the ephemerality of language as reflected by the book's epigraph: "If every word spoken in New York City daily / were somehow to materialize as a snowflake, / each day there would be a blizzard." In order to achieve this effect, the web version is available only to users of Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape 6+. Unfortunately, none of the prior versions of Netscape support the CSS tag used here: "a { text-decoration: none }" ; to view the piece in web form without this function enabled would be to ruin the intended experience of this work.