Plagiarism: Maybe It's Not So Bad

Friday, March 08, 2013

Transcript

Artists often draw inspiration from other sources. Musicians sample songs. Painters recreate existing masterpieces. Kenneth Goldsmith believes writers should catch-up with other mediums and embrace plagiarism in their work. Brooke talks with Goldsmith, MoMA’s new Poet Laureate, about how he plagiarizes in his own poetry and asks if appropriation is something best left in the art world.

Quartetto d'archi dell'orchestra sinfonica de Milano Giuseppe Verdi – Tomorrow Never Knows

Guests:

Kenneth Goldsmith

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [32]

Howard Beale from NYC

Brooke I love you! Your summation of the show truly, punctuated the entire hour, such a wonderful Hegelian synthesis of what is and what will likely be and you did it with such gentle poetic elegance. You really captured the true nature of "it... yes the beauty of your show. John Keats would have been proud of you for your "Ode to a journalistic Grecian Urn" of a closer.
The nature of possession? It seems to be the essential thing we all crave or hope to be near in whatever it's form. It's the harmony we all covet for utility, for value to us as something that makes us special, or just to marvel at for virtue's sake alone in it's essential nature.. Most of the time we crave possession to enable us to attain materialistic things. We live in a materialistic age. Part of the forces and means of production of our times for the last few centuries. I think we are starting to see where that is leading.. It's just the way it is just the way it will be... Judgement though interesting in some sense seems useless. Which is why I think it was so inspired of you to use water as a metaphor and a vessel as the carrier of that metaphor to elucidate the essential nature of an essential thing from the beginning of things as we know them. What we have grown to believe is essential and what truly is the nature of the essential within it's vessel, within it's time. Most of what we think we need we are not in control of, we drift within the tide of our time, Some of us manage to swim a bit but in the end we are all just figures drawn on a vessel for some future generation to wonder about. Yes "Ode to a digital "Grecian Urn" You really turned journalism to metaphor to poetry... Not an easy feat.
"Did You plagiarize"?
I don't think you did, nor do I care!

To plagiarize myself for a moment, or is that quote:
"The time's they are a changing"...

Or to quote Keats

When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

We are truly seeing the nature of a new time emerge, painful for so many. The evolution of this story will be left for another generation to ponder in the end, looking back at our digital urn

Thanks so much for the truth/Beauty Brooke...You and Bob are the best out there!! and you in particular really hit it over the fence with that closer.

And no I'm not Peter Finch or Howard Beale although I do work in the Media world. Just because I loved the show doesn't mean trying to deal with all this change doesn't make you nuts right? I'm glad I can still laugh..

Dec. 30 2013 08:10 AM
Colin Manning from Cork, Ireland

The closing segment with Brooke's remarks on hues of meaning was so eloquent I thought it was poetry. Delicious

Apr. 11 2013 04:11 AM
Doug from NYC

Just so everyone (including On the Media) knows, K. Goldsmith appointed himself at the poet laureate of MoMA. This wasn't bestowed upon him by the museum...

Mar. 26 2013 11:21 PM
Nick Peterson

Clever.

Mar. 21 2013 01:13 PM
Andrew Birk from Mexico City

Stealing has been one of the most important investigatory veins in Fine Art for decades. What hypocrisy that poetry and writing, both hyper restricted by academic regulations established in the 19th century, have not been allowed the same exploratory freedoms. Poetry and writing are being stinted by the same institution that was bound to protect the flourishing of academic pursuit (aka thinking). I think Goldsmith realizes these unequal intellectual laws between Poetry/Writing and Fine Art are dangerous (he´s right) and he wants to rupture them. Its important work. This is not your granddaddy´s Walden Pond. Poetry is supposed to be divisive, and by looking at this comment feed alone, it is apparent that Goldsmith is on to something real. Also- thank you for Ubuweb.

Mar. 20 2013 12:01 PM
14Lines

The intriguing hypocrisy of Goldsmith's work is that he's being much more creative than he would like to admit.

