Artist steals from poet:
Andy Warhol convicted of appropriating work from unpublished poet
‘I never thought an artist would stoop so low’
June 16, 2001
In what has been called the trial of the century, Andy Warhol has been convicted of appropriating the work of the unknown poet Kenneth Goldsmith. Warhol was sentenced today to no less than ten years of writing lines. Goldsmith was accorded the right to sign all artworks of Warhol as his own.
The verdict closed a trial that had been dragging on for one year to the day. Reason for its unusually long duration was the complicated nature of the case. The judge explained it created a legal precedent that has been dubbed ‘Poemgate’. He added, “I never thought an artist would stoop so low.” Says art critic Kent Randy: “poetry has basically undercut art history. This will necessitate a complete reassessment of the place of Pop Art in the modern Canon.” Randy explained the case as having more art-historical significance than the famous Elmyr de Hory and van Meegeren forgery trials.
It came to light that Time Capsules – a project Warhol has been working on since the beginning of his artistic career – is no more than an artistic rendering of the complete work of unpublished poet Kenneth Goldsmith. The Time Capsule project consists of 612 boxes with items that Warhol collected and stored away per month, over the course of thirteen years (from 1974-1987) and used as a basis for all of his other art. The judge deemed sufficiently proven that Time Capsules is an exact ‘translation’ into art of every book Goldsmith has written.
The reason that this has remained unknown for more than thirty years is that – despite being a prolific writer – Goldsmith had never actually been published. Until now, he was a shy man living in obscurity in a basement in the Bronx. It turns out Goldsmith used to hang out at Warhol’s studio The Factory until it moved in 1968. Although Goldsmith – a practitioner of Kriya Yoga – wanted nothing more to do with the amphetamine parties and the clique of Warhol Superstars, it appears that Warhol kept track of Goldsmith’s writings via friends.
Goldsmith was a conceptual writer who couldn’t get publishers interested in his work. Examples of books that were recast by Warhol in creating his Time Capsule project are: Day (a transcription of a newspaper), Soliloquy (a transcription of a week of Goldsmith’s speech), Fidget (a transcription of one day of Goldsmith movements), and Inventory of my clothing, Traffic (transcription of traffic reports), The Weather (you get the picture), Sports, and Head Citations.
These works were appropriated in numerous ways, but all somehow became an integral part of Warhol’s boxes. Some examples: Warhol put all of his clothes that were not bought that month in the previous month’s box; Warhol placed recordings of all of his utterances made on a all days of a certain weekday of that particular month (e.g. all Mondays, all Tuesdays); according to certain procedural constraints, Warhol collected a multitude of newspaper clippings as well as complete newspapers; he repeated a similar process with baseball paraphernalia; Warhol also amassed citations from people he thought should be famous (mainly New York cabbies); and the list goes on.
Goldsmith, a timid and boring man, was finally convinced by his grandmother to press charges. Goldsmith’s books have still not found a publisher, which poses him with the problem of how to supply the thousands of people who – since the trial’s massive media coverage – have announced their interest in buying his collected works. Through all this the wildly charismatic Warhol has not once expressed remorse. During his final defence speech (which he gave himself) he walked around like a brilliant distraught madman often pulling at his hair with his hands. His main point of defence had something to do with what he called a ‘double-negation of hyper-dialectic’. While Goldsmith is busy signing all of Warhol’s artworks with his own name, Warhol will be spending the coming ten years writing out the sentence ‘I will never copy a poet again.’