What Really Happened? Kenneth Goldsmith’s “7+ Deaths and Disasters,” Sophie Calle’s, Take Care of Yourself

Published: Oct 18, 2019
Kenneth Goldsmith Seven Deaths and Disasters The Body of Michael Brown Conceptual poetry Michael Brown Sophie Calle Prenez soin de vous (Take Care of Yourself)
Marjorie Perloff

In Seven American Deaths and Disasters (2013), Kenneth Goldsmith recounted a set of tragic and unanticipated events in recent American history by using transcriptions of radio and TV broadcasts, usually from minor networks. Designed to be an “eighthAmerican disaster,” Goldsmith presented The Body of Michael Brown, a performance based on the St. Louis autopsy report at the “Interrupt 3” conference at Brown University(13 March 2015), eliciting widespread criticism and controversy. Seemingly very different from Goldsmith—Sophie Calle’s projects, for the past few decades, set up particularprocedural processes that raise pressing epistemological questions, especially about the nature of relationships, personal and political. One of her recent projects, Prenez soin de vous (Take Care of Yourself) that was based on her installation for the Venice Biennale in 2007, comprises comments by 107 women on an email that Calle received from her then lover. In this project, Calle uses the “real” words of others to create a montage of possible interpretations of the discourse that confronts us in our daily lives. For Calle, as for Goldsmith, the most troubling gap is that between information and knowledge, while the issue, that a conceptual poetics can take as a premise, is that the body most difficult to getinside of turns out to be one’s own.

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Author Biography
Marjorie Perloff, Stanford University

Marjorie Perloff is Professor Emerita of English at Stanford University and one of the most influential critics of modern and contemporary poetics. She is the author of many influential, widely-read books, including Frank O’Hara: Poet Among Painters (1977),The Poetics of Indeterminacy: Rimbaud to Cage (1981), The Futurist Moment: Avant-Garde, Avant-Guerre, and the Language of Rupture (1986), Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media (1992), Wittgenstein’s Ladder (1996), Writing Poetry in the Age of Media (1992), The Vienna Paradox: A Memoir (2003), and more recently Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century (2011),Edge of Irony: Modernism in the Shadow of the Habsburg Empire (2016). She has received numerous honours, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has been President of the Modern Language Association. 

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