He created the idea of transcribing an existing text and calling the transcription a poem. Any of his pieces is inextricably tied to his theory behind the piece's creation -- a theory that is original, that he didn't steal wholesale from somewhere else. If you showed someone "Day" without explaining the context surrounding its creation, the reader might conclude that the piece was actually fiction, carefully (and creatively) designed to sound like a newspaper. The only way to convince someone of the piece's "uncreative" nature is to explain and expose the fundamentally creative idea that caused the piece to come into existence. Goldsmith fails at true plagiarism: the text he wants you to think about isn't the words on the page; it's the words he and Brooke Gladstone use to explain why he put the words on the page. So he's being conceptual, which is fine -- but it's not the same thing as the kind of holy-fool unoriginality he claims to embody. It is very much the same as the readymade, come to think of it.

To truly practice "uncreative writing," the writing would have to be either automated, anonymous or unintentional, as well as completely unidentifiable as something an artist had created. The most truly avant-garde thing MoMA could have done would have been to name Google AdWords their poet laureate.

Mar. 17 2013 09:38 PM
Dave from Brooklyn

I was interested in Mr. Goldsmith's ideas, but the more the interview exposed of his practice, the less impressed I was. Mr. Goldsmith sounds like a fairly intelligent guy, but that doesn't seem to have stopped him from grabbing hold of the wrong end of the stick. Certainly any particular thing, from a painting to a piece of furniture, to the NY times, can be transmuted into a material to make new work with. The trouble is that too many artists feel that once they have made that decision and declared it to be so, that their job is finished. The glory (and I do not mean fame but the feeling of a heightened sense of human nature) comes in the artists transformation of a material into something greater than itself. Cage, Duchamp, Eliot, Joyce did a better job at this. I'm sorry to say it, but even in contemporary terms, Tauba Auerbach's "Bible" is a more successful iteration of Mr. Goldsmith's "Day", although Ms. Auerbach's book may in fact have been influenced by Mr. Goldsmith, having been produced 3 years later.
If you're curious about the use of collage in language. Reread "The Wasteland" or "Ulysses", then read Mr. Goldsmith's "Day. Decide for yourself.

Mar. 12 2013 08:52 AM
Dave from Brooklyn

I was interested in Mr. Goldsmith's ideas, but the more the interview exposed of his practice, the less impressed I was. Mr. Goldsmith sounds like a fairly intelligent guy, but that doesn't seem to have stopped him from grabbing hold of the wrong end of the stick. Certainly any particular thing, from a painting to a piece of furniture, to the NY times, can be transmuted into a material to make new work with. The trouble is that too many artists feel that once they have made that decision and declared it to be so, that their job is finished. The glory (and I do not mean fame but the feeling of a heightened sense of human nature) comes in the artists transformation of a material into something greater than itself. Cage, Duchamp, Eliot, Joyce did a better job at this. I'm sorry to say it, but even in contemporary terms, Tauba Auerbach's "Bible" is a more successful iteration of Mr. Goldsmith's "Day", although Ms. Auerbach's book may in fact have been influenced by Mr. Goldsmith, having been produced 3 years later.
If you're curious about the use of collage in language. Reread "The Wasteland" or "Ulysses", then read Mr. Goldsmith's "Day. Decide for yourself.

Mar. 12 2013 08:38 AM
Susan Csikos from Austin, TX

So,what do you call someone who hasn't been in his profession long enough to be a hack, but who has not only decided to skip the generative portion of his career and go straight to the part where he has nothing new to say, but has in fact decided that this is the part he wanted to get to in the first place? All kind of words are suggesting themselves, but artist isn't one of them.

Mar. 12 2013 01:49 AM

"If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull----."

Child: "But he isn't wearing anything at all!"
from The Emperor's New Clothes

Mar. 11 2013 08:36 PM

A "poet" who likes to plagiarize
I've looked at his stuff; won't win a prize
It's word drool, vile verbiage, and putrescent pap
Unliterate nihilistic deconstructionist crap
Of course he must copy other's work
'Cause HIS words are the words of a jerk
The "laureate" of the M-o-M-A?!
I guess none there have the courage to say:
"You're not a poet; your prose also stink!"
But the arsty fartsy folk like to think
They're smart, so suave, sophisticated,
But "intellectually constipated"
Is the phrase that comes to mind
While pretentious people seek their kind
And none have the brains to consider it odd
As Kenneth Goldsmith works out his fraud
Steals words, not his own, and tells students, too:
"It works great for me, it will work well for you!"
But Goldsmith's a liar, a crook, and a lout
And thank you, Dear Brooke, for calling him out!

Mar. 11 2013 04:44 PM
Tom Tipton from St louis

What is the music at the end of this story?

Mar. 11 2013 04:37 PM
Angelo from Washington, DC

I was surprised that Brooke was so soft on Goldsmith. Really, if I took your entire program, typed it out and then presented it as my own and "broadcast" it, how long before you would shut me down? Michelangelo said "Where I steal, I leave my knife." Mr. Goldsmith doesn't even have a knife to leave because he does nothing except appropriate the words of others. There is nothing "intellectual" about what he is teaching his students. Printing out someone else's work and claiming it as your own - that's grounds for expulsion in most universities. It will be interesting to see if any lawsuits emerge from this. Let's be clear - this is no Lenny Bruce pushing the boundaries of what is permissible. This is last frontier of the pseudo-artiste - someone lacking in creativity but thinking they have it all the same.

Mar. 11 2013 12:59 PM
Steve Carrigg from Tigard, Oregon

It is possible that Mr. Goldsmith's students could copy a paper off the internet, read it, and pretend it is their own. They could apply creative imagination to the concepts in the paper and pretend they did the thinking, the research, and asked the questions that led to the finished product. It could be an entertaining and rewarding emulation. But a better lesson would be if these students learn the power in creating intellectual property themselves.

Mar. 11 2013 01:26 AM
Donald from North Carolina

I think Kenneth Goldsmith is the king of rock,
there is none higher,
the sucka MCs should call him sire,
to rule his kingdom you must use fire,
he won't stop rockin' till he retires.

Mar. 10 2013 09:10 PM
Eric from Bklyn

"I invented punk. Everybody knows that. But I stole it from Greg Shaw, who also invented power pop. And he stole it from Dave Marsh, who actually saw Question Mark and the Mysterians live once. But he stole it from John Sinclair. Who stole it from Rob Tyner. Who stole it from Iggy. Who stole it from Lou Reed. Who stole it from Gene Vincent. Who stole it from James Dean. Who stole it from Marlon Brando. Who stole it from Robert Mitchum. The look on his face in the photo when he got busted for grass. And he stole it from Humprey Bogart Who stole it from James Cagney. Who stole it from Pretty Boy Floyd. Who stole it from Harry Crosby. Who stole it from Teddy Roosevelt. Who stole it from Billy the Kid Who stole it from Mike Fink. Who stole it from Stonewall Jackson. Who stole it from Napoleon......"--Lester Bangs

Mar. 10 2013 09:04 PM
SoundsLikeJoe

To rebut some previous comments, There is a difference between plagiarism and influence or similarity. Also, I take offense with the article's abstract "embrace plagiarism in their (own) work." I value words and feel its very soft reporting to allow such a position. A person has generated no work of value if the work is truly plagiarized.

Mar. 10 2013 08:49 PM
Patrick from Columbus OH

to quote Roger Meyers Jr, Head of Itchy and Scrachy Studios:

Okay, maybe my dad did steal Itchy. So what? Animation is built on plagiarism. If it weren't for someone plagiarizing the Honeymooners we wouldn't have the Flintstones. If someone hadn't ripped off Sergeant Bilko, there'd be no Top Cat. Huckleberry Hound, Chief Wiggum, Yogi Bear? Hah! Andy Griffith, Edward G. Robinson, Art Carney. Your honor, you take away our right to steal ideas, where are they gonna come from?

Bravo Kenny!

Mar. 10 2013 07:41 PM
Leon

The Ithaca chapter of Ulysses is most assuredly not "patch writing," at least not as it was defined by Goldsmith.

Given the very real possibilty that Goldsmith cannot comprehend the plain meaning of the preceding original sentence, here it is again via James Joyce channelled through Marshall McLuhan:

AND WHAT DID MISTER JOYCE SAY WHILE WAITING IN LINE?
"I heard what you were saying! You know nothing of my work! How you got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing!"

Mar. 10 2013 07:12 PM
Susan Jennings from Great Barrington, MA

Kenneth Goldsmith does with poetry what meditation can do for the listener/sitter. He takes the quotiedienne, often discarded, word stream and shows us the art that is always there. The way that breathing in and out and emptying the mind gives the sitter a new-found experience of what exists, Kenny points us to utilitarian language and opens a new window on it for us. Though I do not agree with him that there is no need to create anything new (and I do not actually believe that he really thinks this, either) I appreciate that Kenny has found a new, uniquely his own, media and voice by appropriating the forgotten stream of words that nobody ever thought to re-investigate as art. It is in the tradition of John Cage sitting at a piano in traffic and not playing. To say that this is not creative is to say that Duchamp did not make art with his ready-mades, and nobody has yet done this with words. It is absolutely right that Kenneth Goldsmith be the first poet-laureate at MoMA. He is an important artist.

Mar. 10 2013 05:13 PM
Tim R from Atlanta

The use of Tomorrow Never Knows was truly inspired - the Tibetan Book of the Dead, as interpreted by John Lennon for purposes of a modern Western pop music audience, and then transfigured once again into an orchestral arrangement by Quartetto di Archi Dell'orchestra sinfonica di Milano. A perfect illustration of the ways in which humans build on and reinterpret each other's intellectual property, each time creating something new, yet with a debt to what came before.

Mar. 10 2013 05:07 PM
C from NYC

People:

Our culture holds these concepts dear: originality, singular authorship, individuality, property rights...
And yet, over the past 20 years, we've built a giant and pervasive technological system around us, one we've grown increasingly dependent on for our communication, information and economy, that essentially questions and undermines our most cherished concepts. That technology-the computer, the internet, the entire digital realm- does essential one thing: it copies and distributes those copies. This conflict- our belief in the original and the pervasiveness of the copy ( an identical copy which is in no way distinguishable from its "source") is the most profound conflict in our culture today.

It is the purview and the privilege of art to probe this dilemma, as artists have done in other eras with irresolvable conflicts of other ages....as Goldsmith is doing in ours.

Mar. 10 2013 04:54 PM
Tim from CT

As a consumer and generator of creativity, I found Goldsmith's assertions offensive and moronic. The notion that there's no need to add to the compendium of human thought because everything's already been said is ridiculous (and itself not original; roughly 100 years ago the patent office thought we'd invented about everything we ever would.)

Goldsmith is right to compare himself to DuChamp: Both perpetuate(d) a pseudo-intellectual ploy on society that amounts to nothing more than a cynical joke.

Shame on Princeton (and any others) foe giving him a forum from which to pretend he and this piffle have any contribution to make to higher thinking.

Mar. 10 2013 04:32 PM
Dena Hamilton from Illinois

Are you kidding me? He finds no shame in this stealing?
Worse yet, he is teaching students it's okay to take something from someone who has trained, worked and paid for with his or her life efforts. what kind of person tells a young man or woman there is no reason to think for themselves and there is nothing left to create. I am appalled that this person has been given a platform, and any status within the literary community.

Mar. 10 2013 03:15 PM
Ho Hum from Yeesh

Oh how clever! What a tiresome, pretentious goof. And that tone of voice---he sounds like he's describing the moment he came upon the cure for cancer. Yeah, you really put one over on those rubes with the traffic report poems! Good for you, pal! I guess he missed the 4,000 books that deal with the concept of Postmodernism. How does he hold a teaching position at Penn?!

Of course, poetry matters, it's just Goldsmith's poetry that doesn't matter!

btw: Why does MoMA need a poet laureate?

Mar. 10 2013 12:39 PM
Alex from NJ

The piece is Tomorrow Never Knows by the Beatles, 're-interpreted by Quartetto di Archi Dell'orchestra sinfonica di Milano. Available on...itunes!

Mar. 10 2013 11:23 AM
jay green from Pittsburgh

Yes well, it has been said that 'if you can't DO, Teach. I'd add: If you can't Create - Steal. Kenneth Goldsmith is a mouthpiece for a large contingent of people who find writing a song way too tough, so they redo other people's songs and want to be given creative credit. they shouldn't have any. doing a 'cover' version of a song, yes even 'wow really changing it and making it your own', is 1,000 times easier than writing something new and interesting.
Goldsmith, who, sorrowfully, holds an esteemed position in the art world, a great example of the counter creative movement that is happening under the deceptive guise of full freedom creativity. He is the perpetuation of a lie developed by the lazy and uncreative. To say 'there is so much information out there now that we need not create any more'. Really Ken? I'm glad that this painfully lethargic rhetoric pays the rent for your NYC loft, but it's a crock, you probably know it, but you've found this rich vein of income and you're going to ride it out? It's easier than actually creating something brand new I guess. Teaching students that the lazy inclination that they have inside to just lift someone else's creative, tweak it, and call it their own, is not just ok but highly justifiable, is reprehensible.
And OTM; you've really outdone yourself this time. How low will your bar get? Were you hoping for controversy? What you're going to get is fewer listeners.
My Sunday can only get better from here after hearing such dreck on my radio so early.

and p.s.) fellow commenters- obviously it's 'tomorrow never knows' string arrangement by someone - google that you'll find it.

Mar. 10 2013 10:22 AM
Hugo from Toronto

Very interesting outro on the word 'property'. What was the music that was playing along with Brooke?

Mar. 10 2013 09:41 AM
Lis from Melrose, MA

What's the music you're playing in the background at the end of the piece?

Mar. 09 2013 09:25 PM

This passes for intellectual thought? Honestly, what a load of crap. It is no wonder employers don't think that colleges are preparing the minds of students these days, when the assignments are to download a paper from an essay mill and call it your own. And when the evening traffic report is set to some violin music and called poetry. And liberals wonder why people make fun of them.

Mar. 09 2013 09:12 PM
Binky from Brooklyn

As "Kenny G" (not that one) Mr. Goldsmith hosted shows for many years on WFMU. See here for links and archived shows:
http://wfmu.org/~kennyg/

> WFMU DJs Bound & Gagged
> People Like Us & Kenny G "Nothing Special"
> Kenny G Whispers Marx
> Kenny G's Playlists
> Kenny G's Popular Guide To Unpopular Music
> Author's Page at the Electronic Poetry Center, University of Buffalo
> Day (2003, The Figures)
> Soliloquy (2001, Granary Books)
> Fidget (2000, Coach House Press)
> No. 111 2.7.93-10.20.96 (1997, The Figures)
> Kenny G's Large List of Avant Links (needs updating but basically works)

Mar. 09 2013 05:41 PM
Keira from Manhattan

“Without its special language, would art need to submit to the scrutiny of broader audiences and local ones? Would it hold up?” So asks online art publication Triple Canopy’s widely circulated essay “International Art English,” in which the authors catalogued the death of meaning in the language of contemporary art.

Salon.com––THURSDAY, MAR 7, 2013 05:48 PM EST
"When artspeak masks oppression"
BY MOSTAFA HEDDAYA

Mar. 08 2013 07:27 PM

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